Editor's Note: Fixing Food, Fixing Media | Civil Eats

Editor’s Note: Fixing Food, Fixing Media

Supporting better journalism is a value proposition–just like supporting a better food system.

Journalism and agriculture are two sides of the same coin: Both have been made artificially cheap. We have come to expect free media, just as many expect to be able to buy a dozen eggs for under $3.00. But lack of social investment in both of these public goods is leading us down the wrong path.

If you read any of our stories, you know all too well the high cost of a broken food system and the “true cost of food.” And if you’re like me, you probably try to spend a little more on food you value when your budget allows it.

I’m proposing that more of us should begin to see journalism that way. Yes, buying healthier, sustainably produced food helps keep the environment cleaner, ensures that farm animals and workers are treated better, and leads to better personal health outcomes. But investing in well-crafted reporting and thoughtful commentary is equally important in a world of listicles, sponsored content, sensational headlines, and dumbed-down aggregation.

Much like a farmer takes care to focus on the craft behind her business, we’re working on crafting strong, intelligent articles for you to read and share. Our writers and editors spend hours researching stories, talking to farmers and scientists, and crunching policy numbers, so that we can bring you articles full of useful information, smart analysis, and inspiring people and ideas. And our commentators have often spent years in their field developing the kinds of perspectives that can really break the news open and shed new light on the same tired narratives.

At the end of the day, supporting journalism and a better food system are value propositions. If you care about good, clean, and fair food (as most of our readers do), you are probably already willing to pay for it. Flip the coin over, and if you care about reporting, especially food systems reporting, you should be willing to pay for it.

Right now I am focused on trying to find alternatives to broken systems. Our new subscription model makes it easy to step up and–to borrow a food movement term—vote with your dollar. It’s a direct, democratic transaction. And it supports our writers by paying for their work. (On Wednesday, April 1, the service will be $25 per year; so you have just a few more days to buy in at our charter rate of $15.) Our new media partnerships with Yahoo! Food and Mother Jones mean you’re helping us get these stories in front of thousands of other readers, who might be just beginning to consider how to change our food system.

As I’ve noted here before, we’ve never taken ad dollars because that model is broken, too. One of the benefits of relying on reader subscriptions rather than advertising is that it allows us to focus entirely on delivering value to our readers, and it allows us to report on the many companies in the food space free of conflict. We want to serve up not just food for thought, but thoughtful food reporting. To that end, Civil Eats aims to be solution-oriented, focusing on the successes and innovators in this space.

Today’s food system is complex.

Invest in nonprofit journalism that tells the whole story.

There is now a lot of money and interest flowing into in food projects (and products), which is fantastic. But more investment is needed to address some of the deep, endemic challenges we face in the food system. Our stories are often among the first to highlight these challenges. For example, we have written about the overuse of antibiotics in the food system since we first started in 2009. Today, McDonald’s and other large multinational corporations are working to move them out of their supply chain. I would like to believe this sea change is due to greater consumer awareness and the resulting demand for something different.

For six years Civil Eats has been on the forefront to highlight these changes, and we’re now bringing them to a wider, mainstream audience, and, hopefully, speaking truth to power. And we do this because we believe in the power of storytelling. By capturing strong the narratives and ideas, we hope to inspire, educate, inform, and yes, perhaps even activate.

I started Civil Eats because very few people were consistently writing about what it will take to build a sustainable food system. Today, that has changed and the market for these ideas, and the businesses behind them, is booming. Our audience still turns to us to tell complex, timely stories that illuminate pivotal, over-looked aspects of food and farming. We put our blood, sweat, and tears into this work because we believe it will take all of us to fix the food system. I’m hoping you’ll join us and work to fix journalism in the process.

We’ll bring the news to you.

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Naomi Starkman is the founder and editor-in-chief of Civil Eats. She was a 2016 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford and co-founded the Food & Environment Reporting Network. Naomi has worked as a media consultant at Newsweek, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, GQ, WIRED, and Consumer Reports magazines. After graduating from law school, she served as the Deputy Executive Director of the City of San Francisco’s Ethics Commission. Naomi is an avid organic gardener, having worked on several farms.  Read more >

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  1. Kat Eutsler
    Thank you for trusting in the subscription model and not taking advertisements. Thrilled to pay for Civil Eats' incredible work.
  2. Well put! Eaters and Readers need to get behind the good content they want to consume, and supporting great writing about our evolving, solution-based food system is the way to do it!
  3. Amen, sister.
  4. Tony Archuleta
    I agree, HOWEVER, a significant reason the Ag writers market is depressed is you have the same 15-20 writers writing for different outlets, websites.

    No diverse opinions, recycled versions of the same story month on month

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