Jamie Feldmar – Managing Editor, Serious Eats
It’s always been said that art is in the eye of the beholder. Gastronomic art is therefore in the taste buds of the beholder. And in the case of Serious Eats, a family of websites dedicated to the celebration of food, the beholders are 100 plus strong. Founded in 2006, the online community features at least 20 posts a day from a team of nine staff editors and a legion of contributors around the country and globe who bond through their devotion to seriously good food.
Stepping to the helm of this food lovers’ online festival is Jamie Feldmar, the forum’s new managing editor as of this month. Having previously freelanced and served as an editor at the Gothamist blog, she stands equipped to handle the reins of such a comprehensive outlet.
“It’s a big responsibility, and a big change to come from freelance,” Feldmar said. “I’ve always had a background in editorial so this is really a shift towards management. I’m spending time working on the editorial structure and how we can run things smoothly. I’m a little daunted, but I feel confident.”
Technically, Feldmar’s writing foundation was established while she was still enjoying recess. As an elementary school student in Chicago, she won a young author’s contest in Illinois for fiction short stories and attended a conference downstate. The journalism spark was ignited and her passion was cemented.
“Everyone likes to do what they’re good at, and I never really excelled in academics other than reading and writing. So I naturally went on to write for my high school’s newspaper,” Feldmar said.
Fast forward several years, and she found herself covering entertainment and pop culture as a journalism student at New York University. Initially just honing her craft, Feldmar entered the food writing realm when a teacher instructed her class to focus on particular beats throughout the course and she chose Cheap Eats.
“I always wanted to be journalist, but I never knew what specifically until I started following Cheap Eats for a couple of months. By virtue of being in New York, I had access to the country’s major food pubs.”
Feldmar later interned at Gourmet, started to freelance, attended food events and became a self-described “pitching machine.” A substantial portfolio and networking led to enlightenment on her career.
“When I finished school, I already had some clips published in small publications. Food writing is a fairly small world, so once you’re introduced to one person it’s not hard to meet others. I started to realize that I know everyone in this world and this seems to be where I’m getting a lot of work,” Feldmar said.
In addition to journalism teachers who instilled basic principles of article writing and newsroom 101 ethics, Feldmar found inspiration from Naomi Duguid, a well-known cookbook author and columnist for Cooking Light, while spending time traveling in Southeast Asia.
“I met her in Thailand during my travels. Naomi wouldn’t call herself a journalist – but a storyteller. She works very slowly, her research is incredibly thorough and she writes beautiful narratives,” Feldmar said.
Given her immersion in the blogosphere, Feldmar is quite keen on the advantages of an active social media lifestyle. While noting the importance of verifying facts with any content posted online for the sake of journalistic integrity, she eagerly shared how she’s benefited from the new frontier.
“As an individual, I’ve built a network through social media. I’ve reached sources via Twitter when I was unable to via phone or email. If done appropriately, it’s a great platform for promoting your work – you just have to be sensitive when doing that,” Feldmar explained. “As an independent journalist, social media has been nothing but helpful to me.”
For the outlet she leads, Feldmar sees social media as an obvious channel for engaging readers.
“At Serious Eats, we have an active community, and we’re rare in that our commenters are nice. We have a really positive fan base that’s invested in the Serious Eats community, so we use social media to connect them. This makes us more available and more personal, and I think it’s great.”
Aside from utilizing the reach of social media, Feldmar stresses to aspiring food writers and journalists in general to be creative and tenacious, as these were her tools in getting a foot through the doors of the publications she wrote for.
“When I’m asked how I got into this field, I say that I was really persistent and forthcoming with ideas. I rarely cold pitched and tried to find someone I had a connection to,” Feldmar said. “I always pitched three to five ideas specifically tailored to a publication. If they said no, I’d pitch more ideas. It was a balance of not expecting to be given an assignment, but not taking no for an answer. Today with the proliferation of personal food blogs, there are a lot of people who don’t know how to be journalists. To be a good food writer, you have to be a good writer overall.”
Preferring to be contacted via email, Feldmar emphasizes her desire for goal-oriented pitches.
“Pitch me specific ideas, don’t ask me what I want to see or seek assignments. I get lots of emails a day so I don’t have the time to provide ideas. It’s important to know what we run, and make sure to read the site,” she said.
She also stated her attraction to features that veer away from the glitz and glam of the food world.
“I’m less interested in what’s sexy or in restaurant world gossip, and more interested in good untold personal stories that are off the beaten track. I usually like under-represented markets and I’d much rather get a well-reported profile of an interesting chef, fisherman, farmer or forger,” she explained.
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