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Fiona Beckett invited me to write a rejoinder to her excellent blog post, “How to blog like a journalist”.

Bill Hicks from his Revelations Show (1993) on Basic Instinct - "You've forgotten how to judge. You are right!"


I’m only a simple blogger. A blogger who knows nothing about the pressures, the late nights, the deadlines, the divorce and the drinking problems of being a serious journalist.

Writing my blogs feels too much like fun.

 

And so it should.

 

You blog for yourself. It’s an addiction, a drug. A wine blogger, even more so.

 

Even if my mother was my only reader, then I’d still do it.

 

For over 4 years I have sat in the dark at night and wrote my little heart out, and in the morning, something magical would happen.

 

Blogging is magic.

 

Ha!

 

Well, isn’t that the opinion of journalists? It is too easy, not serious enough, anyone can do it. But I can’t help but notice a few mainstream journalists are suddenly calling themselves bloggers-slash-journalists. Why?

 

 

And more importantly, are they?

 

Let’s give credit where credit is due. Even if only because blogging is not a closed group like journalism.

 

Sure, there is a discipline to writing. A journalist will know they need to beat out 350 words by 5pm.

 

Once, very despondent and hungover on a Sunday morning, I asked the grumpy Evening Standard Andrew Neather (via twitter), “Why do so many journalists who have no experience in wine think they can write about it in the paper?”

 

His 140-character reply is worth quoting and I’ve written it on the inside of my work diary,

 

“Years of debauchery; anoraky book learning; chutzpah. Plus I can file 350 faster than some take to write a gushy standfirst.”

 

Apart from writing to a deadline, isn’t this also a definition of most bloggers? It’s certainly how I have had any “success” in blogging.

 

The secret to what I do? I can’t find anything to read out there that speaks to me (about wine) so I have to write it for myself. As far as I’m concerned the wine industry has lost the beauty in wine. It’s full of old men or Authority that has no relevance to me as a young woman who has learnt wine from doing the hard yards in the wine industry amongst big fat men (sorry, you know I love you each and everyone of you). Basically, mainstream wine journalism has lost the sexiness of wine. I don’t have the gold standard in blogging, but I do know what works for me, what is missing in media for me. Thankfully, there are a few people who share my view and I have an amazingly loyal readership.

 

OK, I need to pause here.

 

It’s not all about me.

 

Um.

 

OK.

 

Yes, it is.

 

And that could be the biggest difference between bloggers and journalists. Dobianchi asked recently, Should wine bloggers write about wines they don’t like? Along the way, he talked about how the blogger is subjective, while the journalist maintains the (illusion of?) objectivity and fact.

 

We want a blogger to be subjective!!! With bad punctuation, so be it!!!

 

Sadly, too many journalists write as if they could send the copy straight to print. Yes, it’s all very nice prose. They win the awards handed out from crystal podiums by other journalists. Yet, in my own field of wine, I want to hear what these people really think. Good and bad. There is so much spin, so much rubbish, so many lies.

 

Some may call it indulgence, I call it courage.

 

What else is missing? Apart from the subjective voice….

 

Where’s the pure fun of the internet? The surfing from article to article, the layout and the use of media not even possible on a inky broadsheet. Do you notice how journalists are almost scared of linking to others?

 

 

Look at the latest applications for twitter for iPad. These are just the early versions. Everything on twitter is seen as a magazine layout. It’s my favourite magazine of the moment. And it’s only going to get worse (or better).

 

 

I have news for you Journalists, your little blog is not going to save you.

 

Just as it is not going to save me. It’s not about the Prose, it’s about the people. Blogging is an idea about how you see the world and your place in it. This is why it is tsunamai on the horizon of journalism.

 

Do you see yourself as a stand-alone authority, Lording it over the unwashed masses, or do you see yourself connected with the wider world sharing ideas?

 

 

It’s the end of the world as we know it.

 

 

Or is it?

