The Wine Blogging Community Is A Joke, Part Two

Vinted on August 28, 2014 binned in best of, commentary

Back at the beginning of August, we generated a bit of controversy here (imagine that!) with my rant commentary on wine blogging, titled The Wine Blogging Community Is A Joke (But It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way). C’mon, with a nice, restrained title like that, who would’ve anticipated controversy?…

Much commenting, sharing, linking, and discussion then ensued.

I received an email from a friend of mine who is a journalist (we’ll call her “Elle Bee” for now, as she prefers to remain anonymous), spurred on by that comment storm discussion. In it, she reminded me of something very important that is at the heart of the wine blogging community’s sense of… well… community, and that didn’t really get addressed in detail in my original post or the comments that followed.

The important thing of which her email reminded me is that, individually, as wine bloggers, we have to represent. Like it or not, every one of us is, to the traditional journalist world, and to wine consumers at large who are not creating content about wine themselves, a representative of the entire wine blogging cadre. In other words, you (yes, you) for all intents and purposes are wine blogging.

Don’t like it? Tough noogies. That’s the stage at which wine blogging finds itself. If you want something more for your wine blog, or from wine logging in general, and if you take the wine blogging community seriously and want to see it increase its reach and influence, then please carefully read Elle Bee’s commentary below.

What follows is well-written, cogently-stated “part duex” to the wine blogging community discussion, and is another wake up call to those of us who want to see that community succeed and take things to the next level…

The wine blogging community needs an identity and an ethos.  Maybe legitimate wine bloggers should rebrand and call themselves digital wine media to distinguish themselves from the hundreds of wine bloggers who are bringing down the community.

Full disclosure: I am a long-time news reporter-turned-wine-journalist who travels a fair amount with both “old school” journos and new media writers. Nothing against bloggers, but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve traveled with any who partook in any kind of meaningful dialogue with wine producers. Call me antiquated, but how do you write a story if you don’t ask the 5Ws + H (or ANY questions for that matter)? You don’t quote sources?

What have I seen instead?  Too many times I’ve witnessed bloggers taking bottle shots with Instagram and posting a caption. Is this a story? Does it relay context, experience, information? But hey, this person has 55K followers on Twitter and 30K on Instagram! Not only does this “reporting” fail to serve an audience, it fails the legitimate wine-blogging community that deserves recognition. But when people think “I have an Internet connection, ergo I am a wine writer,” and don’t invest in their own education, don’t take time for reflection, don’t bother to read standards of good writing (after all, these old white guys didn’t get to where they simply because they had a typewriter), then they hurt the entire community of bloggers who are actually informed, adept and at the service of a readership. Which is the point of writing for the public. (As my old J-school mentor said, “the least important word in what you write is ‘I.’ ”)

If there’s any “warring” between print and digital writers, I offer up it’s because print journos (the legitimate ones, anyway) don’t get the free pass given to so many bloggers.  Too many times I have traveled with bloggers, who, instead of engaging with producers, are tapping into Twitter or Instagram (or, in the most egregious example, one actually read news and email on an iPad for the duration of a five-course dinner while ignoring the host. Another recent press-tripper-blogger occupied himself with email during all technical tastings and tours, took no notes, and his only question was “where can I plug in my iPhone?”). Sadly, this is not an exception. And it leaves all the heavy lifting of questioning, interviewing and synthesizing information up to the people who have trained for this profession. And if you’ve been on assignment in a foreign country, you know you can’t be asleep at the wheel lest you misunderstand certain language and culture nuances, which compromise the accuracy of your story.

Another battleground: we old, white journos are bound by a code of ethics that a lot of bloggers bypass. A LOT! In the last three months, I have traveled with bloggers who, not following journalistic ethics, have actually asked producers for samples. Yes … ASKED FOR BOTTLES AS GIMMEs. And when I have pointed out that we, as writers are there to collect information, not bottles, I am always met with an “aren’t you a Miss Bossy Pants” kind of response. Well, um, yes, I am. Because when I have the good fortune to travel for wine assignments, I consider myself an ambassador for my news outlets, my profession and my industry. I would like to say most bloggers I’ve traveled with follow this path, but I cannot. I have heard them ask for better hotel rooms and for tastings from a winery’s library. Someone recently complained to me about sampling only recent vintages and not receiving the same treatment as a Wine Spectator writer (causing me to spit in a way I’m not accustomed).

Until more bloggers act like “old, white print journalists” and get their act and their ethos together, I’m afraid the legitimate blogging community will suffer. Maybe this is a case of a few bad apples spoiling the whole bunch (girl), because I have traveled with some fine bloggers who have done and continue to do the work (Mr. Dude, dat’s you), but until bloggers catch up with the practice of good journalism—in content, writing and practice— it’s hard to take them seriously.

Cheers!

92

 

 

    Comments

  • @SanCrittenden


    Take a little summer vacation and miss the controversy…

    • 1WineDude


      @SanCrittenden – yep! :) You were probably better off…

  • Michelle Williams


    This is a very interesting article. Thank you for sharing. I like what "Elle Bee" has to say. I am relatively new to the wine blogging scene. I did not attend WBC14 but have read a fair amount about the controversy. I will certainly take her thoughts as a call to action in my own behavior. Cheers!

    • 1WineDude


      Cheers, Michelle. Hopefully you can make WBC15.

  • Tom Wark


    Hard to argue with description of what bloggers should do. That said, besides blogging about the wine business, I've worked in wine media relations for over 25 years and interacted with fair number of wine writers.

    In that time I've had the following experiences with wine writer, more than once:

    -been asked, and agreed, to write the story they were paid to produce.

    -been asked for library samples

    -been asked to pay not only for their meal, but for that of their spouse and children

    -waited hours for them to arrive at an appointment because they were enjoying a leisurely meal

    This is the tip of the iceberg.

