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  • Writer's pictureMarissa Bialecki

Speaking at GWU: Food Writing and Blogging

Updated: Dec 23, 2018

The other weekend, I had the opportunity to talk to a group of GWU students about food writing. I was really touched that the Media Student Committee Council (MSCC) from the School of Media & Public Affairs (SMPA) would want to hear what I had to say about blogging and food writing, if only because it wasn’t all that long ago that I was sitting in their seats wondering what I wanted to do after graduation.

Being on the other side of the podium, I realized that I had indeed come a long way from the little blog I threw together senior year of college, where I wrote about things like Starbucks instant coffee and tried overly hard to be funny because I hadn’t quite gotten my footing. There’s a lot more for me to learn and I like to keep moving the line forward for what I consider a “success.” I’m still figuring out what exactly it is I want to do with food and my career, and how I can ultimately combine the two. But this presentation was a nice opportunity to take a step back and look at what’s worked and what hasn’t. I’ve got my first print piece going in Washington City Paper soon, and I’ll admit that feels like a pretty big win. That baby has a circulation of more than 70,000!

I covered some good and bad examples of food writing, discussed how it is so much more than straight restaurant reviews, and encouraged them to learn some solid basics of photography and web design. As I started to think about the key takeaways I wanted these students to get from my talk, I began formulating a list and before I knew it, I had 10 Food Writing Commandments. The list is by no means exhaustive, but I think it’s a good starting point, as well as a good reminder of what’s important for those of us who have already been writing for a while. Some are geared more towards blogging, other towards food writing in general. I was pretty heavy-handed throughout my presentation about approaching blogging from a journalism background. Just cause it’s the internet doesn’t mean there aren’t rules.

Here are the 10 commandments I came up with:

1. Write stories and about people, places, dishes and subjects that are of actual interest to your readers.

2. Know your subject matter—learn about food through classes, from chefs or people in the industry.

3. Be personable, but not overly personal on your blog.

4. Even if you're "just a blogger," act like a journalist—uphold journalistic standards, best practices and ethics.

5. Try any and all foods. Even ones you think you don’t like.

6. Ask all the questions (even if they seem nitty gritty or obvious). Most chefs and those in the food industry want you to understand their work. Don’t understand a specific cooking term? Ask.

7. If that iPhone picture doesn’t look good or is completely indiscernible, don’t post it.

8. Remember that you are not a Yelper. Think before you post.

9. Don’t repost press releases straight from a PR rep.

10. Read your writing out loud to yourself. Edit carefully. Read the final draft more than once.

And one extra: Be passionate about what you’re writing about.

Feel free to chime in with questions or feedback on the list in the comments. You can check out two blog posts that SMPA students wrote about my talk here.



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