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American Journalism Review
Food Fight  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  Letters
From AJR,   April/May 2004

Food Fight   

Let's be fair about the appeal of the new food journalism being dished up by well-paid, highly touted, well-traveled and all-expense-paid talent now on the food beat.

Doug Brown's statement ("Haute Cuisine," February/March) that "food journalism has long persisted as an oxymoron, with newspaper food pages little more that wire service recipe dumps" is offensive to many newspaper food editors, most with few or none of the aforementioned perks.

For most of them, there's not time, money or travel to experience, for example, "the bouquet of French brandy." Should they want or need to, they'll hie themselves to a liquor store and purchase a bottle--in most cases on their own time and dime.

As for R.W. "Johnny" Apple of the New York Times saying he spent "endless amounts of time studying tuna by talking with people in Japan and Mexico" so he can write about tuna fish: Some newspaper food section readers may have a hunger for information on tuna--could it only be for a really good, reliable, quick and easy tuna casserole recipe, made with or sans cream of mushroom soup?

Jane Mengenhauser
Freelance journalist
Former food editor of the now defunct Journal Suburban Group
Mount Vernon, Virginia

While I commend Doug Brown and AJR for giving long overdue notice to the plight of food journalists in the U.S., I find it puzzling that he neglected to mention electronic media food journalists, let alone talk to one of us for the story.

There are countless examples: Ed Levine and Arthur Schwartz have long been fixtures on New York radio stations; Jennifer English has an award-winning food radio show in Tucson; and I believe Joey Altman still hosts a local food TV show in San Francisco. Speaking for myself, I've been a food journalist the past nine years in Chicago, and in that time, have garnered nine James Beard Awards for my TV and radio work.

We would love to believe our new food-savvy audience has time to read long-form stories in the Times and Saveur, but the fact is, they're often getting their information on the radio--as they sit in traffic--or on TV, once they get home from work.

To completely ignore the impact of food journalists working in the electronic medium is as much a snub as any news editor's mistreatment of a determined newspaper food writer.

Steve Dolinsky
Food/lifestyle reporter, ABC 7 News
Food reporter, WBEZ-FM
Chicago, Illinois

Sweetheart, get me rewrite! Did anyone notice that of the 18 people mentioned in Doug Brown's food story, exactly two are women? And who do you think is reading those food sections, for heaven's sake?

Thanks for confirming once again the insight I heard many years ago from Bev Bennett, a highly respected food writer and longtime food editor at the Chicago Sun-Times: Food will become important when men start writing about it.

Susan Figliulo
Author, freelance writer and editor
Evanston, Illinois

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