In food media, don’t discount the power of print

Chadwick Boyd, left, moderates a panel of prominent food media, including (left to right) Melanie Hansche of Food & Wine Magazine, Kristen Hartke, a writer for The Washington Post and NPR’s The Salt, celebrity chef Carla Hall, and Debra Puchalla, Senior Vice President of Digital Programming & Video for the Food Network.

CHICAGO—Print media is a world of declining revenue, dwindling resources, and smaller publications – with some exceptions.

Food media is growing, and has a powerful influence on menus, and shopping lists.

During a panel discussion of prominent food media at the United Fresh annual convention June 11, Kristen Hartke, a food writer for The Washington Post and NPR’s The Salt, shared a story of a feature on local restaurants that included an eggplant dish.

It was from an old school Chinese restaurant in Washington, D.C., that may not have been on most people’s radar, Kartke said, but she had chosen to feature it in the article that focused on places to eat that included dishes for all types of eaters.

“They have a great menu, and one of the things I wrote about was this really terrific eggplant,” she said. “And they sent a photographer who did this beautiful picture.”

After the article came out, Kartke and her husband happened to stop by the restaurant for dinner. At the end of the meal, which included the eggplant dish, there was one piece left.

“The manager came by and she said ‘you know, somebody wrote about the eggplant in the Washington Post this week and everybody’s coming in and ordering the eggplant,’” Kartke said. “All around us – half a dozen tables – people all said that’s why we’re here. They had all ordered the eggplant.”

“People were literally coming in, clutching that picture and saying I want to order this,” she said.

The picture only appeared in the print edition.

“That’s the power of print, the power of a photograph to just tell a story,” Kartke said.

Chadwick Boyd, the panel’s moderator, said the food industry should take note.

“I don’t know if you guys have noticed, but something’s changed in food media,” he said. “The Washington Post print is getting bigger. The Los Angeles Times print is getting bigger. New York Times Food is putting a lot of effort into content while most people think that in food media newspaper and food sections are dying.”

They’re not, he said. And they need inspiration.

“All of those people who are doing content for those sections need stuff,” he said. “They’re looking for those things so share what you have and create a dialogue.”

Pamela Riemenschneider is Retail Editor for Blue Book Services