Saturday, November 16, 2013

How to Write a Newspaper Nutrition Article

This article from the Miami Herald, "Popular Paleo Diet Still Has its Skeptics" by Deborah S. Hartz-Seeley, is a textbook example of how to write a nutrition article.

  • Choose a hot topic. In this case, paleo diets.
  • Describe the topic and how it got started. This article cites popular media and books written no less than 12 years ago; one book is from 1975. 
  • Find some examples of people who've tried the regimen. One man interviewed lost 200 pounds (yes, two hundred) and got rid of his acid reflux; a bariatric surgeon lost 40 pounds.
  • Somewhere in the article, mention that they are not alone. 
  • Create conflict. A couple of registered dieticians interviewed trot out the gospel of food groups, healthy whole grains, and warnings that more research is needed.
  • Recommend people talk to their doctor.

What NOT to do when writing a newspaper article on nutrition:
  • Proofread. "Just about everybody, including daytime talk show hosts and fitness bloggers, are touting..."
  • Look up recent sources of information. Dr. Cordain, whose book from 2001 is mentioned, wrote The Paleo Answer two years ago. In particular, he's changed his position on dietary fat. The book is one of over a dozen on the paleo diet that have come out in the past three years.
  • Fact check. Where to begin? Lean meat is not part of the Atkins Diet. The paleo diet is based on a great deal of scientific research in both medicine and anthropology, not just anecdotes. Grains are nutrient poor compared to paleo food.
  • Turn on your BS detector. Mark Bluh, according to the article, lost 200 pounds. He started out at 330, and he's six feet four. So he's now 130 pounds and six feet four inches? (A normal weight for a man that height would be 200 pounds. That was the height and weight of my ex-jerk, who was lean and toned.) The same diet that humans have lived on for 2.5 million years, a diet that corrects weight, allergies, acid reflux and avoids foods some people don't tolerate well, will make you ill? Consult a medical professional about diet, even though most of them look like they're 50 pounds overweight?
 Finally, send the article to the local newspaper and wait for a check.


Galina L. said...

Such annoying article on several levels! You provide us with a good recipe how to cook one, I saw even worse examples, and diet advice on local news just full of infuriating BS. I wonder, how people manage to get payed for it, because anyone can write such cookie-cuter material.

Lori Miller said...

The dying industry of newspapers probably doesn't attract many bright young people. The article is such cookie-cutter material that I wonder if they recycled an old one with a couple of new interviews.

Lowcarb team member said...

Lori recently said "Haven't seen that yet, but I'm sure it's a gem. I like Kendrick's blog--I should have it on my blog roll."

Maybe slightly off topic but I see you have Dr Kendrick in your list now ... nice one

All the best Jan