Is a Career in Food Writing Dead?
The food world is buzzing about Amanda Hesser's Advice to Future Food Writers
The future of food writing has been a popular topic at the IACP Annual Conference ever since I first attended (2006 in Seattle). Now our collective post-Conference motivation is being popped like a day-old party balloon. The culprit? Amanda Hesser's Food 52 blog post, Advice for Future Food Writers. The heart of the piece is simple: "Except for a very small group of people (some of whom are clinging to jobs at magazines that pay more than the magazines' business models can actually afford), it’s nearly impossible to make a living as a food writer, and I think it’s only going to get worse."
Hesser then goes on to suggest that aspiring food writers become "doers," working in the food world somehow and writing about it on the side.
She's gotten plenty of agreement, as well as more than one "I'm glad it's not just me!" response, and deserves a lot of credit for her thoughtful and honest assessment of the changes she's seen in food writing during her career so far. A more critical response from John Birdsall at chow.com clickably titled What Amanda Hesser Got Wrong adds a bit of historical perspective as well as a sunnier interpretation of the lay of the land and what it means for food writing as a whole that's worth reading.
Overall she offers what is probably sound advice. When I read her piece, however, I felt like I was back in a Greenbrier conference room in 2005 as Andy Schloss asked those of us assembled if we were food people who wanted to write or writers who liked food. If you're a food person who wants to write, Hesser's prescription is pitch-perfect. If, however, you are a writer first, it falls a bit flat. Or, is her lament about the difficulty of making a living as a food writer true for writers in general? Is it more true now than in the history of writing, a profession with a long and noble history of poor pay?
IACP is filled with plenty of working food writers. What do you think about Hesser's piece? Have you written a response on your own website or blog? What advice would you give future food writers?