I was recently (ok, more like a month ago) Quick-Sipped (Supped?) by Jessica Yadegaran, in a profile/interview that ran online and in bay Area papers such as The San Jose Mercury News. It (very) briefly tells my wine backstory, and gave me an opportunity to implore people to drink more Vermentino (with fish tacos). So I didn’t squander the opportunity, Vermentines!
Interestingly, Mercury’s parent company, Media News Group, is expanding its food and wine scene coverage, at a time when most others are contracting theirs. MNG seems to be making a play for what will almost certainly be a media gap in the San Francisco region: trendsetting the wine and food scene, now that the #1 seed, the SF Chronicle, is planning to radially change its food and beverage coverage.
I’m not sure how else to take the comments from SF Chron managing editor Audrey Cooper, in her response to the NY Times breaking the news late last year on the SF Chron’s planned Wine/Food section shakeup:
“We are undergoing a newspaperwide section-by-section review with the idea that we need to reimagine sections to more intuitive cultural topics that are more aligned with how Northern Californians think and live.”
My translation: we’re not going to spend the money and effort to set regional dining and wine trends anymore, because it’s not working out; we’re going to react to the trends already being set by others, instead.
The Chron’s wine and food coverage can’t be inexpensive to run, and despite the spate of well-deserved awards, at the end of the day enough bacon has to be brought home to justify the expenses.
Overall, the changes will almost certainly be a loss for U.S. wine media in general. And if the Chron’s idea of their newly-styled wine coverage is this sort-of-fluff piece on the Trefethen kids (who were, I think, unfairly maligned in the comments of that article, by the way), then I’m pretty sure every other SF Bay area media outlet can safely declare “open season” on the wine+food media crown for the region.
Be verwy qwiet… I’m hunting wrabbits…
I’d love to say that it will be even more interesting to see how this all eventually pans out, but since a) I live on the Right Coast (where no one is touching the NY Times for the wine/food media bragging rights anytime soon), and b) I haven’t read a traditional newspaper in nearly twenty years, my opinion is ridiculously tainted. But that, of course, wing so me from sharing it (hey, it’s my blog), so if you’ll indulge me a brief moment to opine… I’m not sure this is all any more than a tempest in a wine glass. The fact that newspapers are struggling to stay relevant and profitable is not exactly new news; we ought to expect changes, many of them big and disruptive, as they attempt to stay afloat. Those changes might get media folks in a tizzy, but the average wine drinker is as likely to get all worked up over them as I am to take up needlepoint.
14 thoughts on “Anyone Else Notice That Bay Area Wine & Food Trendsetting Is Up For Grabs?”
I guess the bigger picture question that I am curious about is this — do you believe that it is the job of newspapers (specifically) and the wine and food media (in generally) to set trends or to report on trends? It sound like the former from this post.
Adam, why can’t it do both?
Well, first off, that is somewhat different than newspapers traditional role. I believe the saying is "all the news that's fit to print" rather than "all the trends we hope to set."
Secondly, I think it brings into question where did the impetus to set a particular trend originate? It is easy to say that you implore people to drink more Vermentino simply because you like Vermentino. But when I am at the airport and I run into (literally) 3 wine writers/bloggers (not you) all going to Argentina on a tasting trip sponsored by Wine of Argentina (the trade group), and then a few weeks later….voila….I see multiple posts on Argentinian wines….it makes one wonder if trend setting is simply some sort of payback for a junket. I guess I think reporting on trends might eliminate some of that.
I guess I think that
Media don't set trends in the food and wine world. They report on them. However, they can elevate or bring exposure to existing trends.
Newspapers are supposed to service their communities. Setting trends does not accomplish that. Reporting on them does.
All, I understand where you’re coming from, but not all publications follow that model. Fashion is a great example, where it’s almost the opposite of news, and focuses much more on trends and potentially setting them. I think iconic publications can navigate both.
in Portland, the weekly papers are much better at reporting on the growing urban foodie scene, while the main newspaper (The Oregonian) mostly reports on stuffy restaurants in the burbs. The O still employees one of the best wine writers in the Pacific Northwest (Katherine Cole).
Gabe, I guess the diversity helps get the majority of the scene covers? Agree that Katherine is really good. Cheers!
that's a good point. As a young foodie, I always considered the Oregonian's coverage to be dated. But perhaps they are just appealing to a different demographic
Somebody once brilliantly wrote, "Maybe you should learn to continually develop and trust your own tastes, and act on that wine-buying confidence, voting for what you consider to be the unique gems of the wine world with your wallet. And the geekier among you, who have already hit that point of independence in your vinous buying habits, should as much as reasonably possible encourage others to develop the same level of independence…"
And now the same guy is saying that newspapers should be setting trends and leading people to taste certain things. I don't see how those things jive.
You all may be reading too much into it. Setting trends is a product of what tastemakers do, in that they are doing it, intentionally or not, by virtue of what they choose to cover or not. That’s not incompatible with people framing their own independence and tastes, but it does form a potentially important input into what gets on the radar of those reading it. To me, that’s trendsetting, because if no one covered it, it’s that much more of an uphill climb for those producing wines in a particular locale, style, etc., to get noticed by consumers who might otherwise care about them.
Newspapers should report the news, not make it (excluding publishing a book) The only exception I could see if one of these was writing about a trend of better writing.
Btw, peeps, staff reporters (at least at my newspaper) are still prohibited from attending said junkets to Argentina or anywhere else. Freelancers can, though. I'm not puttin' em down, I'm just intensely jealous. :)
Jessica – yeah, one of the perks of the freelancer…
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