It seems silly to blog about food when terrible tragedies occur like what happened in Joplin, Missouri this past weekend. It’s hard for me to focus on the blog during times like this. I realize that awful things happen everyday, but one of my friends has distant family in Joplin and she hadn’t heard from them in more than 24 hours after the tornado came through. Thankfully, they finally were able to check in and say the tornado missed them. What a relief. If you feel inspired, you can make a donation to the Red Cross (if you know of other charities supporting people in Missouri, please comment letting everyone know).
As soon as I start blogging, I feel better. Food ties us all to together. Food is personal…it is everything. This past weekend I spoke at BlogHer Food about food blogging for change. On the panel were Bettina Luescher from the World Food Programme, Andrew Wilder from Eating Rules, Michelle Ferrier from Locally Grown News, and me.
We had a terrific panel discussion. I had prepared a short guide to blogging food politics and the panel got carried away (in a wonderful way) and I never got to tell the audience my takeaways. I wanted to give the bloggers in the room the top four ways they could use their own blogs to advocate for change. I decided to share them today.
Andrew Wilder from Eating Rules also was unable to share his key takeaways at the event as well so we decided to write simultaneous blog posts with the information that stayed on the page. Visit his blog for his recommendations. What follows are my ideas:
1. Evaluate your blog’s content and voice.
Sit down and review the past month of blog posts. What are some adjectives you would use to describe your blog? What does the blog’s voice feel like? Snarky? Irreverent? Fun? Ask readers, friends, or family what they think of the blog. When you blog about food politics (especially if you are going a different direction than normal) it is best to stay true to your usual tone.
I struggle with tone. It’s sometimes hard for me to know how something sounds to you, my readers. I do my best to be neutral, but occasionally I’m quite passionate about a topic. I try not to be too “bumpy” with my tone with conflicting ups and downs. For bloggers who are trying to write a first blog post on a semi-controversial topic, I think it’s best to know their own blog’s tone and be sure not to vary wildly from the usual.
2. Start small
One option is to write a whole post about an issue. Or, if that feels over the top, write a blog post with a link to more information. For example, if you blog a recipe about fish, you can include a link at the bottom of the blog post about sustainable fish. Just make sure that the link directs to reputable sites as readers will catch any mistakes or bias (you guys do!)
3. Blog your observations
When I started blogging school lunch, I wrote about what I saw. Although I’ve shared more opinions as the blog has continued on, I do try to blog observations, which tend to be more impartial and less difficult to misinterpret. Also observations can be not as harsh, which might turn off readers. For example, once I went to the regular grocery store and went to the fish counter to discuss some fish I was about to purchase. If I blogged about that experience, I would have described why and how I asked where the fish came from. Come to think of it, I really should blog about what happened at the counter (nothing crazy, but I learned a lot).
4. Don’t expect a lot of comments
Here’s some great advice: don’t blog for the comments. Blogging about issues can bring in new comments, but in general I have found that when I do a strict issue post, I get few comments. People who agree rarely say much. Whenever I read a blog post that I agree with, I’ll consider posting a comment on that blog, but I usually don’t. I may go to the blog itself just to make sure that someone already posted an encouraging comment or a comment answering a question like I would. Then I leave. There’s no need to comment “I agree” or “ditto” for the third time.
Last summer when I blogged about my experience volunteering for Common Threads, I thought there might be a lot of comments. When I posted the series and very few people shared their thoughts, I realized that there wasn’t much to say. How often can you say “right on!” anyway?
People who disagree on controversial topics comment negatively, but still I think the same principle applies. Once you see that someone who shares your view has commented, then you don’t feel the need to say the same thing again. What I’ve realized is that even when I get a negative comment, I have connected with that person.
One weird side benefit for blogging about food politics is that random internet searches find your posts. I get the occasional commenter who says, “I just found you today!” That’s another reason to make sure that your blogs posts about controversial issues are observation-based: tone can engage both new and established readers, but it can also offend the new and the old. It’s about finding common ground on the issues that really matter.