It was August 6th, 2017—a month before the start of the semester and Kathleen was showing me the ropes of editorial duties over local beer at Area-4, a restaurant just down the road from Jaharis. We went over timelines, passwords and account names, and shared our hopes and dreams for the coming year. One thing we both agreed on: We wanted to make a bigger impact within the Friedman community. Our big idea? Bring The Sprout offline.
Almost 8 months later, last Wednesday, our dreams came to life.
The Sackler classroom we booked for the event was almost fully packed. A show of hands at the end of the presentation reflected a fairly even split of AFE, FPAN and NICBC students. At the front of the room sat five professionals with diverse media backgrounds and extensive resumes; I sat next to them and moderated the hour-long discussion. There was no lack of participation and I was just as enthralled by the rich conversation our panelists generated as I was by the questions our audience posed.
The panelists’ careers and experience ranged from all forms of media. Journalist Steve Holt has reported on everything from food to urbanism to crime for print and digital publications like Civil Eats, The Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Edible Boston, and TakePart. He uses his work to ask hard questions and tell the stories of the people behind the country’s most inspiring meals and movements.
In her role as Executive Director of Heritage Radio Network—a nonprofit food radio network based in Brooklyn—Caity Moseman Wadler oversees the production of 35 weekly shows, interactive events, and special programs covering topics from food policy and agriculture, to the restaurant, food and drink scenes, to the human stories that often go unnoticed in our vast food system.
Two of our panelists were dietitians. Liz Weiss has a specialty in family nutrition and is the voice behind the family food podcast and blog, Liz’s Healthy Table. She began her career at CNN as a producer and reporter and hosted over 50 Meal Makeover cooking videos. She’s also covered food and nutrition stories for PBS HealthWeek and has written several cookbooks, including a coloring cookbook for kids.
Stephanie Ferrari, a dietitian and owner of Boston-based public relations firm, FRESH Communications, co-hosts a morning news segment called What’s FRESH Around Town on Boston 25 News. She is a contributing author to the Huffington Post, and has been featured in numerous publications like The Boston Globe, Cooking Light, INSIDER, Elite Daily, POPSUGAR, and Good Housekeeping, and has held marketing and communication roles for the New England Dairy Council, The Castle Group, and the Massachusetts Dietetic Association.
Finally, Louisa Kasdon brought over 20 years of journalism experience and has convened over 200 food events around New England, including cooking events, panels, teach-ins, conferences, workshops, and advocacy initiatives. She founded and organizes the Let’s Talk About Food Festival, and her most recent project has been to establish a new multi-media platform encompassing print, events, digital, and social media outreach called The Food Voice, New England’s new hub for all things food.
Looking at their extensive resumes, it’s no surprise that the event was a hit. Our panelists brought a true wealth of experience and shared many stories of growing into the field of food and nutrition.
As I moderated, it was difficult to keep track of time as the hour of conversation flowed quickly. Questions posed thoughtful responses that were both applicable and provocative.
Our panelists spoke to concerns about reaching broader audiences than those of publications like Civil Eats, whose readers are more insular than the ones who may need to hear our messages most. In short, the panelists reiterated that in order to reach an audience outside of our bubble, we tell the stories of those on the outside. We need to think about who is reading or listening to what we are saying, and what their very real, often practical, needs are. Liz Weiss bluntly acknowledged that “people don’t like to read about food policy.” She and other panelists agreed that storytelling and emotion help pull readers in to your message and listen. Once an audience feels emotional about a topic, or feels threatened by the loss of something personal, they will pay attention. As communicators, those are the stories we need to practice telling.
When asked about personal biases and balancing professional background and personal opinion with the needs or desires of a client, Stephanie Ferrari was quick to point out that there is never a reason to short-change your message or betray the science in favor of business. Protect your credentials and trust your understanding of the science. Companies and clients will be grateful for your insight and expertise. Louisa Kasdon agreed, “you can’t write about something that isn’t true—it won’t get you far and will come back to bite you in the end.” Stay true to your values and remember that you always have the option to say no if working with a particular client truly does not feel right.
Finally, all of the panelists agreed that to get far in the world of communication, get started today. Steve Holt encouraged us that no time is too early, and the playing field for writers is more level than most expect in terms of pitching ideas to editors. On the other hand, Louisa pointed out that she would like to see a few work examples before trusting someone with an assignment or editorial content. Liz Weiss encouraged all of us to stay focused and follow our dreams. Caity Moseman Wadler advocated for standing up for your worth as an intern and budding professional, and for building a network of experiences with individuals and publications that align with your values and your goals.
Heed expert advice: Write for The Sprout. Investigate the stories you’re curious about now. You never know where it could take you.
Hannah Meier RD, LDN is in her final semester of the Nutrition Communication and Behavior Change program and serves as the current co-editor of The Sprout alongside Kathleen Nay. She was thoroughly jazzed to coordinate the first-ever panel of professionals event with immense support from the other editors, panelists, and the team at Friedman. In May, she is excited to take on a full-time role with the start-up food company 88 Acres as their Nutrition and Communications Lead and is grateful for the opportunity to gain immense writing and editorial experience with The Sprout during her time at Friedman.