 

This could be the start of a new beginning: blogging is the end of the tyranny of the printed word and the single-voice authority. But you know what? Most journalists know they are being shafted by the system, and agree. That’s why they write a blog.

 

So, let’s welcome journalists to blogging. I don’t believe in us vs them. They just need to catch up with the new world rioting on our media doorstep. We both love writing after all.

 

My advice to journalists: Let go and enjoy the ride. People are not stupid. They know quality when they see it. Trust. And remember, what you give you get back one-hundred fold.

 

Hey, it’s just my opinion…It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to. Leave your own comments below. Or why not write your own blog?

 

This is a response to original post from Fiona Beckett’s blog, Food and Wine Finds: “How to blog like a journalist”.

Video: Bill Hicks (1961-1994)

68 thoughts on “How to be a blogger as a journalist

  1. Well done, Juel! The presentation of your response supports your arguments even visually and I agree wholeheartedly.

    Well, not quite.

    Almost. There is one thing.

    I wish blogging would lose its sexiness, too. At least when describing the character of a wine.

    • Thanks! I do know what you mean about sexiness – I don’t mean in the fake advertising way, there’s too much of that around… I mean not enough wine writing is evoking desire. Or as much as I feel for the wine!

    • Thanks Fiona ;-)

      I wasn’t going to write it but glad you encouraged me to put down my thoughts.

      Everything in your blog about journalism for bloggers (the post I am responding to) is excellent advice – they are different media.

  2. Loved Fi’s original and Juel’s response and think it is a fascinating thing to watch over coming years – how the two once separate worlds of blogging and ‘proper journalism’ are going to fuse together, which inevitably they must. I have been making my living writing about wine online for 16 years now, which gives me a pretty rare perspective on the changes that have happened (basically I’m a lot older than most bloggers, but also ‘got’ the Internet a long time before most journalists).

    Having said that I am also a weird hybrid in that I have never blogged as such, and have never wanted to. That says something about my psyche/temperament I guess, in that I feel most comfortable when writing in the more objective, third person rather than sharing my opinions with the world. I think, as Fiona says, that is a fundamental difference between the disciplines.

    It has been interesting watching the rush to blogging and web sites by established wine journalists. Many are doing so because they see the writing on the wall with lost newspaper columns and shrinking employment opportunities. Some, I suspect, felt no natural need to blog but thought it was their last best hope for their career. Others seem to have found a home in blogging: the new medium suits them to a T.

    One other comment: I was hugely disappointed with the first edition of the “Born Digital Awards” (sorry Ryan, Gabriella and Rob) when they shortlisted and awarded so many established writers who had ‘jumped ship’ to online, and who most certainly were not ‘born digital’. Three of the five categories were won by well established print journalists. No personal insult meant to them as their work is of the highest standard, but if those awards are “an attempt to give value to the new wave of online wine journalism,” then they failed miserably in my humble opinion.

    • Excellent comments, Tom. My response to you and Jamie are at the end of Jamie’s comments. Salute!

  3. I’d trade one of your blog entries for a thousand newspaper articles. Always make me smile, always make me yearn for more of your writing – but more importantly, where price and availability allows – you always make me want to buy the wine.

    It’s easy to stumble in to a supermarket with a smart phone and go to one of the review sites that collate all the paper recommendations. Far better though to stand in a wine section and lose complete focus on what you are doing, because you’ve been sucked in to finding out more information about fantastically dressed women who runs a magazine you will never read.

    This post isn’t about just wine blogging – it’s about writing in general. I witnessed a spat on twitter where someone was accused of being “only a blogger” by a “journalist” for a very poor website. What the assailant failed to see, is that this blogger did it for fun – where as he was part of a hierarchy where, equally those above and below look upon his organ with disdain.

    I love blogging. It took a Roman Philosopher to recently raise me from my slumber where my writing was concerned, but there’s no finer thing than to – as you say – spend those dark, late nights putting thoughts to screen – irrespective of how many people will eventually read it.

