Columbia J. Review gets it right, basically
Well, I finally made it into the Columbia Journalism Review, where Spencer Bailey said I write “thoughtful, in-depth posts” in my blog. Like this one! Nice. On the other hand, Spencer praised almost everybody else who’s anybody in wine blogdom. But I’m glad to be mentioned in the same breath as Tom, Alder, Jeff, the Dude, Karen, Alice and Bob (and if you need their last names, you’re not a regular reader of this blog).
The article was fairly standard for a university journalism review. Nothing particularly new (the travails of wine writers, the unmonetized experimentation of online, the democratization of wine criticism), but it was gratifying to see academia (and Ivy League at that) take notice of our little world. Mr. Bailey’s first premise is that “many young, social-media savvy bloggers are fragmenting what was once a lofty territory reserved for mostly stalwart, high-profile publications like Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast.” True that! Bailey does a fair job of seeing the pluses and minuses of the “everyman [and woman] a critic” phenomenon. He quotes Jeff, at Good Grape: “There are a lot people that don’t know shit about wine and blog about it,” which seems to be a minus (why would anybody want to read the opinion of somebody who doesn’t know shit?). But the plus is that the Web “allow[s] experts, aficionados, and amateurs alike to share and discuss their passions about wine in ways that were never before possible,” even if their passions are largely based on, well, shit.
But there I go again! Didn’t mean to diss anybody. Then Mr. Bailey strikes at the very heart of the thing I’ve been asked to talk about when I keynote next month’s American Wine Bloggers Conference. The conference organizers want me to address “the rift between some bloggers and traditional print media,” in their words. Bailey expresses the same thing this way: “Most bloggers think they deserve more credit for writing about wine in fresh, timely ways; many professionals feel snubbed and less respected.” Well, I can’t speak for most bloggers but I can speak for “many professionals,” being one myself: I don’t feel snubbed, and I certainly don’t feel less respected. I’m keynoting the &%$#! blogger’s conference, for crying out loud!
But I do have to admit to being disappointed by the one quote Bailey allowed Karen [MacNeil]. “If everybody’s an expert…nobody’s an expert.” Karen, normally so media savvy, should have known that you have to be careful what you say to a reporter who doesn’t understand the complexities of a story. Bailey took that as proof that “wine criticism is bunk.” He may think that, but surely Karen, who has devoted her life to wine writing and education, doesn’t. Maybe she was misquoted, or quoted out of context.
As you might imagine, my roving eye alights especially on passages that contain either my name or the words “Wine Enthusiast,” so I loved this one. “Readers today have got to feel like the experts connect with them in some way,” says Joe Roberts, who runs the blog 1WineDude.com. “It’s not just, ‘Oh, this person’s got great credentials because they work for Wine Enthusiast.’” I hope Joe used Wine Enthusiast (as opposed to some other publication) because he was secretly sending a message to me, as I do sometimes to him. That message would be: “Steve has great credentials on his blog, not merely because he works for Wine Enthusiast, but because he connects with readers.”
Anyway, Mr. Bailey was particularly kind to Wine Enthusiast’s editors’ blogs, as he was to mine. He then casts his vision into the future and gets into the sort of crystal-gazing in which we all indulge, from time to time. “The more in-depth and enlivening the writing, the more likely the critic or blogger will get noticed…the one standard for writing about wine today is that it should be entertaining and fresh, maybe even funny, and, at the very least, relatable to its audience.” I couldn’t have said it better, myself.
But lest I run the risk of agreeing too much with Mr. Bailey, I’ll part company from him here: He inevitably brings up the spectacular Mr. Gary V. and, citing his success, writes: “All it takes is for a wine critic or blogger to have a unique idea—a Daily Candy-like newsletter for wine, say—to create [the] next big thing. No print publication necessary.”
Well, sorry. I don’t agree. There is no “next big” Gary V. “Unique ideas” are hard to find out there. If they were as common as candy, other wine bloggers would be as famous as Gary V. When it comes to success — and I’m talking financial — it still takes a print publication.