Food Writers and Editors
Exploring this Job
As a high school or college student, explore your interest in the fields of writing and editing by working as a reporter or writer on school newspapers, yearbooks, and literary magazines. If you cannot work for the school paper, try to land a part-time job on a local newspaper or newsletter. Explore your passion for food and increase your knowledge by taking cooking classes, attending ethnic festivals and food events, or touring different food-related businesses. Experiment with different types of restaurants and cuisines. After dining at a new restaurant, write about the experience. Review your writing. It is objective? Descriptive? Informative? Edit and rewrite it until you are satisfied with it.
Small community newspapers and local radio stations often welcome contributions from outside sources, although they may not be able to pay for them. Jobs in bookstores, magazine shops, and even newsstands offer a chance to become familiar with the various publications.
Professional organizations dedicated to food writing and editing, such as those listed at the end of this article, often provide information, resources, conferences, and other guidance programs that may be of interest to you.
Visit School Journalism (http://www.schooljournalism.org) for comprehensive information on journalism careers, summer programs, and college journalism programs.
Food writers and editors deal with the written word, whether the completed work is the printed page, broadcast, or computer screen. They tend to write about or edit all things related to food and beverages, such as recipes, new food products, meal planning and preparation, grocery shopping, cooking utensils and related products, and establishments that serve food and beverages. The nature of their work is as varied as the materials they produce: magazines, newspapers, books, Web site content, trade journals and other publications, advertisements, and scripts for radio and television broadcast. The one common factor is the subject: food.
Food writers need to be able to write very descriptively, since the reader will not be able to taste, touch, or smell the product they are writing about. Depending on whether or not pictures accompany the written word, the reader may not even be able to see it. Food writers use their writing skills to write about many different things. They might write a press release about a new food product to be distributed to food editors at numerous newspapers and magazines. They may write a story about seasonal fruits and vegetables for a local television news broadcast. They may write an article for a women's magazine about new cooking utensils that make meal preparation easier for amateur chefs. They may write a review about a new restaurant that just opened. They may write about their experiences with recipes, dining, or other food-related topics for a blog.
Food writers who work for newspapers or magazines generally write about all things related to food and beverages, such as recipes, new food products, meal planning and preparation, grocery shopping, cooking utensils and related products, and establishments that serve food and beverages. Some food writers also cover other subject areas as well, especially if they work for a newspaper or a general interest magazine, as opposed to a magazine dedicated solely to food.
Perhaps the most infamous type of food writer is the food/restaurant critic. The critic needs to be objective and fair with any type of product or restaurant review. When dining at a restaurant, he or she also needs to be anonymous, which is not always easy. While dining, food/restaurant critics need to make accurate observations and try to write or record them without arousing the suspicion of the restaurant staff, lest they realize they are being reviewed.
Food editors need to be able to polish the work of a food writer into a finished article or book. They correct grammar, spelling, and style, and check all the facts, especially where recipes are concerned. They are responsible for making sure that the writing adheres to the pertinent style guidelines, and that the writing is appropriate for the intended audience. When working for a magazine or newspaper, food editors may also be responsible for planning the editorial content of an entire food section, which can range in size from as little as half of a page to a multiple-page spread. Their duties may include assigning stories to staff or freelance writers, as well as assigning photography, videography, or artwork assignments as needed, to accompany the articles and recipes.
Food writers and editors who work for publishing houses may work on tour or guidebooks, writing and editing restaurant reviews and stories about regional food specialties. Or they may work with recipes and cookbooks, meticulously checking to ensure all ingredients and measurements are correct, and that no steps have been omitted from the cooking directions.
Food writers and editors can be employed either as in-house staff or as freelancers. Freelancers must provide their own office space and equipment, such as computers and fax machines. Freelance writers also are responsible for keeping tax records, sending out invoices, negotiating contracts, and providing their own health insurance.