Food safety, news, and the slow death of journalism

I’ve been doing food safety news for 16 years – aggregating, analyzing, and everything else. Archives are available online going back to Jan. 1, 1996.

I believe in  the 4 Rs of food safety communications — rapid, reliable, repeated and relevant. I believe in using new media. I believe the rose does go on the front, big guy.

But I don’t believe in using new media to just blindly repeat what government or someone else says. Beyond being scientifically inaccurate, it’s really boring.

Food safety reporting, or what is supposed to pass for it, has become incredibly boring. Recirculating a press release is not journalism. And it’s not about asking questions.

The few remaining mainstream new outlets still have some premise of journalistic procedures, but not all the retwitters, transmitters and translaters, who apparently dominate the on-line world. It’s like talking to a family member or spouse who thinks if they just repeat things more and more, the statement becomes true.

That never ends well.

Michael Gerson writes in this morning’s Washington Post – it still exists – that at its best, the profession of journalism has involved a spirit of public service and adventure … Most cable news networks have forsaken objectivity entirely and produce little actual news, since makeup for guests is cheaper than reporting. Most Internet sites display an endless hunger to comment and little appetite for verification. Free markets, it turns out, often make poor fact-checkers, instead feeding the fantasies of conspiracy theorists from "birthers" to Sept. 11, 2001, "truthers."

I’m not sure where the food safety news thing will shake out. I was reminded by Amy this morning about the need to clearly communicate – written, visual, digital, whatever – and the need for editors, ’cause there sure are a lot of awful writers and communicators out there, and I need editing as much as anyone.

As I’ve said before, this is exactly what happened the first time Amy and I met (below).