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The Future of Newspaper Food Writing


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#1 Malawry

Malawry
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Posted 23 May 2002 - 09:10 AM

What trends do you see in the types of writing and subject matter appearing in newspaper food sections? What do you see coming in the future? How is the Washington Post preparing for and staying ahead of those changes?

#2 Jeanne McManus

Jeanne McManus
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Posted 03 June 2002 - 11:54 AM

I am trend wary and trend weary.  I don’t mean to be dismissive of your question, but writers are always querying me, asking if I’m looking for “trend pieces.” No, I’m not. I want  smart pieces, pieces that say “we-noticed-this-first” and then that have the reporting to shore up the observation.  “Getting to Betsy,” the piece by Kim Severson in the SF Chronicle about trying to get through to the reservations line at The French Laundry was just such a piece, because it was about more than just Betsy:  it was about the burden of being too popular, about the power plays used to get into top restaurants, about oneupsmanship and competition and more and more.  

I don’t think a type of writing can be a trend.  I like different voices. I like writers to try different approaches. (Enough with all of this first person food writing all the time.)

But your question is important, especially in asking how The Post is preparing.  The Post is committed to first-rate journalism, whether it’s putting reporters in armored jeeps on the ground in Afghanistan or Pakistan or covering the war on terrorism at home.

But it is also committed to the region that it serves in more specific ways. That means stories that help the members of this community live their lives more creatively, more easily, more nutritionally.  All of us, if we want to keep our loyal reader base and expand it, feel very strongly that we have to respond to the needs of those many readers. I know that sounds vague but it is a sea change in journalism, I think, compared to decades ago when newspapers had the attitude that they knew best, that THEY would tell the READERS what’s important. It’s often the other way around these days, though we still think it’s important to surprise and challenge readers too.