    • I will hear NO WORDS AGAINST BILL HICKS!!!!

      Joking.

      But seriously, maybe it’s my experience of hosting tastings with people who “don’t know anything about wine other than what they like” who get confused about what they should like… it reminds me a bit of blogging. Just wish some were a bit more courageous!

      Excellent link, too – thank you. Very comprehensive.

  4. Chris – you are making blogging sound like therapy. Is it partly that for some people, or the equivalent of keeping a journal/diary? That certainly makes it even further removed from journalism in terms of motivation, not quality or relevance.

    • Therapy?

      Not sure about that, Tom. I’ve had chance to call on both and WordPress is yet to ask me if i’ve felt like harming myself in the past fortnight.

      Yes there is an element of unloading in a lot of blogs, but then is that not the case with the work of a lot of print columnists? How often are we confronted, if we read a paper cover to cover, with the infinite details – usually negative – of someone’s life, or their view on the lives of others. The difference I guess is that the latter is motivated by money and the opportunity to keep in the public eye – where as if I was to comment in a reactionary way, my blog is more about me trying to communicate with those that may have similar experiences – the only reward being that sharing of views.

      What is interesting is not when journalists try to enter the world of blogging – but when they lift from blogs as a source. It happens in sport a lot – where a journo can quite happily, cherry pick from a blog in order to meet the requirements of a piece. The good ones quote, the bad ones steal – thus blurring the lines between quality and relevance.

      I’ve also recently noticed the increased number of periodicals or websites where journalists are effectively breaking free of the shackles of word limits and subject matter and writing with freedom – does this new “radical” idea stem from the popularity of longer posting blogs? It does partly counter the argument put forward by Fiona re attention span and blog length.

      Where both worlds combine is when you read an article or a blog and all it says to you is SEM. That the whole purpose of it is to appear on google and thus driving more traffic to blog on paper site.

      • A thoughtful response, thanks Chris.

        I’m quite a fan of long copy. It’s a lot harder to keep someone’s attention though. I think the new iPad is good for long copy, rather than reducing attention span, it makes you scroll down and read. A lot of posts can even look too short on iPad!!

  5. Hi Juel,
    Great post. I feel very similarly.
    My journey has been as a website owner (I started around the same time as Tom; we were very early adopters) who then became the second wine blogger (I think Joe Dressner was first) and who then started writing for print.
    I agree – many print journalists have migrated to online, and have not really adapted properly. I had to migrate the other way to make a proper living, but my first focus is online, really. Oh, and books, which I love.
    I think blogging is a communications tool, and if you are sensible you’ll use as many communciation tools as possible.
    Many print journalists, as you point out, haven’t really learned to behave generously and properly online. It’s like they walk into a bar and say ‘look at me’, rather than just joining in the conversation.
    I found the Born digital awards odd, but then you need to look at the old media judging panel.

    • Hi Jamie and Tom,

      What a collective amount of blogging knowledge. Thanks for weighing in.

      Can I just say one thing – I am very glad I am not the only one who noticed the Born Digital Awards were not much about wine writing BORN Digital.

      Rob et al do a lot for bloggers, are so supportive, so I was surprised to see this – I thought the point was to encourage blog writing as a new medium. (Although, the organizers were not the judges).

      I am glad you brought this up as it has been discussed a lot at bloggers dinners. I heard someone say it was because they wanted to bring prestige to the first year by having established journalists and bloggers win rather than anything too risky…. I don’t understand that, because does it not defeat the purpose of a Born Digital award? Or maybe they are saying blogging is mainstream, see! Even journalists write blogs?

      In the context of this post, there nothing “bloggish” about the finalists’ blogs. Great writers, but they could have all nearly been put straight in the weekend’s newspaper, which is not really showing off the “Digital” part of the award, either.