    The best and most conscientious blogger and writers are extremely good at what they do and professional.

    • 1WineDude


      Tom, no doubt. I guess the question is, do bloggers need to concern themselves with the behavior of their print counterparts? I’m sure the answer eventually will be Yes, bit not until we’re further along the continuum of print and online writers being seen as equal within the wine world. I don’t think we’re there quite yet.

      • Mary


        I’m glad Tom brought that up based on his decades of experience. In my few short years of going on trips and attending events I’ve witnessed the same (and even worse in a few cases) unprofessional behavior from folks who call themselves journalists. On the flip side I’ve also witnessed the behaviors that “Elle Bee” describes from bloggers as well. Tom summed it up perfectly, “The best and most conscientious blogger and writers are extremely good at what they do and professional.” Regardless of whether they call themselves a journalist or blogger.

        • 1WineDude


          Thanks, Mary. I guess my perception is that online is still not quite on par with offline in the minds of the entrenched wine biz cognoscenti. We are nearly there, but not quite there yet.

  • Chris


    I think a lot of it is just laziness on the part of the public relations companies hired to fill a trip, event or dinner. They don't take time to actually learn who is influential, important or good in a market. They just send a blanket e-mail out to any half-wit with a wine blog in order to get the room full with the least amount of effort on their part. Job done. Time to meet old sorority sisters for a long lunch!

    • 1WineDude


      Chris, for sure that happens. That one’s been hashed out a few times on these virtual pages already. ;-)

  • mjgraves


    I post a simple challenge to anyone who purports to be a wine blogger. I'm in your potential audience, but the hours in my day are limited. I read a lot, but I need to be selective. Do what you will, but trust that I will always seek quality use of my time. I seek to be informed…even educated. Tell me things I don't know that I might want to know. Help me understand the topic and its periphery. That includes the industry and phenomenon of wine bloggers et al.

    I thank Joe for this line of concern. The sheer number and quality of comments is testament to the fact that there is a community, and that it has potential for…well…something.

    Lastly…as a reader…please try to inspire me. @1WineDude had me jumping through hoops sourcing a Ramsico that wasn't available in Texas, and the only US source that could be found wasn't licensed to ship to The Lone Star State. Yet, with some effort, I managed to acquire a few bottles.

    Those blogs that I read regularly expand my universe. That's what you should be considering with your every post, will it improve a readers quality of life? If not, why bother?

    • 1WineDude


      MJ – thanks. That was profoundly well-stated!

  • Catie


    I agree with Elle Bee's commentary. I think many bloggers don't ask questions, because they do not know what to ask. The last blogger's conference I was at (PDX), I was amazed at some of the attitudes and comments out of a few of the newer wine bloggers. If you want to be successful, you need to at the very least pick up a book about wine making and take a walk through a vineyard. When you are being hosted at a winery; show up on time, be gracious, and perform as if you are working – – because you are "working" if you want to be successful.

    • 1WineDude


      Catie – great point, I always viewed blogging as professional work in some ways, even when I wasn't yet making any money from it.

    • @wineshout


      "I think many bloggers don't ask questions, because they do not know what to ask."

      This should never be an excuse. It's all about research, as you said Catie.

  • Blake Gray


    Joe: You know I'm going to agree with almost all of what LB said, but there is one tiny point I want to make for the wine producers out there reading this: Sometimes it's part of the work to ask for a library tasting. If the winery says its wines will age, and it's part of the story, I'd like to taste older vintages. I'm one of those old-school guys who just doesn't believe anything without proof.

    The best bloggers are no different from the best print journalists when it comes to responsible, ethical behavior on press trips. Bloggers newer to wine writing should take their cues from someone who's been around, because we are all judged by the actions of the group. But a really simple guideline is, you're a guest, don't be an asshole.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Blake. I had the same reaction on the library wines (and I have very infrequently asked during visits if we could taste anything to back up the longevity claims, if none are offered). If I don't taste any older stuff, I don't directly state that the wines will age well (I speculate, but don't claim any proof, etc.).

  • Catie


    The bad behavior moment reminds me of a tiff I got into with a so-called "professional" wine blogger. A new AVA hosted about a dozen of Washington State wine bloggers for a weekend. Various wineries and restaurants spent a lot of money to make it happen. One blogger in particular wouldn't eat with us during one of the hosted meals with the winery owner, and instead chose to sit with the younger female staff instead so he could flirt. Was drunk in the limo and tweeted inappropriate things about him visiting strippers on the AVA's time, and then slept in instead of showing up at the first winery stop in the morning. We had a group photo taken of us that morning and later when it was posted on FB, he asked why he wasn't in it – – when I reminded him as to why, he banned me on FB. No loss, and I would do it again in a heart beat. As the old saying goes, "One bad wine blogging apple, can spoil the whole bunch." Anyways – – a lesson on how not to behave.

    • 1WineDude


      Catie – yikes!

    • @wineshout


      Amazing to see how some of these people get these invites. Maybe it's that same stubbornness that works for them and works against them. But it's so easy to get a bad name for yourself.

  • Thomas Pellechia


    In my career I've met wth my share of professionals and assholes, print or online did not matter. Each individual is responsible for his or her behavior and professionalism. If you view one writer based on a so-called community of writers you are as limited in your thinking as the asshole would be in his or her activity. Yet, it's almost too easy to prove that there are more assholes blogging than there needs to be. The reason may be that writers with bylines in reputable periodicals are subject to editors that can apply the brakes.

    If I were a wine producer I'd throw any writer out who asked for anything–even library wines. If the winery doesn't offer, then the writer need not feel compelled to write about the wines' aging potential. There are other stories to tell.

    Writers often fool ourselves into thinking that we are the important ones in the equation, which seems to be one of the lessons that bloggers gladly accept.

