How to write for The Food Section

Guidelines for journalists

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At The Food Section, we serve eaters across the American South by providing them with the information and analysis they need to better understand and appreciate their food-and-drink experiences in our region. Or to put it another way: We break the news and tell the stories that make readers’ meals more meaningful.

Those readers are a whip-smart bunch. The Food Section twice each week lands in the inboxes of thousands of high-profile food chroniclers and connoisseurs who crave new ideas and perspectives. They’re equally interested in the joys of dining and justice for those who make such pleasure possible.

If you can answer a question on our subscribers’ minds—or, even better, coax them to question an aspect of culinary culture that they’d never previously considered—we want to hear from you.

The Food Section is actively seeking freelance contributors to add their voices to the newsletter’s mix, with a particular emphasis on reported stories that reflect the diversity of the South. We pay $1000 for a feature story, which runs about 1200 words. While we typically don’t cover expenses, if you need 50 bucks in gas money to cover something thoughtfully and thoroughly, we’re open to those conversations.

And with the nitty-gritty out of the way, here’s what else you need to know before filling out The Food Section’s pitch form:

  • In terms of topics, the only real limitation is geographical. Just about every story has a food angle, but for The Food Section’s purposes, that story must unfold in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, or West Virginia (or the northernmost reaches of Florida, which The Food Section claimed because of its sunshine laws—which ought to tip you off that The Food Section is fond of stories with hard news hooks and corroborating data.)

  • That said, a few types of stories aren’t appropriate for The Food Section. Foremost among them are stories which have already appeared elsewhere: Run a quick Google search to check whether your pitch is original.

  • In fact, even stories that could appear elsewhere are relatively suspect in The Food Section’s eyes: We’re not in the market for trend pieces without tension, restaurant write-ups that a publicist would be inclined to repost on Instagram, do-gooder profiles calculated to inspire, retrospectives that romanticize the past, or listicles that flatten the nuances of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation (i.e. “Meet eight great Asian-American chefs in Georgia!”) Also, The Food Section doesn’t run recipes.

  • As for tone, The Food Section has taken on plenty of weighty topics, and prides itself on not shying away from challenging situations. But food is supposed to be fun: It’s OK to be playful in your approach, so long as you can maintain your authority. Good food journalism isn’t boring.

  • And speaking of journalism: The Food Section upholds the highest journalistic standards, including in the realm of ethics. Please review the Association of Food Journalists’ ethics code before pitching to make sure you can comply with its standards. The Food Section will not publish any reporting based on press trips, free meals, or other comps. Additionally, prospective contributors should disclose any potential conflicts of interest, including personal or professional relationships with their subjects.

  • In keeping with the ethics code, contributors should strive to showcase a broad range of sources in their reporting. If you plan to consult with subject matter experts, make sure your contacts represent a variety of identities and lived experiences. 

  • The Food Section recognizes that many people interested in writing about food don’t have extensive journalism experience. If you’re concerned about your credentials or feel like you might need some help with reporting tactics, you should still pitch: What’s most important is your unique ability to tell the story you’ve uncovered and recognize why it matters now.  

  • Finally, please read The Food Section prior to pitching. Every new reader is eligible for a one-week trial subscription to the site, but if you’d rather not enter your credit card information online, you can email raskin@thefoodsection.com for a free day pass.

Ready to pitch? Right this way.

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  1. Avatar photoLeon says

    Someone forwarded this to me and it is an amazing project! While I’m currently nowhere near this geographical location (well Japan), it sounds like something I’d love to be involved in when I get the chance to go to the American South.

    I would love to find some way to collaborate but totally understand that we operate in very different areas!

  2. Avatar photoTa says

    I clicked the link thinking that by South you meant global South, not only the US South. Also as your vision or slogan states: “Covering food and drink across the American South” I thought you meant South America. I find it interesting that many people, writers, journalists, etc, continue to refer to America as a country, instead of the continent that it is. I have always encouraged this reflection that goes beyond mere form, even though it may seem superficial to some. Thanks for your work.

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