Ethics and reporting do not pair well together. This may be why everyone hates journalists. As a reporter, you have an obligation to the story, not the people in it. This may seem difficult, or even wrong on some level, but if every reporter decided to act on what he or she thought was right, improving the world rather than shedding light on the issues, true journalism would never exist.
Journalists can’t emotionally interfere with their subjects, as much as they may desire to rescue, help, or advise them. But of course, we can hope that we’re doing our part in helping, by sharing important stories and spreading awareness for whatever topics we decide worthy of writing about (or our editors decide worthy…)
Food writing is my niche
I’m passionate about many things in life, but topping the list are writing and food. So naturally, when it comes to my niche, Food Writing is exactly what I want to be doing. Many parts of being a food writer are as glamorous as they sound: free six course meals at lovely NYC restaurants, tastings, food events, cooking classes and more. I love nothing more than indulging in a new menu while taking copious notes on the flavors, ingredients, recipes, and techniques. I have notebooks full of notes on creative sushi rolls and modern cocktails.
And then, of course, there are the times I’m at a tasting and a whole pig is rolled out onto the table, or a roasted chicken is presented under a brick, or a juicy piece of steak atop a heap of potatoes is graciously placed in front of me.
It’s a meaty world
I’m usually lucky enough to be able to bring a +1 on most food reviews, meaning that I can watch him or her indulge in the fleshy bits of the meal I’m not willing to eat, and coax my surrogate eater into describing the flavors and textures to me. After two years of food writing, I decided that sampling a bite or two of meat, as it was already cooked and would merely go to waste whether or not I ate it, was fine with me, but I know that others would not ethically be okay with this.
It’s difficult to have dietary restrictions and write about a topic with almost no limits. Vegans will never be Anthony Bourdain and those with a gluten-intolerance will never make it to the ranks of Ruth Reichl or Gayle Greene.
You really can’t fake it until you make it with food writing. I ventured out of my comfort zone because I was passionate about the topic, but in order to put my mind at ease, I make sure to promote food justice, and healthy, sustainable eating practices. (See my article, The Twenty-Something Foodie)
What to do when a meat dish comes
I was recently assigned a dining article, which would require me to eat a lot more factory-farmed meat than I am comfortable with (in fact, I try and avoid this as much as possible.) The article would be published in a prestigious publication and I would receive payment for it, and I struggled with whether or not I should accept the pitch.
On the one hand, it would be great exposure and experience- being paid to write about food has always been my dream! But on the other side, promoting the consumptions of factory-farm meats, even if I managed not to eat them myself for the article, completely contradicts my beliefs. I worked closely with the editor to develop a new angle, but she was set on the pitch, and I had to forgo the opportunity. While I was sad to not be able to participate, I know that many more pitches will come along in which I can show off my writing chops and publish content that I am creatively and ethically okay with!
Don’t let being a vegetarian stop you
Of course, I am not the only vegetarian/pescataian/flexatarian out there, and there are more than enough publications that would be thrilled to have another veggie writer! As I’m learning more about managing a career in food writing, I’m learning to develop my niche and be part of publications I feel good about.
So yes, it is possible to be a vegetarian, even a vegan, food writer, but know your audience! Whether you like it or not, we live in a world where people love their meat, but that doesn’t mean veggies have to take a second-class seat.
About the author:
While being New York’s most fabulous resident consumes most of her time, Melissa Kravitz enjoys excessive amounts of reading, crafting, shopping, cooking five meals a day, and befriending cute puppies. Melissa considers herself NYC’s ultimate pasta expert. After working for Inside New York for four years, Melissa moved on to start her own culture and lifestyle website, NeuralPop. Her personal blog has been nominated as Best Blog of the Year since 2007 (by her dad). It wins every year. You can probably find her in Williamsburg, looking beautiful, sipping iced coffee, and working on her novel.