    • 1WineDude


      Thomas – True, but regarding this: ” If you view one writer based on a so-called community of writers you are as limited in your thinking as the asshole would be in his or her activity.”<- that is precisely what I run into on a monthly basis in the wine biz.

      • Thomas Pellechia


        Joe:

        You need to find better friends…

        But remember: I did say it is easy to prove that there are more assholes blogging than there needs to be, so I can understand the broad brush by some.

        • 1WineDude


          Thomas – well, I never said they were my *friends*… :)

  • doug wilder


    When I realized that blogging wasn't likely going to fulfill my ambition to write as I do now, I moved away from it. With few exceptions the wine blogging population (it is looking less like a community) seems to have little direction or demonstrated skill set to make them notable. After attending the first two WBC, I realized the event was more a "Wine Prom" than anything else. Because of the low cost threshold for most attendees, the requisite force feeding culture from sponsors at WBC won't change. The fact that many of the award winners from WBA don't show up to accept their recognition at the ceremony is telling that fundamentally they find it not worthy of their time. Taking a page from the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, creating a standalone Conference that emphasize a more scholarly, cultural or technical track that engages/enriches invited attendees (and does away with speed tasting) seems like the next step. To be successful and separate. digital wine professionals would need to run it, vet the invite list and produce it probably without much sponsorship, funding it with substantial fees to attend. I think Meadowood is $800 – $900. You would get exactly what you want – a small group (30 – 50) of committed, like-minded, independent writers. Hold it every two years rotating to sites around the world. No tiaras or ribbons allowed (and everyone can bring their dog).

    • 1WineDude


      Sorry Doug, not sure I get it. It’s almost like you’re saying don’t blog, and turn wbc into wws, neither of which sounds viable to me.

      • doug wilder


        Joe, That isn't it. If some bloggers feel that the present state of how they are perceived is based on the lowest common denominator, the only way to go is up – separate and evolve your platform or else things will likely stay the same, including this topic coming up regularly. :) In society, people who have invested the time, and elevated their position through hard work, certification, or application tend to gravitate towards those like them.

        Tom W. The relationship between the WBC and WBA is confusing. Why is it that a writer cares enough to create their work, gets nominated for an award followed by drumming up vote support for it on their site, FB and Twitter and then doesn't attend to possibly accept an award they are short-listed for?

        • Tom Wark


          "Why is it that a writer cares enough to create their work, gets nominated for an award followed by drumming up vote support for it on their site, FB and Twitter and then doesn't attend to possibly accept an award they are short-listed for?"

          I'm sure there are a number of reasons. For example, this year I had planned to attend the WBC, got my hotel room and everything. Then I decided not to because of a new little baby in our house. I was nominated for a WBA. There are all sorts of reasons.

        • 1WineDude


          Ah, ok, thanks for clarifying that for me Doug.

    • Tom Wark


      "The fact that many of the award winners from WBA don't show up to accept their recognition at the ceremony is telling that fundamentally they find it not worthy of their time"

      Doug, this would be a fair criticism if the winners knew well in advance that they were winners. But they are announced at the conference and only known by the organizers about 2 weeks or so in advance.

      Cheers,
      Tom…..

  • @cuvee_corner


    Hi Joe,

    There's slap to the back of the head and a challenge here for many in the wine blogging community and thanks to you and "LB” for providing it and stepping up to the plate of refreshing frankness. There're many very-good suggestions for improvement that can be taken away from this article. Now here are my two-cents for what it's worth.

    Personally, I see less controversy in this article than some may, but what I do see, is tough love, spoken in fairness. Wine bloggers, should realize that their actions and behaviors are being watched as much or more than the blogger who is on the trip or tasting hopefully taking more than a few pictures for their blog.
    One of the biggest differences I see between wine-bloggers and traditional journalist is this; they're professionals and most wine bloggers are amateurs who write for a hobby.

    I think it's worth noting another distinction; as we all know the line between amateur and professional is being paid. So I don't believe we can [or should] hold an amateur to the same level as a professional. This is not to say, we shouldn't see a bit more proper behavior [when on assignment or otherwise] from wine bloggers in general, because we definitely should.

    I'm in 100% agreement with this comment by LB below, especially the "digital wine media" I do like the sound of that so much better, than wine-blogger".

    "The wine blogging community needs an identity and an ethos. Maybe legitimate wine bloggers should re-brand and call themselves digital wine media to distinguish themselves from the hundreds of wine bloggers who are bringing down the community."

    The last thing I want to say, and please take my comments for what they may be worth. Print Journalists, may not have the same connection with their readers as a wine blogger can and often does. If you look at most print journalist twitter accounts, they have few followers in general and tweet, FB and or Instagram very little in comparison to their wine blogging counter parts.

    It's also very important to note; bloggers don't have editors, they don't have photographers, or any other support folks to help them dress-up and put out content. Most bloggers are nothing more than a one man band at best. When it comes to PR companies, picking folks [bloggers or traditional media] for a press junket, I believe the client is often well aware of the diverse nature of the group. You can't have just blue-chip stocks in your portfolios; you need diversity if you want the maximum impact for your brand or the bottom line.

    • Tom Wark


      "digital wine media" I do like the sound of that so much better, than wine-blogger". "

      This is one thing that interests me. I'm not sure I understand the difference, other than semantic. My guess is that TONS of people (the majority?) of Eric Asimov's and Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator read those people and publications in a digital setting, rather than print.

      There must be a better way of distinguishing between "bloggers" and others.

      • @cuvee_corner


        Hi Tom,

        Setting semantics aside; you're quite right, the majority of professional wine writing being read today is most likely done via a digital setting, but not entirely. While wine-blogs are nearly 100% digital and are rarely seen in print.

        There should be a better way of describing wine blogging, but to be honest I don't know the answer.