      It’s a new award, let’s see next year… Evviva!

      • Juel,

        Re Born Digital – I will be boycotting it next year. It’s a mark of protest over the results in year one (OK, a very small protest I admit and one I’m sure nobody will lose any sleep over it!). As Jamie says the judging panel wasn’t exactly Born Digital which might help explain it, but if so then the judging criteria should have been different to stop it happening. However *if* the reason for choosing the winners was to bring some sort of credibility to the awards themselves, then shame on them. It was a travesty frankly (again, I’m not talking about the quality of work or individuals who won, but about the process and the fundamental missed opportunity of these awards).

        • Tom, I admire your straightforwardness. Very Bill Hicks. Very IGT to the DOCG. Perhaps you are like the top wines, such as Henschke and Cru Classe, who do not enter the competitions, because they do not need the competitions…. ;-)

          Agree, the judging criteria needs to be upfront next year. There was too much missed opportunity here and, I feel, it is perpetuating the old school rather than new communicators, which is sorely needed in our industry to keep up with technology, changing media and the changing world. We are at the end of a 27 year economic boom. Things are changing whether we like it or not.

          A few people like Fiona Beckett, yourself and Jamie recognize this. But as a blogger, I feel the need for a generational/media print/blog change of guard, and also as a blogger, to give a hand to people coming up because that is what blogging is about…. I’m surprised the organizers, knowing the people, who are so pro-blogger, did not have more vision about the judging.

  6. Great post Juel, wicked piece of writing and your views are long overdue I think, I hope these words reach a million people both in and out of our wonderful trade. Its funny you say that if your Mother was the only reader you would still do it…I used to write a blog and 3 of my mates read it over around 15 posts I wrote – that was fine by me, I just did it for the love of it. I think though, I may just start it up again…in fact I will! Chin chin

  7. “Not sure about that, Tom. I’ve had chance to call on both and WordPress is yet to ask me if i’ve felt like harming myself in the past fortnight.”

    OK, so the therapy is working :-)

    I take your points – thanks for explaining.

  8. The Born Digital Awards are a great idea, although I was disappointed with the results, let’s hope that it’s just teething problems and that the next year’s awards are a bit more representative. That said, I found out while I was at the recent American Winebloggers Conf in Virginia, that the American Winebloggers Awards are run by a PR man who also writes a wine blog and awarded himself not one but TWO awards this year! So, maybe it boils down to what the organizers want to achieve for themselves and not what’s really in the best interest of the wine blogosphere. I’ll be watching the to see what the BDA come up with this year….

    • How very interesting, thanks Denise – I was thinking, was there much difference “across the pond”. That’s a big disappointing to hear. Keep on the case, Winesleuth!

    • Denise, just a quick point of clarification. Tom Wark founded the American Wine Blog awards and ran it for many years and then two years ago handed it over to the Wine Bloggers Conference. Tom is no longer affiliated with the awards and hasn’t been for 2 years. Moreover, he has worked so very hard as one of the longest running wine blogs with almost daily content with solid quality subjects. His winning this year is actually well deserved.

      • Interesting to hear, Paul. As I attended the WBC for the first time in three years, I can only tell you what was told to me by persons involved in the voting process. Apparently, there are many questions about the transparency of the whole awards process which have been asked but not yet answered.

        However, given the plethora of American wine blogs out there, don’t you think it’s a bit odd that his blog is THE BEST in two categories? Why was he even nominated for two categories? There has to be more then 4 or 5 blogs worthy of recognition in the American blogosphere, no? Winning in one category, ok, but two? In the same year? Even to an outsider like me, who is not much involved with the American wine blogging scene, something just doesn’t smell right….

  9. Lots of stuff here to respond to, but for the sake of brevity (and since this addresses multiple comments) I thought I should post a separate comment on the topic of the Born Digital Wine Awards (BDWA).

