By Chris Adams
“I cover things that will kill them 40 years from now,” she said.
Aubrey (bio, Twitter) and two other journalists who cover diet and food from a policy and consumer perspective shared their tips on how to stay on top of a beat full of ever-changing science and big lobbying money trying to sway the public debate.
Aubrey has covered three rounds of the dietary guidelines, which are developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services every five years. It’s a tough task, trying to distill a government report hundreds of pages long into a catchy headline, such as “Nutrition Panel: Egg With Coffee Is A-OK, But Skip The Side of Bacon.”
She and other reporters talked about the “nutritional whiplash” that consumers go through. What’s healthy one year is not the next.
Evich covers food and agriculture policy and shared how to dig into the lobbying money behind the food that makes it to the local grocery and corner restaurant. Other stories detailed the battles between food industry groups – such as the beef and pork associations – that felt under attack by government efforts to change Americans’ diets.
Getting these and other food policy stories published can be difficult – but Evich knows what not to do: “The trick is to not use ‘farm bill’ in the headline,” she said. “That’s a buzzkill.”
That gets at a reality of food and nutrition writing: Sometimes the information is so contradictory that people just want to know the simplest recommendations.
“Should I eat eggs and bacon for breakfast?” Jane Black, a freelancer said she is asked. Black shared a story that dealt with all the complexities of food science – but also had a happy ending.
The story was on Huntington, West Virginia, which in 2008 was declared the fattest city in America. Black went to Huntington to see how things had changed – and discovered the obesity rate had actually dropped 13 percentage points. “Huntington was no longer America’s fattest city,” she wrote.