Getting the Actual Dirt

Are food reporters doing too much Martha, not enough apocalypse?

On the NPR radio show On the Media, host Bob Garfield talked to Paul Roberts, author of The End of Food, about the new food beat. That is, not restaurant reviewing or chocolate chip cookie recipes, but what might be called food resource reporting. “To the extent that food is covered in the media,” Roberts says, “it’s primarily about kind of in the Martha Stewart vein.” Food safety issues are finally being covered well, he adds, but “[w]hat we haven’t come to grips with yet, until recently, has been the notion that we might be short of food. And that’s, I think, taking a while for the media to really get its head around.”

It isn’t just the media that’s surprised. The current food crisis is so new, and so sudden, that it’ll take a lot of policymakers a while to get their heads around it, too. Roberts says the best food-beat reporters will be ones who have had experience covering complex global commodities like oil (which, not coincidentally, his previous book is about). “I mean, energy is energy, you know, whether it’s calories or kilowatts,” he says.

(Check back July 18 for a full-length Q&A with Roberts on CHOW.)

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