        • Tom Wark


          One way to go about understanding wine blogging and wine bloggers is to observe what is true about them.

          For example,one things that is true about wine blogger is that probably no more than 2% or so get paid to blog.

          But then again, no one ever got paid to promote themselves and their careers, nor to keep a diary, nor to send letters to their friends….which might be a better explanation of what most wine bloggers do, rather than to identify them as "writers".

      • awanderingwino


        I like the sound of digital wine media, however, if you toss the same batch of cookies in the oven, won't they come out the same as the previous batch?

    • Thomas Pellechia


      May I address your two final paragraphs:

      First, please explain what those follower counts prove when it comes to cogency, knowledge, ethics, and overall professionalism?

      Second, editors don't "dress up" writers; if they find that they must, those writers will soon be looking for a new venue (and this writer objects to the word "content" because it is demeaning to those of us who have spent years developing our knowledge).

      One of the things that often gets lost in the conversation is that writing is communication–bad writing is not. That is why the majority of bloggers need editors, and that has nothing to do with ethics.

      • @cuvee_corner


        Hi Thomas,

        Follower count proves something called 'influence' and in the social media world it can mean quite a bit to a to the bottom line of a particular business. In regards to the to the other laundry list, knowledge, ethics etc. well that is up to the client and PR agency who sends this person to a particular wine region. Perhaps, it is possible, that persons 'influence' trumps whatever negatives you may associate with their activity. I would have to believe there is certain level of vetting going on [by the PR company or the Client] before inviting someone on a press trip or even to a tasting. And again, yes there are bad apples, who cannot be entirely weeded out, by the best of screening processes.

        To your second point, I found a definition of what an editors general job description is on a day to day basis. Here's what I found and feel free to disagree. It looks like print writers get more a wee bit more supervision, than some random blogger typing away after work.

        "In most organizations, editors regularly meet with the writers to develop content ideas. Though many people have input into the content development process, the editor is the one who ultimately decides which ideas should be pursued."As part of the editorial process, editors have to check their writers' stories for accuracy. They also look for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors, and suggest ways that each piece could be improved. Editors want their writers to write successful pieces, and it often takes a lot of work to make that happen."

        Source: http://resources.alljobopenings.com/editor-jobs

        Third, I have to agree with your point, writing is communication. But sorry to say, even bad writing is communication, it's just not very good. Think about all the instructions manuals you've read over the years.

        • Thomas Pellechia


          Cuvee:

          The editor description is fairly accurate. Your use of "dress up" doesn't seem as important, or even as in-depth. The main jobs–direction, accuracy, and overall grammar–make up the editing most bloggers lack, and it really, really, really shows.

          I beg to differ with your definition of communication. If it isn't good at what it is supposed to do–communicate– it isn't doing what it is supposed to do. The last instruction manual I had in my hands wound up on the other side of the room, and it taught me absolutely nothing ;)

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, man. You're interpreting this exactly as it was meant, I think. Cheers!

  • The Wandering Gourmand


    I was behind you on your first post, but Elle Bee completely lost me. The only relevant comment I see is "don’t invest in their own education". In many wine blogs I read, I can tell that the writer knows really nothing about wine. But maybe that's the point of blogging. IT'S A DIFFERENT FORMAT!!! That gist of that blog could be Learn Along with Me.

    It sounds to me like Elle Bee is having trouble realizing that eyeballs (and advertising dollars) are leaving traditional print media for online. Those 55k Twitter followers she mocks are probably more than most platforms she writers for has. How does that blogger engage to get that many followers? By live tweeting events, building community, and responding to community. And to say that blogger's reporting is failing to serve an audience, well, her following online shows she is serving an audience. It's the new form of storytelling that Elle Bee doesn't seem to understand.

    Are there clueless and unethical bloggers our there? Sure! Are there clueless and unethical journalists out there? Well, I think the medias handling of Ferguson on all sides of the story answers that question. To me this isn't a story about riffs in the wine blogging community but a journalist just not getting where media is headed.

    • Thomas Pellechia


      This journalist gets where media is headed, and he doesn't like it either. Sorry to say, the Internet has to take some credit for the miserable state of information dissemination–sorry to say further, blogging included..

      • The Wandering Gourmand


        Change sucks, doesn't it? I started out in the music industry before Napster and the digital revolution. Now I write. We have to adapt to technology. I don't like social media, but I'm embracing it to survive. We can't stop the changing tides, but we can ride with them and have some influence over them.

        You are right that the Internet takes some blame, but those disseminating "miserable information" will be weeded out as readers pass them by for more intelligent sources. Or maybe they stick around as hobbyists with no readership.

        • Thomas Pellechia


          I wish I could believe that "…will be weeded out as readers pass them by for more intelligent sources."

          Of course, what I say next is a generalized trend, but a trend nonetheless: It seems there's less willingness to pay for professional journalism and more dumbing down to the gossip level, at the expense of research and fact checking. Ignorant bloggers are perfect for that market.

          • The Wandering Gourmand


            Ignorant bloggers? What about ignorant journalists as well? Might I remind you of the completely false piece on Two Buck Chuck put out a couple of weeks ago on Huffington Post? That journalist failed to fact check as did the editor. Or what about the number of major journalistic outfits in this article – http://journalism.about.com/od/ethicsprofessional… It appears journalists also dumb down to gossip level.

            • 1WineDude


              WG – to that point, I've been saying for years that there is not a difference in the percentage of bad writing in print or online; there is simply a larger number of people writing online, so the bad writing is more noticeable.

              • The Wandering Gourmand


                Amen to that!

            • Thomas Pellechia


              When i refer to ignorant blogger I am referring to the act of blogging and being ignorant of facts. I am not delineating blogger from journalist, as there are many journalist bloggers–and they can also be ignorant, like the journalist who blogged a piece recently about baby boomers that displayed a complete lack of knowledge concerning the wine history of that generation.

