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.