2024 - Fall

Advanced Reporting: Food & Culture Writing (Print/Online track)

Course Number: JOUR-UA 301.003

Day & Time: Thu | 12:00 PM – 3:40 PM

Location: 20 Cooper Square, Room 743

Instructor: Mayukh Sen

Prerequisites: The Beat JOUR-UA 201 (Print/Online sections)

“Food writing is stepping out,” the veteran food journalist Ruth Reichl wrote in 2018. “It’s about time. For far too long it’s been the timid little sister of the writing world, afraid to raise its voice.”

Food journalism has been a thriving practice in America since the 20th century, when it was confined to what was once called the “women’s pages” of newspapers and magazines, fighting to be taken seriously as a journalistic discipline. As the above quote from Reichl indicates, it’s only recently that the tides have shifted, and food writing has attained the wider cultural cachet it deserves.

Food writing can be uniquely sensory—one of the most thrilling parts of this job involves learning how to write about food in descriptive, vivid detail. But in this class, you’ll come to understand that the best food writing goes beyond whetting the reader’s appetite. Food is a shared human experience. It follows, then, that writing about food can reveal a great deal about who we are in the world and the values that shaped us. As a topic of narrative inquiry, food can serve as a springboard to tell broader stories about politics, labor, and culture.

Over the course of this semester, you’ll become intimately acquainted with food journalism by reading and analyzing its many forms—reported essays, profiles, restaurant coverage—before applying those lessons to your own writing. Assignments will include articles in the 750- to 1,000-word range, while we’ll also devote class time to generative writing and reporting exercises. We’ll likewise have regular visits from some of the most prominent food journalists working today who can speak lucidly about the joys, and the challenges, of being on this beat. This advanced reporting class will culminate in a well-sourced, deeply reported, longform (3,000-word) profile of someone who works in the food industry, be it a cafeteria worker or a cookbook author. You’ll walk away from this class with a firm understanding that reporting on food, when done with sensitivity and rigor, can go far beyond the pursuit of pleasure.

Notes: Required for students pursuing the print/online track in the journalism major. Counts as an elective for both journalism minors.