              What you have done, though, is to show that you do not think bloggers are journalists. I can live with that. ;)

              • The Wandering Gourmand


                So are you saying that journalist when writing for professional outlets like USA Today and NY Times are never ignorant and always check their facts?

              • Thomas Pellechia


                No. Not at all.

                The reason for my reference to ignorant bloggers is that the subject concerning that particular side issue of miserable information dissemination was the Internet and online writing.

                The fact remains that without editors at the gate, which there are in most print periodicals, blogger ignorance can remain unchecked online.

              • The Wandering Gourmand


                The link I posted early about ignorant journalists and their editors were either print or TV. Did you actually read it? That's a lot of ignorance from both journalists and editors in the national spotlight not from online sources.
                http://journalism.about.com/od/ethicsprofessional

                And to address your earlier comment, "What you have done, though, is to show that you do not think bloggers are journalists. I can live with that. ;)." I don't see a need to distinguish a difference. I see that times are changing and have accepted that fact. Reporting is moving online. It's time to accept and get over it or become washed up.

              • Thomas Pellechia


                Thanks for your advice.

                I don't think I ever said that reporting is not moving online. Perhaps you might want to read what I'm writing without the prism of an agenda.

                I don't worry about reporting moving to online; my concern is over the quality of journalism that moves in.

    • 1WineDude


      TWG – Actually, I know Elle Bee and that person has delved into both print and online worlds, so I don't think it's a case of not realizing where things are headed, but realizing that the topic of wine is behind the times when it comes to that inevitable migration.

      • The Wandering Gourmand


        Joe, I'd have to respectfully disagree with you on Elle Bee's message. Bless her heart (as we would say here in the South), but I don't think she gets where media is headed at all, at least as I understand her email. She may have delved into the online world, but did she understand it? Her overall message is a defense of the old school journalism mentality. Talkavino is spot on in his comment below. Audiences (paying customers) want a different story today, or access to multiple ways to tell the story. Thus, bloggers have popularity across all spectrum of story telling.

        • 1WineDude


          Wandering Gourmand – no worries, we did respectful disagreement here! :) I do get what you are saying, I just don’t think it’s a simple equation. We are, for sure, heading in the direction you are talking about here. But we have to accept that the wine biz at large is still behind the curve on that. They still apply different judgmental thinking to print and blogging / alternative media. I don’t wish that to be true, it is just a fact, and we have to accept it. I think Elle Bee’s message really stems from that. Elle Bee is not necessarily saying those things that some bloggers do are wrong, but that they will be interpreted as unfavorable by a not insignificant portion of the wine biz. To me, *that’s* the take-home message. It would be great if people in the biz understood all the nuances, and saw that people who are “legit” are doing legit stuff that might at first look like it is not legit (e.g., posting pics to Pinterest or whatever, where that person may have boku number of followers and is actually generating great buzz for the winery being visited, etc.). Like it or not, we have to represent and we have to teach these people that they’re behind the times.

  • awanderingwino


    I read a blog recently that said –

    "I really liked his wines."

    There was not any more said on that particular producer in the blog. Clearly a lack of five w's , and the how.

    What is the bloggers motivation for blogging?

    The answer to that question will have a direct result on if any of our dialog has any meaning to their personal growth, blog, and behavior. Maybe they want to get the free stuff. Maybe they have no friends, and want to feel empowered or heard. If they want to work for major media one day, then these points will be heard and adjusted.

    If it is about free wine, then which one of them will have any motivation to adjust their behavior in continuing to ask for things like library samples. The bad apples will remain unless they are thrown violently from the stereotyped box we sit.

    Throw them off the train I say.

    Maybe we can create a platform for PR people to list very detailed behaviors of bad apples. It would be like the Vegas black list for cheaters. The apples will not receive any invites from PR agencies again. Maybe make the platform viewable publicly, with no edit abilities.

    • 1WineDude


      Shawn – the good PR folks have a “black list” of who should not be invited to trips/events/etc. And some of them share it, I'm sure!

  • Joe Power


    You know, too many people want to define what a blog is and what a blogger should be. It's not that you don't make a lot of valid points, or that your print friend is wrong in her opinion, but we're all pretending that we know what the fuck we're talking about, when none of us really do. So instead we say " but talk about ourselves and how we think other are reflecting on us.

    I'm not a journalist. I have about as much ambition to become a journalist as I have to become the goddamn pope. But anyone who tries to tell me I'm not a blogger is an idiot. Bloggers don't all fall under the same umbrella, but these kind of discussions assume that we should. There aren't too many premises more ludicrous than that to use as a starting point for discussing our tribe of misfits. We all write for a variety of reasons, and other than writing just to get free shit or because you're a paid shill for, I don't know, the Great State of Texas maybe, there are not too many wrong reasons.

    If you folks all want to form some grand union with rules that keep apes like me from embarrassing the bloggers who aspire to be real journalists, feel free. I'm a union guy from way back. Just know that I'll be hurling my own feces at you no matter how high you try and build the wall to keep me out.

    Now that I've introduced that highly unpleasant image into this discussion, I have to say again that I agree that bloggers need to have some basic decency and manners when they go on press trips or go to wine dinners, etc. So do print writers. Like bloggers, you've got a mixed bag with that group as they are equally comprised of misfits and cretins, in the same manner as bloggers. Telling me, or anyone else, not to look at that because they were here first is bullshit. They weren't here first, we were. We are having a lot of these discussions about each other because they are being forced to mix with us on the web, not the other way around.

