James N. Klapthor

In today’s age of ubiquitous news media, hearing the term “news cycle” tossed about in the audience vernacular is significantly more common than it was during Walter Cronkite’s heyday.

As the term implies, news is covered in cycles, with the omnipresent breaking news—greatly anticipated by news rooms—always somewhere nearby, ready to occur and bump planned coverage deeper within the paper or later in the newscast or eliminate it altogether.

The yearly news cycle means that back-to-school and new-fashion topics take precedence in early fall, followed by coverage of November elections, consumer buying, and food consuming around the holidays. Then year-end lists and New Year resolutions go strong before stepping aside for beating winter doldrums, readying for summer, outdoor fun, and beating the heat. By the time Independence Day has passed, the cycle repeats. Sprinkle in daily doses of politics, the economy—good, bad or otherwise—war, terrorism, semi-odd celebrities, and lifestyle trends, and news outlets are assured of a healthy dose of content from which to choose.

All those topics were swept away for an extended period when Hurricane Katrina washed through New Orleans, the adopted week-long hometown of the IFT Annual Meeting + FOOD EXPO® every few years. The resulting levee breaks, flooding, rescues, abandonment, and general confusion caused by the tropical cyclone rallied journalists to work at frenetic pace to cram their news hole with everything New Orleans. Reference to IFT could not be avoided.

On September 3, the New York Times article “Closed to visitors” followed the aftermath of Katrina and the economic impact the resulting lost convention and tourism business would have on the Crescent City and its residents. At the top of the article appeared a photo of the National Starch exhibit booth as it appeared on the IFT Food Expo floor in July. Placement within such coverage was inevitable, as the 2005 IFT Annual Meeting + Food Expo was one of the last, largest conventions to fill the city’s hotel rooms, restaurants, and Morial Convention Center.

That exposure was a far cry from the coverage IFT has regularly enjoyed from its New Orleans visits:
At the conclusion of the 2001 IFT Annual Meeting + Food Expo, the Los Angeles Times published an article, “Putting the Squeeze on Germs,” that focused on new high-pressure processing techniques designed to reduce pathogens on food while maintaining the food’s taste and texture. Referring to the high-pressure machinery as a "germ crusher," the Times quoted Christine Bruhn, University of California-Davis, as an advocate for the process.

The Economist, a weekly European business magazine originating in London, utilized technical presentations delivered at the 2001 IFT Annual Meeting as it threw a glance at the growing interest of food companies’ research and development labs. Specifically, its article noted Keith Cadwallader’s research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on the aromas of hamburgers and hamburgers containing 25% soy. It also touched on research by Margaret Hinds at Oklahoma State University, who discovered that commercially made burgers consisting almost entirely of soy compared favorably to an ordinary hamburger at a rate of only one-in-five.

The Economist also referenced research by Lynn McMullen of the University of Alberta on producing a gum made from barley that could replace the textured feel of fat in sausages. And Ingolf Gruen’s research team from the University of Missouri was mentioned for devising the right mix of antioxidants in convenience foods that may reduce the unfavorable warmed-over flavor that can come with storage of meat foods over time.

And in 2005 pre-Katrina, United Kingdom-based New Scientist tracked down Cornell student researcher Sam Nugen and published coverage of his new biosensor created to detect and track Escherichia coli in the food supply. That wasn’t the only coverage of the 2005 IFT Annual Meeting + Food Expo, as no fewer than 45 original articles had been published more than 120 times by such news sources as the Associated Press and Reuters news wires, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WebMD.com, and others.

IFT looks forward to the days when the 24-hour news cycle no longer contains wall-to-wall coverage of hurricane devastation, when its members near the Gulf Coast can enjoy a return to normalcy, and when the news media return to forays into topics involving food science, technology, and safety.

by James N. Klapthor,
IFT Media Relations Manager
[email protected]