Considered working as a Nutrition Columnist? This interview will take you through the ups and downs you can expect in the position, what it takes to land the job, what you can expect to earn and more. This is a true career story as told to WritingJobs.org and is one of many interviews with writing professionals which, among others, include a Blogger and an Editorial Adviser.
I currently work as a health and human diet column writer at a local newspaper providing nutritional advice to a small but growing community as quickly as I can understand the latest scientific evidence. I’ve been working at this career for some 5 years now, and it still feels like the day I started.
Factual Information Needed
My day to day work schedule involves surfing the internet for the most recent medical publications and blog posts by informed analytical researchers, doctors and nutrition experts to find common threads and the most factual information possible where the nutrition and health fields are concerned. Once I’ve finished with my browsing, contemplating, fact checking and the contacting of any relevant sources for permission to use their work, I begin writing. This is followed by a painstaking scrutiny of every word, then a break, and then another painstaking scrutinizing, before I release the rough draft to be painstakingly scrutinized by my editor.
A standard misconception about being a nutritional advice columnist is that we get some form of subsidy from any manner of interested parties, whether they be food companies, supplement manufacturers or the FDA. All I can say about this is that if a subsidy check is coming, it’s taking its sweet time as I have yet to receive a dime from anyone but the owners of the paper.
Research Demands Time
I consider myself very satisfied with my career; the only thing that begins to bog me down when I start my day is the research portion. This can sometimes lay me low as I’m forced to not only read and understand vast amounts of data but I have to contend with the private sector’s emphasis on a spin when it comes to reported scientific facts.
If I should find a piece of promising information in a fitness magazine, for example, I have to do twice the legwork to determine if it is, in fact, true or if the magazine was just trying to butter me up for a sale. Even though I get no incentive to report a certain way, that doesn’t necessarily mean others don’t as well.
Readersâ€™ Response Makes It Worthwhile
When I get e-mails from readers who found real value in my pieces, or report changes in chronic illnesses, or even just fat loss from the information I present, it makes it worth more than just the zeros in my pay check. While I don’t get nearly enough reader feedback to make me feel like I’m truly making a difference, if I could see with my own eyes the number of lives I’ve touched for the better, I think I could truly hang up my hat and call it home.
Obesity Wake-up Call
I, like many Americans, grew up obese. This realization didn’t come until much later in life. Not to say I didn’t know I was fat, but when I got a glimpse of how close I actually was to childhood diabetes, it really hit me how little I and my family knew about proper nutrition. I take this to heart nearly each time I sit down to write the information that I hope will spread out like a thought virus amongst the people of my home town.
I studied nutrition at my university and always had a passion for getting to the truth of what makes us healthy and what makes us, well, not. Devoting my time to this endeavor took so much time and required so much dedication in the light of the nearly mountainous wall of disinformation created by interest groups, subsidized food industries and even governmental organizations that I knew I had to do more.
It only made sense to get paid for it. I always look back at my formative times and wish that I had written a blog on my findings, and reached out to others that had my same passion in other related fields because that’s what a lot of my off the job work-related effort goes to.
Respect Thy Seniors
My first print article reached the editor’s office and was promptly denied due to it being a little too edgy. I pushed past her advice and basically bullied her into printing it – only to get an incredible amount of flak from not only other staffers but readers as well. It was then that I learned that your editor knows her reader base and going against her advice is just starting fires.
Respect your seniors, or pay the consequences of non-vicarious education!
Passion Keeps Me Going
It’s been fairly hum drum so far, thankfully. Spreading the good word about how to live right is, and I think always will be, my passion. If I don’t get up to do this job, I might as well not get up at all. Some of the e-mails I mentioned earlier, concerning readers that hit their body image or weight loss goals, always make me smile, too.
Finding a clinical finding that I like, and that would jive with a lot of my other beliefs, only to realize that it was funded by a private supplement company and is rife with poor empirical practices happens way too often and always gets me in a bad mood.
I do this job at home even when I’m not getting paid, so I find little stress in it. My life is my work at this point. Columnists in small papers can start at 35 to 40 thousand a year at my experience level and with the readers I pull, it’s more. I make more than enough to be happy, I’ve found. I rarely take days off as my job is very low stress.
A college degree is necessary, whether it be in journalism or nutrition, and past experience in writing is required. I hope you like being wrong! I would be doing exactly what I’m doing now, except syndicated and with a reader base that is informed enough to not only follow my advice but to challenge it and prove me wrong!
Erich Lagasse works for justjobs.com and is one of their content specialists.