    Here's the thing, none of us need to be lectured by print folks, and we damn sure don't need to be lectured by print-wannabes either. I'm not talking about this post so much as I am some of the comments. Some of you really need to get the fuck over yourself and learn how to write something that makes your readers feel something, be excited about something, or at least know more than they did if you hadn't written it. Display whatever goddamn talent you might have and quit worrying about everyone else. THAT is the real problem this community had; gatekeepers and people who think they know what we should all do, but keep publishing the same boring crap as everyone else.

    • 1WineDude


      Joe, as I'm sure you've guessed already I agree with the vast majority of what you've written here. But the misfit crowd is talking out of both sides of its collective mouth lately. We cannot demand to be taken wholesale by the wine cognoscenti as a new bed of media folk with new rules and no limits on our behavior and no tolerance for criticism, and at the same time demand the same level of respect as traditional journalists. We both know that such conflicting demands are taking place.

      • Joe Power


        Well, talking out of both sides of her mouth is apparently something the woman that you quote is particularly good at. If you want to choose someone with the standing to lecture bloggers , she ain't the one, man. Sorry, that's just the way it is.

  • talkavino


    Joe, this is interesting, but in my opinion, off the mark. Bloggers are not journalists. My problem with this letter is pretty much the same as it was at the session with professional writers at WBC14. Same as in this letter, the panel kept talking about the importance of interviews, how to do it, how to quote sources and so on and so on. I can't speak for all bloggers, but I almost never do the interviews. The blog is my personal endeavor, part of my life – I share my passion and the way I see the world through the blog – as such, I don't see interviews as critical part, and I can quote sources when I deem necessary.
    As for the rest of the issues with bloggers, I don't think it is even fare to bring it up. People are people, and integrity is integrity. I'm sure there is an equal number of print writers who sometimes abuses their privileges as there are bloggers. Not to throw the empty words around, let me mention only one name – Jay Miller. I rest my case. It doesn't make any sense and doesn't help anyone to isolate bloggers into the "those people" group and say that "those people have so many issues". In the end of the day, it is all about the content – both print writers and bloggers compete for the attention of the same audience – wine consumers, aficionados and oenophiles, and today's "connected economy" is self-regulating – if someone doesn't produce good content, that someone will stop been relevant and will disappear…

    • 1WineDude


      Talkavino – I'm definitely a proponent of self-policing (much more of that goes on than most give us credit for, I think).

  • WineHarlots


    This was the comment I posted to Facebook before I read the comments.

    The "Journalist" is made up. Queen Bee, if she is a respected journalist, as she claims, would have have the conviction to step out into the light and spit in my face, rather than cower in the shadows with her companion rats. These "journalists" claim to be impartial, when they accept travel, and wine samples like the rest of us, but it's different because Queen Bee went to journalism school, so it's ethical for her to do, because she's journalist and I'm a evil-junket-whore. The fact that Queen Bee is jealous of my 55K hard-earned, cultivated Twitter followers is typical of the old-school writers. They may be superior writers, but they lack the skills to attract an audience. However, back to ethics, Queen Bee and her ilk have no ethical qualms of taking social media, PR or marketing gigs from the wine industry, or working for publications that have notorious "enhanced editorial" policies. If Queen Bee exists at all, her reluctance to honest and direct is because of her own dirty laundry.

    • 1WineDude


      Nanette, I can tell you that the author of that comment has no issues with bloggers taking junkets, etc. The point is only that bloggers need to be cognizant of bringing their best pietistical selves to such engagements.

      • WineHarlots


        No, Joe. That’s not true.



        Lana Bortolot is a coward, a hypocrite and a second rate journalist.

I’m the person who she speaks of with 55K Twitter following that fails to serve an audience (and in the same sentence makes it clear I am not a legitimate writer as well as failing my peers .) Angry? Hell, yes. I have traveled with her, and prior to this stunt, considered her to be colleague. Sure, she has a major chip on shoulder and has to let everyone know she’s a journalist. Repeatedly. (Or as she does here, a “white journalist.”)



        The fact she didn’t have a courage to say this to my face, is appalling.

 And hell, yes, I'm spitting angry.

        Lack-of-integrity Lana, when questioned about her considerable work for a known publisher, (who several years ago called out the wine blogging community for ethics, and when the curtain was pulled back, turns out that the publisher sells his editorial space without any disclosure — kind of the same hypocrisy that Lana uses here) casually dismisses it, and says she has no knowledge of the marketing practices of her publisher. Perhaps Lana should use her vaunted journalism degree and do just a tiny bit of investigation, perhaps the 5Ws + H, that she so glibly refers to?



        She also works for a wine region as a social media marketer. And she’s done a lame job of it. The social media posts, to be charitable, less than engaging. And in the years that she has had the account, she had done nothing to increase the audience for the client, so any messages that are transmitted are limited to the small social media audience.



        In addition, Lana is no longer a journalist, but a marketer. Instead of trying to build an Chinese wall between her “journalism” and her marketing activities, she embraces both paychecks. Now, I don’t begrudge anyone for making a living, but failing to disclose your alliances is unethical. It’s the pot calling the kettle black — or in this case, white journalist.

        • 1WineDude


          Nanette, sorry that this one caused you any anger (I don’t have any info. on the specifics of the comment, to whom it’s referring, etc., so I can’t offer anything additional on that). Having traveled with you, I certainly wouldn’t be putting you in the free-stuff-blogging camp (in fact, if memory serves me, you’ve offered to *buy* the wines at some of the spots where we visited?). Regarding people having no knowledge of publishing marketing practices, though, isn’t that kind of firewall standard in publications? I am asking because I genuinely don’t know, but that was always what I was told by Heimoff, Asimov, etc. According to those guys, there was no communication between the marketing side of the house and the editorial side. As for the “white” thing, that’s only related to the WBC session, and not a racial commentary (sorry, not saying you’re taking it that way, but I want to make sure that point is clear).

