James N. Klapthor

When IFT learned in advance of the exciting announcement that the 2007 World Food Prize would be awarded to former IFT President Philip Nelson (see p. 59), it set in motion a brief but enthusiastic relationship between the Chicago media relations staff, World Food Prize colleagues in Des Moines, Iowa, and university communications personnel at Purdue University, Nelson’s longtime employer.

Drawing on its vast and illustrious history of humanitarian service as it relates to global food issues, the World Food Prize organization provided extensive details of the impact that the award recipients have had on societies worldwide. By combining that with the significant IFT- and food science–related accomplishments Nelson has achieved—specifically his involvement in the evolution and implementation of high-volume aseptic packaging, storage, and transport on the global scale—it was easy to see how news media could recognize the importance of Nelson’s achievement.

The revelation that another IFT member, Nevin Scrimshaw, was recognized 16 years earlier as World Food Prize laureate for his lifelong achievements at providing nutritionally beneficial food supply options to impoverished peoples made this announcement even more exciting.

With credit to World Food Prize headquarters, the Associated Press bureau in Des Moines showed the greatest interest in this announcement and, in turn, the greatest coverage. More than 100 news outlets nationwide carried reporter Amy Lorentzen’s coverage of the World Food Prize announcement at the U.S. Dept. of State in Washington, D.C., June 18.

Those news outlets range geographically from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to the Houston Chronicle to Nelson’s home-state Indianapolis Star, Indiana’s largest daily newspaper with a circulation of more than a quarter-million. The Chicago Tribune ran the story on page 3 of Section A with a photo of Nelson, while the Orlando Sentinel ran the article on page 2. Combined, the two Tribune Co.–owned newspapers circulate nearly 750,000 papers daily.

Many other interested news outlets were close to home. Des Moines’ CBS News affiliate WCCI-TV ran the news three times over two days, reaching an audience of 140,000. WCCI was one of at least five television stations in Iowa to highlight the achievement.

Still others provided coverage of this achievement via emerging new media outlets like Salon.com and MyWire.com to international news wires, agencies, and outlets like Yahoo!News, Canada’s French-language CNW Telbec, Indonesia’s Antara, and India’s WebIndia.com.

These are merely a few of the many international outlets that carried news of Nelson’s accomplishments in multiple languages worldwide, testament to the efforts of three organizations to have word spread far and wide, reflective of the scope of the World Food Prize and the efforts of its laureates.

IFT media relations is grateful to trade and similar news outlets that focus on the food profession for their distribution of Nelson’s news. This praise is not limited solely to World Food Prize coverage.

In the same month as Nelson’s announcement, IFT’s Congressional Support for Science award and its senatorial recipients Saxby Chambliss and Blanche Lincoln made headlines, too. The Atlanta Journal Constitution and Washington Business Journals’ Web sites were among the news outlets noting the recognition bestowed by IFT on the Georgia and Arkansas senators earlier in June (see p. 21 in this issue).

All this while, food safety has not left the overall consciousness of major news media nationwide. In May, CNN, the cable television news network, featured an hour-long special on food safety, focusing on spinach-related foodborne illnesses and recalls generated during late 2006, and utilizing IFT Food Science Communicator Mike Doyle for his scientific perspective.

One month later, CNN re-aired the same hour-long program, shining more light on the same topic that gives little indication of dimming in interest among reporters on the food, science, business, and regulatory beats. On June 23–24, that story—airing three times over the two-day period—gained audiences numbering nearly one million.

IFT will recognize in its own special way the latest World Food Prize laureate when the IFT Annual Meeting & Food ExpoSM convenes later this month. Likely before and after the event, news media’s heightened interest in food safety will also receive great attention.

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