LCI Blog: Meet the Media – Meredith May, reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle

What’s your top story for today?

I went to Sausalito today and met with an author who lives on a houseboat. She’s written a book on the topic of sustainable fishing and her time spent in Alaska on a fishing boat. She cooked me an amazing meal of salmon salad, salmon steaks and salmon bacon (to make salmon bacon, she cuts the skin into strips and bakes it!).

Her new e-book is called, “The Whole Fish: How Adventurous Eating Can Improve your Sex Life and Save the Ocean.”

Tell us about your dream assignment.

My dream assignment is to travel to a foreign country where I have to navigate my way around. I covered the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece which was a fantastic assignment. I wrote features on athletes competing from the Bay Area. In all, there were three sports writers and me. I traveled with a freelance photographer whose family is from Greece and who speaks Greek. He had a car so I had a chauffeur, interpreter and good friend by my side. I saw a part of Greece many people do not. We stayed in his grandmother’s 500-year-old house in a rural goat-herding town. It was my absolute favorite.

Describe the wackiest story you’ve written.

I once wrote a piece on a national contest for the “Best Bathrooms in America.” One finalist was a well-known department store in San Francisco’s Union Square. I met the store’s spokeswoman in that bathroom for the interview. It was done in a very ornate Art Deco style with floor-to-ceiling green Italian marble. Halfway through, I couldn’t help but say out loud, “This has got be the oddest place I’ve ever conducted an interview!”

What is your PR pet peeve?

Thinly veiled product placements and pitching something because it’s “fill-in-the-blank awareness month.” Writers don’t care about made-up holidays!

Top trend in the industry you’re currently covering or are interested in.

I don’t have a specific beat, but I can tell you in general. I like stories about artists who sacrifice to make beautiful art. I like stories about ordinary people doing amazing things.

I prefer stories about ordinary people and have never really been interested in profiling the famous. Generally speaking, if the person can’t understand why I want to write about them, the better the story. As an example, next month I’m doing a story on a 90-year-old woman who runs a cooking school out of her home in Alameda. Her name is Weezy but they call her the “Julia Child of Alameda” because she is French trained. Weezy’s 93-year-old husband is the sommelier and dishwasher of their operation. Her classes are well-attended…even by Michelin starred chefs!

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a feature writer at the San Francisco Chronicle but I’m also the Chronicle’s token beekeeper. I am a third generation beekeeper from Carmel Valley. Two years ago, I helped install a couple beehives from the roof of the Chronicle building. Once, when trying to be a badass like my grandfather (aka not wearing full bee suit), I got badly stung in many places and basically needed an IV of Benadril. There’s a myth in beekeeping that if you get stung enough times, you’ll become immune. That was true for my grandfather, but not for me.

Currently I write a monthly column about beekeeping for the paper called The Honeybee Chronicles (Home & Garden section). We have a dedicated fan Facebook page (Like us!), which is also called the “Honeybee Chronicles.” We often post videos of the queen laying eggs or of bees hatching.

I enjoy talking to other beekeepers though the website and our fan page and I love bringing people up to the roof to see the hives. Beekeeping and writing about beekeeping keep me involved with the urban farming and foodie communities in the city. I like to be able to leave my cubicle and go work on the beehives here and there. It’s a nice, albeit unusual, coffee break.

Meredith May is an award-winning narrative writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Hired in summer 1999, she writes news, features and travel stories along with personal essays in the Sunday magazine. Her 2004 series on a war-wounded Iraqi boy won the PEN USA Literary Award for Journalism, and her 2006 sex trafficking investigation was honored by the Society of Professional Journalists. Meredith is a Visiting Assistant Professor of journalism at Mills College in Oakland, CA.

Questions or comments? Please comment in the section below or send an email to Meredith at [email protected]. Visit her online at www.meredithmay.com.

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3 Comments

  1. david Reply

    Meredith – love your blog – it’s just like you: smart, funny, erudite and quirky. And like those whom you interview as well! Keep up the good work at the SF Chronicle, you are one of their shining stars! Cheers, David

  2. Donna Reply

    Hi Meredith. One of the best blog posts we’ve ever had on Meet the Media! It’s so interesting that you are a beekeeper …these are the things you just don’t know unless you ask. I direct the Academy of Sciences account here at LCI, among others. Hope I’ll have the chance to work with you in the future.

    Donna Glass

  3. Rob Reply

    Meredith: Thanks for the great contribution to our blog. I am quite sure I recall your “best bathrooms” story. And I’d LOVE to come by some time to meet the bees!–Rob