          • WineHarlots


            I'm just sick of all the hypocrisy, Joe.
            These "print" writers can have an elitist attitude and look down on the rest of the digital writers, but they need to shut the hell up. Especially when their own house is on shaky ground.

            Regarding the separation of editorial and sales, I think that is generally the case in big operations — I think some organizations hew the line, others the line is blurry. My point is, if you put yourself out there as someone with integrity, you wouldn't be working with organizations that have flexible ethics. (Or acknowledge the issue and say that you've surrendered your integrity to pay the rent.) But you don't put yourself out there and tell everyone how principled you are, when you aren't. And you sure as shit don't publish your hypocrisy for the whole world to see.

            And I hope I didn't come off racist with the "white" reference. I'm aware of the "old white men print journalist" dust up at WBC14, but I was mocking Lana who out of her insecurity needs to tell everyone of her bona fides ad nauseam — the "white journalist" just added an even funnier punchline to a tired old gag.

            • 1WineDude


              No worries, Nanette. This was just the 3rd time the white thing was mentioned, and I am particularly touchy about that :). Just want to make sure people are not misinterpreting that one.

              • WineHarlots


                Did you notice I left out the "short" part of the reference? I think everyone now gets the reference — I think if anyone reading this a year from now is going to be puzzled.

              • 1WineDude


                Nanette – well, bless them if they’re still reading it a year from now; I’ll personally call them to explain it! :)

  • winewonkette


    I've been a journalist, a PR rep, a marketer and a blogger. But I rarely have hidden behind anonymity (or a camera lens, or a blogger) to tell others what was wrong with their lot. That being said, here is what I have noticed often on media trips that combine both "Old school" print writers and bloggers: Often the bloggers are listening to the winemaker, while the print folks are trying to one-up each other by asking questions to which they already know the answer, just to show everyone how smart they are. And/Or they monopolize the conversation as if their assignment is much more important than what the winemaker is trying to say. Bloggers often follow up with questions and interviews AFTER the trip rather than to take up the group's time.

    Those who set up these trips need to understand that print writers and bloggers have very different needs and very different audiences. You're asking US to take our time to write about YOUR client. We don't get paid to do it. Many of us are using our vacation time. Or we're taking time off work and LOSING money to spend time with the winemaker, when we could be going on an actual vacation that expects nothing in return. A magazine or newspaper isn't sending us, paying our salary, and giving us time to write a lengthy article when we return home. The fact that a blogger has a huge audience, thousands of twitter followers, or Facebook friends, or real time unique hits is WHY the PR person recommended us in the first place. This constant idea that we are somehow in it to "get free wine" or that we are "less than" the print writers is ridiculous. We serve an entirely different purpose, and we are actually PAYING FOR (in opportunity cost or vacation cost or time-off cost) what the print journalists are getting not only FREE but paid to do. The blogging community is only a "joke" to those who think themselves above it, fear it, or wish they were a welcome part of it.

    • 1WineDude


      Amy, thanks, good points. I just want to add one thing, the comment by that journalist was highlighted here because I thought it was important. Initially it was going to be left as an anonymous comment on the original post, which I have zero problem with, but I wanted to highlight it for discussion. So there isn’t as much hiding going on here I think as people are assuming.

  • @PrimlaniKitchen


    I whole-heartedly agree….I cringe at times when people identify me as a "blogger". I have journalistic ethics not to mention simple etiquette. And I am certainly NOT in it for FREE stuff.

    • WineHarlots


      Since I'm calling everyone out today, I might as well go all the way. I took a look at your digital publication. It appeared that you attend press and media dinners. It is unclear if you receive wine samples. The FTC requires a conspicuous disclosure in the post (or article) of the provenance. I wasn't able to see any disclosures on your work. (And if you paid for the media dinners or wine samples, I apologize, but it's something that I always notice in digital articles.)

    • Joe Power


      Well aren't you special! As a blogger let me say that I wholehearted support your decision not to associate with us. Mucho gracias, mother****er.

  • Tom Wark


    ""miserable information" will be weeded out as readers pass them by for more intelligent sources."

    This doesn't explain almost everything on the Huffington Post.

    The things to which one becomes accustomed often forms the basis for their expectations.

  • Thomas Pellechia


    Sorry this turns out to be a personal thing among some

    I usually don't trust people who excoriate others anonymously. But I also won't engage in insults and cat fighting, so I'll take my leave of this discussion.

    • WineHarlots


      When a woman states facts, it's "cat fighting?"

      • Thomas Pellechia


        No. Cat fighting is cat fighting, facts may or may not be involved, but you have the freedom to interpret the way you wish.

        I understand your frustration with someone who wrote anonymously, I don't like that practice either.

      • winewonkette


        of course it is! Men just beat the hell out of each other in front of the bar, then go in and have a drink together :)

        • WineHarlots


          Thomas, I didn't like your phrase "cat-fighting" but your point is taken. I could have (and should have) made my points without the anger. The anonymous part just fueled my rage, because I knew who it was by the style, and the 55K twitter follower jab was directed at me and it hurt. This is someone I actually know, so I expected better. The gross hypocrisy was just the icing on the cake. I guess I should toughen up an take it as a compliment — that I have built an audience of 60K that is interested in what I say, something that Anonymous, doesn't understand or is unable to do.

          • Thomas Pellechia


            Hey Wonkette: male cats do most of the fighting…you know, over turf and who gets the gal. ;)

            Harlots: I do understand your anger. I just find that arguments often turn in a bad direction.

  • chicagopinot


    This may be an apples to oranges comparison, but I am curious about the reactions of those who attended both WBC this year (which I didn't this year) and TEXSOM (which I did, for the first time). Did you notice a different vibe/attitude at both?

