The Radical Act of Minority Media Enterprise

To anyone willing to listen, lately I’ve been obsessively referencing an article I wish I’d written called, “The Problems with Food Media That Nobody Wants to Talk About.” The content — rather unsurprising given the title — is hardly about food. Instead, it presents a damning and timely commentary on the depressed state of food media in America. We are granted this compelling literature compliments of Chris Schonberger, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Complex Magazine’s food blog, “First We Feast.” There were many well considered critiques explaining our moment of collective monotony in food media, but among the first listed was lack of diversity.

“The single most important thing food media can do to evolve is open up its ranks to new voices. Most food staffs have no shortage of liberal-arts degrees and good intentions, but the sheer lack of diversity creates glaring blind spots in coverage.” - Chris Schonberger

Over the last decade, I’ve worked as a manager and/or wine professional at some of the nation’s best restaurants — less rare than when I started, but still a rarity for men (or women) of my complexion. Throughout this time, my own self awareness would not allow this to be lost on me. Even if it was, the contorted expressions of patrons and colleagues who encountered me after asking, “to talk to someone about wine” or “the manager”, were palpable reminders.

To say men and women of color are underrepresented in hospitality is not a bold assertion. You can substitute many industries for “hospitality” and the formula still works. But just because we are underrepresented, doesn’t mean we aren’t there. People who work in food (and increasingly those who don’t) are aware that the faces we see on magazines and food blogs are notably dissimilar to those who prepare the food. And the faces of those who grow the food are not seen at all. So when we say “underrepresented”, what we’re really saying is “seen” — i.e., “the manager.”

In fact, the places minorities are mostly in the minority are the places in which food is being discussed. It’s sort of like sports media. The racial composition of the highest value sports (and by extension, athletes), do not reflect the ones controlling the narrative. If we think softly, we can easily conjure real life examples of how this discrepancy has been problematic. You can probably log on to ESPN right now and present a case. That’s another article entirely. That’s what made ESPN President John Skipper’s comments from the Code Media conference earlier this week so interesting.

I think there is not enough black media in this country. There is not enough black-owned media, there are not enough site run by people of color. — John Skipper, ESPN President

I’ve endlessly toiled on the most effective way to present a more honest account of where our food comes from, and the people who bring it to us. In focusing on the subject, what’s been lost in this for me, is that self- awareness I had in the dining room. We’re all accustomed to people of color not being represented in the pages or screens of the places we consume food media. But what about being the ones to create the outlet? Advocating for more diversity in “newsrooms” is noteworthy. Being a person of color to create the outlet is radical. It’s good to know who you are. Onward.

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