James Beard Foundation Media Awards 2009: Media Feasts while Media Burns

Categories: Brody
photo-ruth-bio.jpg
Ruth Reichl
It had to happen.

Just as a couple of this year's Pulitzer Prize winners had already been laid off from their paper four months before they won their award, the winner of the James Beard Foundation's 2009 award for Newspaper Feature Writing with Recipes, Rebekah Denn, wrote her piece, "High on the Hairy Hogs: Super-Succulent Imports are Everything U.S. Pork Isn't", for a newspaper that is now defunct: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Denn, the Beard Foundation blog reported, "began to cry onstage as she explained how her editors and others supported her despite cutbacks and budget freezes to allow her to produce her article." Or, as a tweet had it: "She went on trip against orders because her editor believed in her and the pigs."

The awards were handed out during a sumptuous many-course meal featuring lobster, Kobe beef, foie gras, and oysters, prepared by famed woman chefs.

In the face of matter-of-fact sniping ("Bon Appetit and Gourmet are the next Conde Nast mags slated to die,") from media deathwatchers, as ad pages drop and circulation numbers weaken, Gourmet in particular cleaned up: the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award went to Aleksandra Crapazano for "Benedictions", published in their September issue; Gourmet's editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl (soon to appear in the Bay Area with her new memoir, Not Becoming My Mother: and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way, on Saturday, May 9, and Sunday, May 10) won for both Multimedia Writing on Food for Gourmet.com's "The Test Kitchen," and Magazine Feature Writing about Restaurants and/or Chefs for "The Last Time I Saw Paris," in Gourmet's September issue.

Reichl also accepted a posthumous award for Edna Lewis, whose piece "What is Southern?" Reichl published in Gourmet's January issue.

The San Francisco Chronicle's (now wildly-altered) food section lost to the Washington Post for Newspaper Food Section, and the Chronicle's Jon Bonne lost to Alan Richman of GQ in the Writing on Spirits, Wine or Beer Category. Richman no doubt endeared himself to all his hungry listeners by thanking his GQ editors for an unlimited budget so he could write his award-winning piece on the best non-Japanese food in Japan, "Made (Better) in Japan," which won in the Magazine Feature Writing Without Recipes Category.

The Bay Area's only local winner (if you don't count Reichl, who famously started her food career working at the Berkeley Art Museum's Swallow Cafe) was Sunset Magazine's online Our One Block Diet, oneblockdiet.sunset.com, which won the Beard's first-ever food blog award for a Blog Focusing on Food, Beverage, Restaurants, or Nutritition.

We predict (fearlessly and/or fearfully) many more blog categories in years to come. But the big question is, will the newspaper and magazine categories continue to thrive?

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