    I’m rather disappointed by the reaction, and a bit surprised if I am totally honest. I know many of the critics on this page personally, none of whom have really raised these points with me personally so I could reply to them. However, I am glad that they are out in the open.

    I have to say that from my own perspective, the criticism is a little unfair, but reflects a misunderstanding of what the BDWA is about, and what any competition could achieve.

    The BDWA is NOT a bloggers award. We were not including/excluding content creators on arbitrary bases such as “blogger” or “journalist” or other titles – we’ve already seen how difficult that is.

    We focused on CONTENT that was BORN DIGITAL, i.e. created originally for the web and not the traditional press in order to prove that great content about wine could come from somewhere other than traditional wine media channels.

    It didn’t matter who had created it. They could have written a single post or video in their lives, or been an MW with a national newspaper column and a book deal. It just so happens that there is a reason that certain well known faces are successful. They are good at what they do. In this case, some have started to make the switch to creating content for a web audience, and they should be applauded for that. A few years ago, if I had said that some of the world’s leading MWs, authors and “journalists” would be embracing blogging and creating their own sites for distributing their writing freely, the majority of you, including some of the critics above, would have laughed.

    I think it is particularly odd for someone who does recognise the potential of web channels for promoting wine messages to say:

    “… when they shortlisted and awarded so many established writers who had ‘jumped ship’ to online, and who most certainly were not ‘born digital’”

    … as if we were somehow supposed to exclude them as traitors (jumped ship?) for having realised that the world of journalism was changing and actually having done something positive about it.

    The BDWA recognises that it is almost impossible to adequately create an awards system based around the ‘channel’ of communication and also create an even playing field for any content creator. Why should the number of articles you have posted, and the design of that site, determine your award if this is about sharing a love of wine?

    Instead, the BDWA accepted anybody’s ARTICLES (in whatever language) and tried to compare them equally.

    As for the judges, there was plenty of online experience amongst the panel, and of course we could have had more … except many others were submitting content to be judged and so we had to avoid too many conflicts of interest. If any of these experienced online writers are willing to forego the opportunity of taking part and instead want to sit on the judging panel, I’m sure that Ryan, Gabriella and I would be very happy to chat.

    There is no “regime change” agenda here! We are pro-wine, not anti-magazines.

    It is not OUR role to decide on a ‘change of guard’ but we can create a process that allows a ‘new guard’ to put themselves forward.

    Now that anyone can compete with the more established writers, let’s see if they are as good, or not. In the first year, we had Wink Lorch and Richard Ross listed as winners as well as Tim Atkin and Randall Grahm, and that’s not even mentioning the rest of the excellent shortlisted candidates.

    I hope this clarifies the situation a little (sorry for going on a bit) but I guess I’m not the best at sitting back when people talk of “a travesty” unfairly, in my opinion.

    I’m always happy to chat as well, of course :)

  10. Rob,

    Apologies for not button-holing you personally on this but a) it was something that did bother me but which I didn’t feel inclined to take up with the organisers for a whole host of personal and professional reasons and b) this discussion brought it to mind and seemed a very appropriate place to comment. You will note that everyone who has since responded has agreed with me to one extent or another.

    There is no misunderstanding of the awards. I read your raison d’etre carefully and understood perfectly that the award was for a piece of work that had been “born” digitally. But do you not think your awards should be an alternative to the established awards for wine writing from Louis Roederer, etc? Is it not indeed a travesty to give Born Digital awards to people with highly successful 10- or 20-year careers as professional wine journalists, who are at the top of their games, who make their living from paid work for printed wine media and who have already picked up shelf-loads of awards over the years?

    These people are excellent, experienced and hugely talented writers. All respect to them, and they might well be the very best wine writers in the world. But the point is that your new awards were launched with a fanfare as being an alternative that embraced the digital media and the new talent that had been created by it. I can tell you that the travesty word is not so misplaced – not only in my eyes, but in the eyes of many people who were shocked by the winners list.
    different, despite all the digital bluster.

