A great blog post begins with a great headline
Talk about gotta-read headlines: How about this one: “Is blogging killing wine writing?”
I stumbled across it in a South African blog called Pendock Uncorked, which bills itself as “South Africa’s leading independent drinks commentator…”. (I’m not sure what to make of the three-dot ellipsis, which is the author’s, not mine.) Anyhow, this Pendock fellow–Neil’s his first name–paraphrases a blogger, Tim Atkin, M.W., as having said, on receiving an award of some kind or another, that…”wine journalism is under threat from bloggers.” Now, Neil didn’t quote Tim; he simply described what he said, and I wish I knew exactly what Tim said, and why he said it, because it’s a terribly provocative statement, and Neil seems to be an important, knowledgeable guy who wouldn’t say something like that just for the hell of it.
I did a Google search to see if I could find Neil’s complete remarks. They may be out there somewhere in cyberspace but, if they are, I couldn’t uncover them. However, serendipity struck in the midst of all this. I got an email that was a press release announcing the results of the award Tim Atkin got. It quoted Tim a little more thoroughly. It still didn’t explain why he thinks bogging is killing wine writing, but it opened the door a little. Tim said, “We have still got some great wine professionals, and I hope some reasonably good wine journalists – let’s put the UK back in the centre of the wine world, not in the margins.” (Unfortunately, I can’t find a link to the press release.)
Okay, we have to do some inferential reasoning here. (Remember, a pitcher implies; a catcher infers.) Inferring is a tricky business, because you can only guess what the speaker really meant. Clearly Tim thinks that “good wine journalists” are a threatened species; that’s why he used the word still.
Why would blogging be threatening “good wine journalists”? Obviously, because Tim believes that many, if not most, wine bloggers are expedient idiots who know nothing about wine and, even if they did, don’t possess the writing talent to properly express it, because blogging doesn’t require a stringent knowledge of grammar, syntax and (often) even proper spelling, not to mention elegant sentence and paragraph construction. Think of blogging as simply long-form Tweeting and you’ll see what I mean.
Now, this isn’t me, Steve, calling wine bloggers idiots, it’s me inferring that that’s what Tim Atkin meant. So please, bloggers, don’t jump all over me! But is it true? No. I don’t think wine blogging is killing off good wine journalism. I read a lot of newly published wine books (sent to me for free by publishers, and I don’t ask for them: they just show up in the mail), and I can tell you that the general level of wine books is as high as it’s ever been, maybe higher. As for wine blogs, obviously I don’t read all of them every day because I wouldn’t have time to do anything else if I did! Admittedly some are poorly crafted; the writers simply dash off something from the top of their heads, resulting in the worst thing writing can be: BORING. But there are plenty of blogs out there that provide good, breezy reading, and that’s what a good blog ought to be: breezy.
Besides, more and more bloggers are being offered real book contracts, which gives them the chance to stretch their writing muscles and develop their craft in a way a blog can’t. So I can’t agree with Tim Atkin. Of course, he was referring to the UK, whereas my experience is in the U.S. Maybe things are worse over there than here. Still, in my judgment, the quality of wine writing remains quite high in America, if not because of blogs, then despite them.