NCJ Editor Nabs National Food Writing Award


Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
We are elated to announce today that North Coast Journal arts and features editor Jennifer Fumiko Cahill won the Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s 2020 award for best food writing, while the paper’s Media Literacy Issue took second place for best special section.

The nonprofit association includes nearly 100 member papers throughout the country, including many of the nation’s largest weeklies, and its annual journalism awards honor the best work of its membership ranks.

Cahill, who has served as the Journal’s arts and features editor since 2013, was named a finalist in the food writing category — one of the contest’s most competitive, having drawn more than three dozen entries — for three pieces she penned last year.

Butter and Belonging at Red Lobster” reflected on the ostracism and anger she’d felt as a young girl translating for her grandfather at the Social Security office and the buttery balm Red Lobster offered. “Lunch and Legacy at Chin’s” celebrated the life of Ben Chin, who ran Chin’s Café for 20 years and “cooked more than one generation of locals their first Chinese meals and paved the way for other cooks, immigrants and entrepreneurs to follow.” And “We are Never Only Talking About Food” — which ran in our aforementioned Media Literacy Issue — took a critical eye to the world of food writing and why it matters because, “food media, after all, is about people, businesses, politics, science, culture, inequality, privilege, migration, history and community.”

From one of the judges: “At a time when restaurants and food writers are examining the roles of equity, inclusion and appropriation in our industry, Jennifer Fumiko Cahill writes about the intersection of food, family and race in heartfelt and informative ways. Her story ‘Butter and Belonging at Red Lobster’ tells a personal and multi-generational story of assimilation into American culture through the lens of an iconic brand. I loved this story in every way.”

If you missed any of these pieces, we urge you to take some time to give them a read. If not, we encourage you to double back — they’re wonderful pieces of writing filled with poignant moments and layers of insight.

When it comes to our Media Literacy Issue, we’re proud to learn AAN’s esteemed judging panel deemed it the worthwhile endeavor we envisioned when we launched the first one a couple years back, hoping to help readers better navigate a rapidly changing media landscape while lifting the veil of our own operation. And we’re not at all ashamed to finish second to the Chicago Reader’s Best of Chicago 2019 issue, for which it tapped 15 staffers to contribute. (The Journal, meanwhile, has an editorial staff of five.)

If you missed our 2019 Media Literacy Issue, it detailed the struggles of Humboldt County’s old-growth daily newspaper under hedge-fund ownership, how that fits into a national trend and what it's like lead a paper hemorrhaging staff, why Native representation matters, how journalism is being taught at some local high schools, the importance of parody news, the role television coverage plays in presidential elections, why the media needs to better cover the environment, what it means to be a local movie critic or music writer, and how we are never only talking about food (another hat tip to Cahill).

Please join us in giving a virtual hand to the entire NCJ staff, all of whom deserve some credit for these awards from the reporters who wrote the stories and the editors who edited them to the graphic designers who laid them out and the advertising and administrative staff that keep the proverbial wheels on the bus. And we’d like to offer a special shout out and thank you to the group of freelancers who made this issue possible: Deidre Pike, Marcy Burstiner, Cutcha Risling Baldy, Vicky Sama, Jennifer Savage, Collin Yeo and John J. Bennett.

And a final big thank you to our advertisers and you, our readers. You’re the reason we get to do this every week. Thank you.

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