Spotlight on Metcalf Institute Alumni: Jess Hirsch

Jesse HIrsch 180x180Jesse Hirsch has worn several hats over the years – restaurant critic, agricultural reporter, and food journalist.

An alumnus of Metcalf Institute’s 2014 Annual Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists and an investigative food editor for Consumer Reports, Hirsch “sits at the intersection of food, science and journalism.”

“For a while I resisted being called a food journalist because I felt like I didn’t have the expertise, but after doing the same thing for a while you learn on the job,” he said.

A graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Hirsch arrived in New York in search of a job with three years of general assignment reporting under his belt. He saw an opportunity in Edible Queens magazine and went for it.

“I found a typo on the website,” recalls Hirsch, who contacted the publisher to offer his help copyediting. She, in turn, offered him a job, which eventually led to the position of magazine editor. “I kind of fell into it.”

Hirsch also stumbled upon another unlikely career – restaurant critic. “I didn’t like the fact that you can write a bad review about a place and it can affect a family’s livelihood,” he said. “I always loved eating out, but the job kind of took the joy out of the experience.”

When Hirsch applied for a Metcalf fellowship, he had just begun covering the agricultural beat for Modern Farmer, a magazine geared toward “cutting-edge food producers and consumers.” Hirsh wrote about a variety of topics related to farm life and farm animals.

“When it came to science-based stories, I felt like I was behind the eight ball and didn’t want to take the surface approach that you see from reporters who aren’t deeply invested in science journalism,” he said. “I thought the workshop would give me a position of more authority to write about science-based topics.”

“Learning how to read scientific studies at Metcalf and how to ask the right questions has been so valuable,” he added, especially in his current position at Consumer Reports. “Since I’ve been here, 90 percent of the stories I’ve done have been steeped in science and much of the time focused on a recent study.”

Hirsch, who states on the Consumer Reports website that he strives “to make things more transparent for eaters everywhere” reports on everything from studies warning of the dangers of consuming certain products to research touting the health benefits of drinking hot tea to prevent glaucoma or eating leafy green vegetables to protect the brain from memory loss.

“I’m motivated to write a story like that because people need to know about it,” he said. “It can change their lives based on the things that they eat and that feels like a big responsibility to me and a lot of power. It makes me feel good about my choice of career,” he added, and appreciative of the training he received at Metcalf Institute.

“Metcalf was one of the best experiences I’ve had,” he said. “I know how much weight to give one study versus another study now, I know what questions to ask scientists and I know how to read the studies.”

Hirsch offered this advice to other journalists. “If you write about science on your beat, [Metcalf training] is one of the best things you can do.”

Return to alumni profiles

Easy Sign Up





Follow me on Twitter