    • Just wanted to say the words “different, despite all the digital bluster.” at the end of my post above were not typed by me. Juel – don’t k now if some glitch meant someone else’s post was merged into mine? Spooky. C’est la vie.

      • Thanks Tom, this is a good summary of what I think most bloggers I’ve talked to have said… everyone understands that the good journalists are good journalists. However, didn’t think that was the point of awards, I thought it was more about blogging.

        Now I surmise it is not about the art of blogging but about digital content.

        Good to know, thanks to this excellent discussion from everybody here.

  11. You know, I had to laugh when I first saw the judges for the Born Digital awards because I vividly recalled have an argument with one of them when I had just started Wine-Journal. He was adamant that the Internet was peripheral to wine communication and refused to believe how much traffic I was getting. I guess they changed their mind at some point.

    A nice piece Juels. Now back to the book…trust me…books are so “now”.

    • Yes, “Get off the computer and read a book!” This refrain will never die from parents around the world, ever. ;-)

  12. To clarify Tom, the awards were to highlight the new wave of online wine communications. Not new and upcoming journalists. Writing online is very different from writing in print and we asked the judges to acknowledge this in the judging. Links alone can be both a bane and boon to well done content. That and the idea of multimedia. We had all sorts of entries for the video category and next year I think you’ll see some interesting new things too.

    Roederer is about wine writing mainly and trying now to highlight online stuff, to mixed results. WBA is for bloggers. Pure and simple and is open to Jancis or any other blogger who wants to submit. Both though allow people to submit the same names, and often times it seems nothing changes.

    We see a hole that we hope to fill. There were “citizen” bloggers in this years short list and winners, along with established writers. A nice mix. Also we invite all the winners to become judges in the following year so that we actually award new content each year, and new writers. We don’t want anyone to become the ongoing “best whatever” winner, just because they can. We want to discover people approaching the online medium differently and give more value to those that win.

    We also know that as new media changes our judging policies will change to adapt to that. We want to award new ways of communicating online, no matter who is doing it. Some of these are easy, others are harder, but we are trying to find new ways to highlight good communications.

    The truth is I have seen some very well known “traditional” writers move to a blog format only to realize that they benefit from having an editor. Not everyone offline will succeed online and visa versa. We truly hope that some established types will move online or to digital formats, while some pure bred internet types move offline too!

    • Ryan, useful clarification thanks. Personally I still believe your awards are not what they should – and could – be in terms of being different from other awards and more true to the name “Born Digital”. I would also be interested to know how the judges interpreted “We want to discover people approaching the online medium differently” when they chose this year’s winners.

      I also seriously think you need to reconsider “we invite all the winners to become judges in the following year,” and instead have Juel and a few other of the genuinely new wine voices making the call.

      Anyway – enough from me on this I think – I’ve made my position clear but wish all those who enter the BDA next year the best of luck, and long and fruitful writing careers, whatever the medium.

  13. Tom, before you sign off, may I ask what your ideal awards would sincerely look like? I’m inquiring purely out of curiosity as the void you wish to be filled. Thanks!

    • Gabrielle,

      I don’t want to say too much because a) I don’t want to be seen as ‘crusading’ against the awards, b) I don’t want to foster a them vs us debate between print and online and c) I really don’t want to upset the people who won awards in 2010 – I have huge respect for them. My beef is with the awards, not with them.

      I have not said there is a ‘void’ in the awards scene. I was shortlisted for a Glenfiddich wine writer award back in 2003, won a Roederer in 2008 and won Portuguese Wine Writer of the Year in 2010. All of that was for my online writing. The established awards were pretty quick to recognise that online was a new and legitimate medium, and indeed of Roederer’s eight writing categories this year two are dedicated to online: web site of the year and online columnist/blogger of the year.