  • The Drunken Cyclist


    For many years, print writers had their own little game of Monopoly going when it came to wine. They made the rules and they invited who was allowed to play. Now that the rules have shifted, so to speak, and just about anybody with an internet connection can "play" they seem to want to pick up the game and go home. I have to admit that the refrain is growing a bit tiresome. Are bloggers perfect? Nope. I doubt any of them profess to be. But the consumers approach wine in myriad ways and it seems that many of the more "traditional" journalists are having a difficult time coming to grips with that.

    As for the bloggers that are acting like douchebags–unless you are willing to call them on it when it happens and let them know they are being douchebags (and how/why) then I am afraid you are a part of the problem. Complaining behind their back is going to do nothing to change behavior and just make it sound like we are all a bunch of douchebags.

    I know that most people fear confrontation–I get it. But unless you are willing to actually do something about it, just shut the hell up because you are making the problem sound a whole lot worse than it actually is.

  • alisonmarriott


    The reverberations of this print vs. blogging thing seem to be never-ending, but I wonder what the perspective is of those who do BOTH- ie: you, Joe.

    I both blog and am getting opportunities in more traditional print journalism. Neither my voice, nor the audience is the same when I write in these different capacities. Bloggers are limited by SEO, word limits, no editors. We are free to use a more casual voice, to connect with our readers in a way print writers cannot. Print writing comes with AP style, editors, revisions, deadlines, less reader interaction….And in my very limited experience they have VERY different audiences and goals. Both are good for different reasons, and one does not have to necessarily diminish the other as long as they realize the two are distinct.

    I do agree with her point that maybe we should hold ourselves to a higher standard and definitely don't agree with the behavior she describes on press trips. I disagree that bloggers aren't necessarily well-educated…I studied journalism, released press releases on a regular basis in my previous corporate job, am certified by WSET, worked in distribution, and have plans to expand those certifications, given the time (& $$!).

    I think lumping us all together is a grave mistake and one I'd personally like to see put to rest. The assholes will continue to be assholes. Bloggers and print writers who are doing a good job will succeed in their respective fields and outlets, while the rest will fall by the wayside. Natural selection AND diversification can be beautiful things, no?

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Alison. Personally, I've not much more to add. I find the distinction between online and print writing to be mostly artificial, but regrettably I also find that not many in the wine Biz after with me yet.

  • 1WineDude


    In some ways, I understand the reactions to this so far. But in some other ways, I think some of those reactions inadvertently underscore Elle Bee's points about the perception of wine bloggers.

  • Bob Henry


    Adopting the phrase "digital wine media" is akin to the California term "Meritage." Confusing to consumers, and ignored by the trade.

    By definition, journalism is a paid profession. If bloggers don't earn an income from their efforts, then they are not professionals. Not journalists. They are amateurs. (In the original, non-pejorative Latin meaning of that word.)

    Journalists writing for USA Today and NY Times have their content pass through many hands — editors and fact-checkers — before it gets published. Self-taught. self-styled "citizen-journalist bloggers" lack those resources. (And it shows.)

    It is a rare occasion to see a "correction" or a "retraction" in USA Today or NY Times.

    When's the first time you ever saw a "correction" or a "retraction" by a wine blogger? (Yeah, me neither.)

    On the subject of wine junkets and conflicts of interest, see this 25 year old article from Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist David Shaw for the Los Angeles Times:

    Link: http://articles.latimes.com/print/1987-08-23/news

    Such abuses prompted the FTC disclosure rule.

    Okay Joe, I can't wait for your third click-bait installment of this subject. ; )

    • 1WineDude


      Bob – “click bait?”

      As for corrections, I have occasionally done them here.

      Regarding the pro vs. am thing, I guess the question (we will never really answer) is whether or not different standards should be used to ‘judge” the output of the two camps.

  • Bob Henry


    Well, I would begin by suggesting that if the content is on Facebook, MySpace, Instagram, Pinterest or other "vanity" services, that's not serious reportage. Not journalism.

    Tweeting about "breaking news" might be borderline journalism.

    But having a dedicated website begins to take one down the path of journalism.

    But as Thomas observes, it is "good' communication or "bad" communication?

    As the British would say, there's a lot of tommyrot out there.

    Citing The Wall Street Journal "On Wine" columnist Lettie Teague's March 29, 2013 piece titled "Five Wine Blogs I Really Click With."

    Link: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127

    "I spent the better part of last week doing something that relatively few wine drinkers probably do: reading wine blogs. Not just a handful of blogs here and there but hundreds and hundreds of wine blogs from all over the world. I read until I was absolutely blog-bleary; I probably totaled 10,000 page views.

    "I did this partly out of curiosity. I don't read many wine blogs, and I wondered what I might be missing. What was being discussed? What wines, wineries and topics were hot? After all, people in the wine trade have called bloggers a powerful force, capable of challenging — perhaps even eclipsing — traditional media and conventional wine critics. I'm not sure if that's true, but the numbers are certainly impressive.

    "There are about 1,450 wine blogs today, of which about 1,000 are nonprofessional endeavors (the rest are 'industry' blogs), according to Allan Wright of the Zephyr Adventures tour operator, who has organized the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference in North America for the past five years. But most bloggers haven't been doing it very long: 'Only 18% of [wine] bloggers today have been blogging for more than six years,' he said.

    [Bob aside. Click on this link: http://winebloggersconference.org/participants/%5D

    "Most of the bloggers were doing it just for 'personal satisfaction,' Mr. Wright said, since the possibility of making money was quite small. . . ."

  • Bob Henry


    Erratum.

    But as Thomas observes, IS IT "good' communication or "bad" communication?

  • Bob Henry


    Second erratum.

    Okay, if clicking on this link doesn't take you to my desired destination, then copy and paste in into your browser:
    http://winebloggersconference.org/participants

  • Rick


    Very lively discussion on this topic.I'm impressed.

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