Published on March 5, 2014
Newspaper Food Journalism: The History of Food Sections & The Story of Food Editors Presented at the 2014 AEJMC SE Colloquium, March 21, 2014 Kimberly Wilmot Voss, Associate Professor University of Central Florida
Polly Paffilas, Akron Beacon Journal “The newspaper food editor is the homemakers’ best friend, mother confessor and mentor. Mrs. Jones calls us when she can’t understand a recipe in a national magazine or when Graham Kerr talks about clarified butter. Mrs. Jones doesn’t call the magazine or the TV station. She calls me.”
Ann Criswell, Houston Chronicle “You may be surprised that a food editor’s life isn’t all champagne and caviar. There is the constant stress of deadlines; keeping up with (and explaining to readers) scientific and nutrition advancements that can change from hour to hour; learning about food safety, production and agricultural phenomena such as genetically altered foods; and having to master new computers and printing technologies (often while on deadline).”
Ruth Ellen Church, Chicago Tribune “We do most of our own food photographs, conduct a daily $5 favorite recipe competition, maintain a mail and telephone service to homemakers, scout for what’s new in the kitchen, test recipes and such. In addition, I write a daily and Sunday column, and supervise the publication of a number of supplements each year, notably the Thanksgiving and Christmas special sections.”
The Food Section Impact • • New York Herald Tribune in 1935: food section received more than 78,000 calls and letters from readers Seattle Times in 1973: more than 20,000 calls came in each year to food editor “Dorothy Dean”
Ruth Ellen Church, Chicago Tribune • 1955: “Fully a third of the products and foods we buy now in the supermarket were not even in existence 10 years ago: instant puddings, cake mixes, instant coffee, instant dry milk, detergents, the wide array of frozen and pre-packaged foods.”
Newspaper Food Sections • • • • Fluff “Just recipes” Influenced by advertising Annual meeting of food editors
Sen. Moss Accusations • • “Ladies, are you the pawns of your advertising managers? Is your food section just a form of promotional device, or are you journalists?” “Whores of the supermarket”
Columbia Journalism Review • • “Newspaper Food Pages: Credibility for Sale” “The food section is the cash register of the newspaper, a happy hunting ground for a advertisers.”
Food Editors’ Response • • • • E&P Matrix Houston Meeting of Food Editors Led to AFJ
Gastronomica Examined several years of meetings.
The Food Section Looked at most of the meetings.
Meeting Coverage • • • • Each year examined:1950-1970 125-150 attended Week-long event by food advertisers Newspaper paid for airfare & hotel
Food Editors’ Meeting Clarice Rowlands: “Although eating foods, simple and fancy, occupies a lot of the 16-hour days, we are busy, too, attending demonstrations, listening to speeches and panels on new developments in the food field and visiting test kitchens. With notebooks in hand, we are constantly taking notes to pass on food news to readers now and after we return home. Our typewriters are clicking late into the night.”
Tasting = Work • James M. Kahn: “Hardest working bunch of newspaper people I’ve ever seen – can’t imagine men doing this.”
Tasting = Work Janet Beighe: “Our long, long, calorific days involved listening to food manufacturer’s spiels, and sampling frequently awful recipes, featuring old and new products, ad nauseum. Between three huge meals, we would be expected to run a gauntlet of samplings. I added up the calories in one dinner and described it. It topped out well over 3,000 calories. I got sick that night.”
Important Speakers • • • • Frederick Stare, the head of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard University U.S. agriculture secretary, Orville Freeman, discuss advances in production Rep. Catherine May who was a member of the President’s Commission on Food Marketing Jean Mayer, a nutrition consultant to President Richard Nixon
Important Topics • • • 1962: Cholesterol explained and included pronunciation: “ko-less-ter-all” 1964: “get active, eat less, and cut back on their salt intake” 1969: lack of nutrition in American diets
New Products & Recipes: 1966 • • • • • the first lemons ever grown in Florida, a self-basting turkey, fish fillets with a crunchy coating that tasted deep fried but were not, a revolutionary “quick thaw” allowed fruit cups to go from freezer to table in seven minutes, a new kind of pouch that allowed cabbage to be cooked without smelling up the house
Some Snark • • • “Bitters for breakfast?” “I hope he chokes on it.” “It sounds like public relations.”
Networking • • • Quoted each other in stories Compared regional trends Later they traveled extensively
What’s Next • • • Examination of home economics journalism What was being taught? Looking at curriculum, yearbooks and student publications at Iowa State and Arizona State
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