Full disclosure: I've been on the committee that oversees the Journalism Awards for the James Beard Foundation for three years now, and we've gone and blown the whole thing up.
For the first time in the history of the awards - established in 1992 and often called the "Oscars of the food world" - categories will be determined by content, rather than medium. Gone are the days of "Newspaper Food Section with Circulation of 300,000 and Above" (and corollary "Under 300,000"), "Magazine Writing with Recipes" and catch-all categories like "Internet Writing on Food, Nutrition, Travel, Restaurant and Beverage" that existed in years past. Enter, "Food Section of a General Interest Publication," "Environment, Food Politics, and Policy" and "Humor" - with newspaper, magazine and online submissions allowed for all.
Why? Because we cracked a window in the Peter Kump Boardroom and noticed it was 2010 outside.
Rather, this is an acknowledgment that online contributions should no longer be relegated to the kids' table. Many of the same journalists who originally crafted their careers from ink and paper have found that the impact of their words and images are not lessened - and in fact can often be enhanced and delivered to a wider audience - via digital distribution.
One other change worth mentioning - we realized we'd be remiss not to acknowledge that a massive group blog or one backed by a large media organization (like Eatocracy - which, it should be noted, is not eligible for entry as long as I am a committee member) has a different set of resources than a single or several-person operation. The judges will still hold the latter to the same standard, but in a category that reflects the particular contribution bloggers have on the food world today. Welcome, "Individual Food Blog."
The new categories and definitions for the 2011 James Beard Journalism Awards are:
MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award: Recognizes a single article of exceptional literary merit pertaining to food and/or drink published in any medium.
Food Section of a General Interest Publication: Recognizes excellence in food writing, reporting, and packaging of a regularly-published food section in a non food-focused publication. Entries may be from any medium and consist of three complete examples of the full section.
Food-related Feature: Recognizes excellence in a single food- or drink- related article published in any medium that demonstrates enterprise, curiosity, and rigor.
Personal Essay: Recognizes excellence in a first-person essay on any food or drink-related topic, published in any medium. An entry consists of one eloquent essay that demonstrates a unique voice, perceptiveness and style.
Humor: Recognizes a single piece of written and/or visual food- or drink-related satire, parody, or other form of humor, published in any medium.
Cooking, Recipes, or Instruction: Recognizes excellence and innovation in food service journalism. It honors originality and seeks fresh approaches—both written and visual—to make cooking methods, ingredient knowledge, and recipes accessible to a wide audience. An entry consists of three pieces published in any medium.
Profile: Recognizes a dramatic presentation that brings to life the world of a chef, restaurateur, grower, producer, or other figure or group of significance to food or drink, published in any medium.
Food Culture and Travel: Recognizes the importance of place, culture, and history in food journalism. An entry consists of a single piece, or series of related pieces or posts, published in any medium, that makes the connection of food to a community or location.
Environment, Food Politics, and Policy: Recognizes excellence in investigative reporting, analysis, or other public service journalism on environmental, political, or policy-related issues regarding food or drink, published in any medium. An entry consists of a single piece or a series of related pieces or posts.
Health and Nutrition: Recognizes enlightening journalism on food- or drink-related health or nutrition topics published in any medium. An entry consists of one definitive article or series of thematically-related pieces or posts.
Food-related Columns and Commentary: Recognizes the work of an individual that demonstrates thought-provoking opinion and a compelling style. An entry consists of three examples, regularly published in any medium.
Wine and Spirits: Recognizes distinctive style and innovative approach. An entry consists of a single article on wine, spirits, or other alcohol beverages, published in any medium.
Multimedia Food Feature: Recognizes excellence and innovation in storytelling or communication. Entries consist of an integrated package of one piece, or a series of up to three pieces, on food-or-drink-related topic which integrates multiple tools (such as video, audio, narrative, links, social media), published in any medium which allows for these tools.
Individual Food Blog: Recognizes individual enterprise and excellence in a single food-or drink-related blog that is the product of one primary voice, or a small group of regular contributors. An entry consists of three days, weeks, or threads of posts, whichever best represents the publishing schedule of the work.
Publication of the Year: Recognizes excellence in one magazine, newspaper, or website. It is awarded by the Journalism Committee of the James Beard Foundation and is based on nominations presented to them by the full roster of Journalism judges and by former James Beard Journalism Award winners.
Visit the James Beard Awards site for entry guidelines.