October 6, 2009

Gourmet magazine’s demise a blow to environmental journalism

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Claiming that I subscribed to Gourmet magazine for its environmental reporting would be akin to saying I want to pick up Playboy for the articles. (Note to wife: I don’t subscribe to Playboy. But if I did….)

No, let’s face it: I started plunking down cash for a monthly copy of the super-glossy mag a couple of decades ago because I was — and remain — a foodie. A few minutes perusing Gourmet’s faaaabulous images of a summer picnic in Tuscany or a Parisian dinner party inspired me to do something really special in the kitchen.

gourmet-coverBut I have to say that I’d noticed in recent years that Gourmet has been a leader in exploring the environmental consequences of the food we eat.

Once Dateline Earth noted, for example, a fascinating Gourmet piece on the downsides of wheat.

Or take a look at some of the magazine’s inquiring journalism regarding genetically modified organisms.

Just the other day, Gourmet Editor Ruth Reichl was on KUOW”s “Weekday” program yakking it up with host Steve Scher about food’s carbon footprint and a new movement that seeks to outdo even locavores by minimizing all energy put into food production. (For example, these folks turn on the oven only when they can cook several dishes at once.)

A sampling of some Gourmet headlines:

Do I Dare To Eat a Shrimp?

Sustainble Sushi: Coming Soon?

Carbon 101

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Gourmet was a trailblazer in this respect, particularly considering how easy it would have been to just cater to the folks who want a great meal and don’t care much about the environmental consequences.

So Gourmet’s closing marks a sad day for environmental journalism as well as for us foodies. The magazine just didn’t get enough ads, according to publisher Conde Nast.

There’s a lot of that going around. It’s the basic reason that InvestigateWest got launched on our path to non-profit journalism.

Gourmet’s demise gives me a what’s-the-world-coming-to feeling. Things will probably get worse before they get better on this front.

So, folks, if you value probing journalism that asks the hard questions and takes the time to straighten out that can of worms, you should consider helping to pay for it. Unemployment insurance won’t keep paying my mortgage forever.

— Robert McClure

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