A controversial piece about food writing pay popped up online last week, with a response from another editor. I’m pleased that writers are even approaching the topic. But as someone who lives and breathes this stuff, I have my own opinions about their opinions.
Here’s my take on the piece on food writing pay, followed by my take on a response:
1. Will Write for Food (catchy title!): Out of touch
The editor-at-large of The Ringer, Bryan Curtis, takes the perspective of an employed staff writer and editor. He mentions mostly other white male staff and freelancers at newspapers and magazines. This is an outdated print-first perspective. It ignores three groups: food bloggers, who are mostly women and hobbyists; online entrepreneurs, who have made a fortune writing about food as a business; and those who write cookbooks. Later in the story, he acknowledges the lack of diversity in food writing, but still quotes mostly men about it.
Curtis makes some observations about how articles about food writing have expanded:
- We’ve moved from critiquing fancy restarants to covering chefs themselves as celebrities
- We’re obsessed with food trends
- We cover where food comes from
- We politicize food.
These are great subjects, but hardly new.
His biggest point is that it’s still hard to make money as a food writer. Yep. We already know that. I’ve been writing about it since I started my blog in 2009.
I give him credit for trying to figure out what’s next and who actually pays well for articles. He says it’s this new “darker stuff” that delivers “a decent paycheck” from sites like Lucky Peach (I received $250 for my essay, so I don’t know what he’s talking about) and Food52, where the writer in charge of diverse pieces, Mayukh Sen, is on staff.
Lucky Sen. There are so few staff food writers in the US that they would all fit into a one-room restaurant.
2. Actually, It Does Pay to Be a Food Writer: Misses the Point
Curtis’s piece prompted a response from Amanda Kludt, Editor-In-Chief of Eater, who disagrees with him. She says there are lots of full-time editor/writer people at Eater and that many fine publications and websites publish food writing.
That’s great. Except that just publishing a piece isn’t enough. We’d like to be paid a decent amount. In many cases the salaries are too low as well. She says the money is there. Could we have more of it then? Or here’s a darker thought: Perhaps we don’t demand decent pay because we “love what we do.”
Okay, those are my opinions and thoughts. Now, I’d like to read yours. What do you think about Curtis’ article? And are food writers their own worst enemy when it comes to demanding good pay?