I attended a food panel/discussion last week hosted by Culintro dubbed "The Future of Food Journalism." It's an interesting topic for those of us who work in the food industry, as well as for those who are avid readers of food journalism, enjoy restaurant reviews, and share in the food blogosphere.
These are trying times for journalism in general, since print newspapers and magazines continue to fold. I think most writers and readers share the sentiment that these print media are something special that we don't want to go away. The loss of Gourmet was a tremendous blow to both the publishing and food industries -- I'd been a subscriber since long before I became a chef, and for me, there's still a gaping hole in food journalism that has yet to be filled since Gourmet sent out its last issue in November '09.
So the general consensus? Blogs and new media aren't going anywhere -- their immediacy is what makes them unique, as does the egalitarian nature of sites like Yelp! But it cuts both ways, because this makes everyone a food critic. And really, we know that everyone can't be a food critic -- at least not reliable ones, not like seasoned (pun intended) journalists and culinary professionals.
But speaking from the perspective of those who write, the point was brought up that while once journalists were paid for their writing, now blogs and online content -- which pay very little and often nothing at all -- expect professional writers to do it gratis. This means that "serious" journalists are looking elsewhere to write, and the "experts" writing online are those getting marketing benefits in return. Ergo, those writing for blogs have something to push -- wares or a brand, but regardless, an agenda -- and so there are fewer career journalists able to get the (presumably) unbiased word out there.
Other highlights of the evening:
- Francis Lam describing the allure of the physicality of magazines. And I fully agree: I like holding what I'm reading, the feel of the pages, the heft of the paper.
- The point made by the panel that one of the big problems of our society today is that increasingly, people don't want to talk with people who don't agree with them. Bravo! Sadly, Americans are more segmented than they've been in many years: politically, philosophically, financially...and this applies to us even on a gustatory level. The more we mix, listen, and understand, the better we'll be. Blue state - red state, green chile red chile. An open discourse is key.
- Gabriella Gershenson's comment about the advantage food bloggers have over print journalists: immediacy. Journalists have to file their stories and see them printed, at best, the next morning. Bloggers can in one minute post "Boom: Keith McNally just wiped his ass!" That had me cracking up for quite some time.