GMOs and Oxford Commas: An Interview With Friedman Alumna, Lisa D’Agrosa, M.S., R.D.

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Lisa D’Agrosa, M.S., R.D.

by Mimi DelGizzi

The Sprout catches up with Friedman alumna Lisa D’Agrosa, Associate Nutrition Editor for EatingWell Magazine, about what it’s like working for a big, fancy publication (and all the stuff you never thought writers had to do).

I’ll admit it. It’s a bit intimidating to write an article about Friedman alum, Lisa D’Agrosa. As I write this, I am obsessing even more than I normally do over comma placement, run-on sentences, and making sure I have smooth transitions between paragraphs. That’s because I’m not just writing about any alumna. I’m writing about the Associate Nutrition Editor for EatingWell Magazine.

You’ve seen the covers. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve drooled over them. Packed with glossy, perfect pictures of every produce item imaginable (including purple cauliflower), articles detailing happiness’s relation to gut bacteria, and recipes that showcase seasonal, healthy ingredients, EatingWell prides itself on being a trove of good, sound, nutrition information. And research-based – almost an anomaly considering the nutrition information that spouts from all forms of media outlets these days.

Though she graduated a mere year and a half ago, Friedman alumna and former Friedman Sprout Editor, Lisa D’Agrosa says it feels like “forever ago” that she was taking courses to complete her Masters in Nutrition Communication. A registered dietitian, Lisa had worked for a few years prior to starting her coursework at the Friedman School doing research for NuVal, a nutritional scoring system.

Entering the world of magazine writing was not D’Agrosa’s dream. In fact, she wanted to be a ballerina when she grew up. Years later, she dreamt of opening a health food store but was ultimately turned off by the potential long hours and up-front customer interaction that that sort of business entails.

But EatingWell seemed like a perfect post-graduation fit for D’Agrosa. As a student, she had completed her internship with EatingWell under the direction of another Friedman alumna and EatingWell’s Nutrition Editor, Brierley Wright. While that internship gave D’Agrosa a taste of what working for a magazine might be like, she was surprised when she began working for EatingWell full-time.

“It really opened up my eyes to different things you do as a writer for a magazine other than writing,” she says. D’Agrosa has a lot more responsibility now. “Writing is such a small part of my job,” she adds.

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D’Agrosa spends a lot of time researching for the stories she writes. She’s also realized that editing is an art form, one that she’s still trying to perfect.

Meetings, brainstorming story ideas, attaching correct images to workable links in her copies, and creating video scripts make up D’Agrosa’s “typical” days. She’s written blog posts, helped with feature stories, and even made videos for EatingWell, like this one, where she quizzes grocery shoppers on whether popcorn or pretzels are the healthier snack (hint: whole grains!). She and the rest of EatingWell’s nutrition team are also currently updating the magazine’s nutrition parameters, which necessitates looking at diabetic friendly and heart healthy labels and applying those to the magazine’s recipes.

EatingWell’s website offers ideas for easy holiday brunch recipes and ways to trim the fat from breakfast foods. Sometimes, however, EatingWell covers more controversial topics. According to D’Agrosa, “almost any topic can be controversial. Readers will comment on everything.” And D’Agrosa has learned quickly that the old adage is true, particularly when it comes to writing for a popular magazine: you can’t make everyone happy.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been one of the more controversial issues about which the magazine has published. Recently, their piece entitled, “Should GMO Labeling Be A Law?” received much feedback from readers who thought that the magazine may have done a “disservice” by acknowledging potential negative implications of GMO labeling. But D’Agrosa’s journalistic integrity runs strong.

“There are two sides to the story,” she says. “A lot of people have outspoken beliefs on nutrition that are not necessarily based in science.” The GMO piece and others, like another on saturated fats, help highlight new science and showcase ways science and nutrition have changed throughout the years.

But what’s the process for initiating stories on those controversial issues? “There’s a lot of misinformation in the media,” D’Agrosa says. “People are stuck on one side or the other. But, it’s my journalistic responsibility to write where the science points.” She emphasizes that it’s important for a writer to dig deep into the research and to go even beyond that by talking to researchers, contacting experts in the field, and searching for lesser-known studies. It’s also important to take a look at those media influences that seem to be driven more by rumor than fact, in order to understand why some readers believe what they do.

For Friedman students looking to pave a similar path for themselves, D’Agrosa has advice to offer.

“If you want to write, the more you do it, the better you’ll be at it.” She urges writing for the student paper (hint, hint), keeping a personal blog, or taking some writing-heavy courses as a Friedman student. Her stint as Editor of The Friedman Sprout helped D’Agrosa wax her writing and editing skills, while the Nutrition Communication (NutComm) concentration honed her craft. D’Agrosa encourages even “non-NutComm-ers” to take a few courses in the program.

“Letting others read and critique your work is really helpful,” she explains.

(On that note, here at the Sprout, we’d be remiss if we didn’t plug our own opportunities for student writers, photographers, and bloggers to join the ranks of Friedman’s only student-run publication and gain some writing experience that way.)

When asked her dream job, D’Agrosa says she feels lucky.

“I have it really great right now. I went to Tufts because I wanted to talk to people about nutrition and health and know they would listen. I feel good about where I am. It’s a fun way to continue talking to people and have them listen.”

Keep up-to-date with food news, recipes, and healthy eating tips by following Lisa at http://www.eatingwell.com/blogs/lisa-d’agrosa.

Mimi DelGizzi is a third-year MS/MPH student. Surviving this last semester will be one of the greatest accomplishments of her life. She enjoys making and eating fermented foods and has been told that her kitchen resembles a laboratory. Mimi can be reached at michelina.delgizzi@gmail.com.

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