By: Eric Mittenthal Date: 4/29/10
Back in my days working as a journalist, most of my experiences covering food involved figuring out which stories would have a free spread involved. I’d enjoy the food that came along with the story (of course not letting the freebie impact my balanced approach) never thinking much about what I was eating. How quickly times have changed. These days it seems that reporters are craving food stories and my experience last weekend at the Health Journalism conference only solidified that idea.
The conference brings together some of the top health reporters from around the country including outlets such as the Associated Press, Reuters, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and many more. I attended for the first time in 2009 and while there seemed to be some interest in food issues, most of the people there were more focused on health care and medical issues. Just one year has made a big difference. This year not only were more people talking about food issues, there were also two sessions focused on covering them.
Food & Health Sessions
The first was on the increasingly hot topic of food safety. New York Times reporter Michael Moss recently won a Pulitzer Prize for his story on Stephanie Smith, who was paralyzed after eating an E. Coli tainted hamburger. Moss shared his experiences in covering the story and encouraged his fellow journalists to follow his lead and focus on food safety. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a jump in food safety stories soon (with pending food safety legislation certainly adding to the mix.)
The second session was on functional foods. It’s a very broad topic that was discussed broadly in the session with the presentation ranging from health claims to supplements to labeling. Many of the journalists in the room were very interested in the nuances on the topic and I hope they continue to seek out the science on it as they pursue it further in the future.
Connecting With Journalists
Beyond the sessions, we were able to meet hundreds of journalists and talk about their interests and nearly everyone we spoke to mentioned that food and health is now on their radar. Lucky for us we have a brand new resource for them, our FoodInsight.org Pocket Media Guide which links journalists to more than 350 experts around the country on nutrition, food safety and agriculture issues. We’ll soon have an online version of that available in our Food Insight newsroom specifically available for journalists looking to get the science on the issues. Our media guide has been a popular item in the past and after running out of our stash at the conference, I’m sure it will be more popular in the future. It’s a good sign that reporters want to get the science on the issues as they work on their stories. It’s a resource that has definitely helped me understand the science of food and health better, even though my journalism days are behind me.
The 2010-2012 FoodInsight.org Pocket Media Guide is now available for credentialed journalists. If you are interested in a copy please contact Eric Mittenthal (Mittenthal@ific.org) or Jania Matthews (firstname.lastname@example.org).