How to pitch The Food Section
Guidelines for publicists and business owners
The Food Section strives to be inclusive, intelligent and entertaining -- in addition to serving as the region's leading source of news about restaurants, bars, farmers, fishermen, food artisans and everything else that influences how and what we eat and drink in the American South.
That's a major task, and one we couldn't possibly accomplish without your help. We recognize that you're looking for our help too: As one of the most trusted voices in honest and independent food journalism, we're uniquely positioned to cover your business, product, or event. Still, there's more to getting your story in The Food Section than forwarding a press release.
Here, a few frequently asked questions, with answers that should clarify how The Food Section operates. If you have further questions, please don't hesitate to e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll get back to you within a few hours, tops.
What is The Food Section anyhow?
Officially, it’s a Substack, but that brand doesn’t mean much to folks outside of media circles: Think of it like a food blog that lands in paid subscribers’ inboxes twice a week.
Unlike many food blogs, though, The Food Section isn’t beholden to any interests other than those of its readers: The newsletter’s overarching goal is help subscribers better understand the South’s culinary scene and enhance their interactions with it.
The Food Section publishes two newsletters a week. On Mondays, the newsletter consists of one reported feature, investigative piece, or restaurant review. On Fridays, the newsletter is made up of short news briefs and an array of columns highlighting moments in Southern food history, new restaurant openings, country cooking institutions, and upcoming food-themed festivals.
What's the best way to contact The Food Section?
E-mail. As much as I'd like to talk to you on the phone, I'm often on deadline or awaiting a return call—and if we talk by phone, I don't have a record of what we discussed. Instead, e-mail me at email@example.com.
What should my e-mail contain?
As much information as possible in the body of the message: Even when attachments work, I don't always have time to open them. The only exception to the no-attachments rule is photos: It's always smart to send an image or two if you're seeking coverage. Additionally, make sure your e-mail includes complete contact information.
It doesn't matter whether your press release conforms to any particular style, so long as it gets its point across. Still, news hooks help: If you're launching a cold-pressed juice bar and there's a study out this week about cold-pressed juice, share it! But don't bother with the manufactured hook: I won't write about your coconut juice just because someone declared a National Coconut Juice Month.
Finally, don't be offended if I respond to your e-mail with a "Not for us, thanks." Because I receive so many pitches, I send out messages with that phrase dozens of times a day. It doesn't mean you can't try back when you have another idea. Indeed, I hope you will.
Will you run my press release the way I wrote it?
Even if your press release is brilliantly written, The Food Section doesn’t reprint press releases. We generate our own copy.
Why did you write about a sea salt company and not my dog biscuit bakery?
Not every story is right for The Food Section. Every news tip is evaluated for newsworthiness, a broad concept that encompasses novelty, significance, timeliness and relevance to a geographically disparate audience.
That means when I size up your business, event or product, I ask whether readers have heard of it before and how they can engage with it. And I rarely write about anything that's already been covered by other media outlets: I respect your decision to give an exclusive to another publication, but our readers expect news that’s original and unique.
Still, your news doesn’t have to be earthshaking to merit a mention. What interests me most is background: Putting a turkey burger on your menu isn’t news. Putting a turkey burger on your menu because you just inherited a flock of 73 turkeys from your great-uncle is a terrific human-interest story.
I’d like your readers to know about my restaurant’s efforts to raise money for charity. Can you help?
Possibly. In the wake of community events that require fundraising on behalf of affected residents, I often post a roundup of food-and-beverage benefits. But outside of extraordinary circumstances, the newsworthiness bar for charitable promotions is rather high: Unless at least 50 percent of proceeds are dedicated to the cause, I won’t consider it for coverage.
Also for the sake of fairness, I reject 99 percent of pitches that involve a cooking show appearance; crowdfunding campaigns and online surveys or polls.
How do you decide which restaurants to review?
I choose restaurants based on reader interest and the restaurant's potential contribution to Southern food culture.
Can I send you a sample of my product?
Sure, but if it requires refrigeration or other immediate attention, please e-mail me beforehand to make sure someone is available to receive it. Additionally, do not send any items of more than token value: Ethical codes prohibit me from accepting gifts, including any comped meals.
For more about food journalism ethics, visit poynter.org/ethics-trust/2021/association-of-food-journalists-code-of-ethics/
Would you like to come to our friends-and-family pre-opening dinner?
Judging from social media posts, those events are a ton of fun. But I don’t accept free food, and don’t believe there’s much journalistic value in hobnobbing, so don’t attend private or press events as a rule.
I’m so glad you’re considering writing about my business. Can I read the story before it’s published?
No. It’s standard journalism practice not to share stories with sources before publication: Upholding that principle is a central element of independent and fair reporting. But I can call you to check quotes, which gives you an opportunity to confirm their accuracy. (It is important to note that quotes cannot be changed, even if you wished you’d said something else.)
Should I advertise in The Food Section?
Up to you. But it’s never too early to stress that editorial decisions are made without regard to revenue sources.
Purchasing an advertisement or signing on as a sponsor does not guarantee positive coverage, just as businesses which decide against buying ads don’t have to brace for negative coverage.
Other questions? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch; I’m looking forward to working together.