More white men in prominent food-media positions face reckonings
John T. Edge, founding director of the influential nonprofit Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA), is facing calls from past and current staffers to resign, The New York Times reports. Edge, who is white, has long faced questions about whether it’s appropriate for him to helm an institution representing Southern cuisine, and Edge himself acknowledged in 2016 that it was “time for [him] to get out of the way.” Now, years later, he still says he’s working out a succession plan. Meanwhile, the SFA currently has no full-time employees of color. (SFA has only one part-time staffer of color—an editor for its magazine and podcast, Gravy.) This lack of diversity is painfully at odds with the organization’s stated mandate to amplify diverse voices, celebrate the full spectrum of Southern culture, and initiate difficult conversations about race and class.
The outcry comes at a cultural moment when an increasing number of white men in prominent media positions have faced public reckonings—sometimes due to their own egregious misbehavior, and sometimes due to more subtle re-examinations of their role in perpetuating race- and gender-based injustice.
On Monday, Peter Meehan, editor of The Los Angeles Times food section (and former editor of the beloved, defunct quarterly journal Lucky Peach) became the latest to resign from his post. Threads posted to Twitter by at least one current and one former staffer have since accused Meehan of bullying, pay disparity, and making racist and misogynistic comments. Yet his personal misbehavior is part of a more concerning pattern: Times staffers, food media peers, and readers have wondered on social media how Meehan, who lives in New York City and traveled to Los Angeles monthly, came to lead coverage of the city’s food culture in the first place—and how to address the systemic factors that make it so easy for men like Meehan to float into leadership positions, while it’s still so difficult for others to ascend.