      So the new community of online wine writers did not need another set of awards particularly, but what they did need was a new type of award, not judged by the wine establishment and not rewarding the wine establishment. Juel has basically made my main point in her latest post: there are many, many bloggers and website publishers who simply would not bother going head-to-head with the establishment writers.

      Let’s be absolutely honest here: the London wine writing scene is full of posh, middle class, middle aged people who are all part of a circuit: tastings, trips, dinners. They/we (I’m not denying that I have one foot in the camp) are a fairly cosy unit that awards each other prizes, commissions each other to work and which is intimidating and impenetrable when viewed from outside. Let’s call them The Circle of Wine Writers. One thing’s for sure: none of these people were ‘born digital’.

      I think the new generation of wine web site publishers, bloggers and filmmakers who really were ‘born digital’ were very excited when they saw serious awards being set up by three prominent bloggers. They were even more excited when they saw it was called “Born Digital”. At last these were ‘our’ awards – awards that were not run by and did not hand out gongs to the established print writers, but which recognised a new generation – a new philosophy: these were awards for writers whose *home* was online and who were moving online wine communication forward through the sheer quality or originality of their work.

      I hear the explanation that the awards are for work that was ‘born’ digital – as long as it was originated online it doesn’t matter who wrote it – but is that really all you want to celebrate with The Born Digital Awards? Don’t you want to reward new people and new thinking? People who have changed or are changing the world of wine communication? People who *love* writing online and who see it as not an “addendum” to other work, but the very essence of what they do?

      It’s possibly too strong, too emotive a term, but I felt betrayed by the results of your first awards. I have dedicated myself to online wine writing for 16 years and have done well for himself. So if the Born Digital Awards left me feeling let down, I can only imagine how the younger bloggers and struggling writers felt when their very own awards turned out to be pretty much the same old same old.

  14. Just to clarify Ryan, you say that the awards are “open to Jancis”. She writes from behind a paywall and your rules stipulate that submissions must be “in a non-restricted (free) manner”. So either you are changing the rules for 2011 or Jancis is opening up her site for free.

    • Neal, I’m not sure on the WBA’s what the rules are as we are not associated with them. I wasn’t referring to the BDWA’s, just that the WBA’s allow anyone with a blog to enter, no distinction to “professional or not”

      Just to clarify something that keeps coming up. How would Tom and others define “non mainstream” and how would we as organizers exclude “mainstream” or however you want to define it? Seems like a very hard thing to do.

      I’m with Tom Parnell in the fact that by excluding any you are artificially narrowing a field, and basically saying “some of you need a headstart to compete”. We’re not interested in creating the special olympics of wine writing awards.

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  16. Within the context of this post….

    So, the Awards were about content first seen digitally, rather than giving people a break who were born blogging, then….

    Did the winners further the blogging/digital GENRE to communicate about wine in new ways?

    Could most of the winners blog posts have been put in the next PRINT issue of Decanter?

    Will James Suckling enter his blog next year?

    At least the Awards can get greater exposure with these big journalists than any little blogger could give it!!

    As I said in my post, I am not interested in us vs them. But I will say this…

    I used to make short films at university and enter short-film festivals. I probably would not have entered against the Academy Award full-length features with Hollywood budgets. What’s the point? I was a low-budget short film maker who needed short-film festivals who looked for vision, potential and new ways of looking at things.

    Anyway, good to have a chance to talk about this, and agree with Tom Cannavan – the Awards directly touches on the central topic of my post: how does blogging communicate differently from journalism.

  17. I don’t know enough about the subject to weigh in with a view, but just wanted to put a few questions:

    Firstly, is it the results of the BDWA or its goals that are being criticised? It seems important to be clear about the distinction between the two.

    Secondly, is there a risk that something like BDWA would undermine itself if it were somehow to exclude experienced writers? By implying that the only way a ‘born blogger’ could win anything would be via artificial narrowing of the field? In any case, how would this work in practice?

    Finally, if people feel there’s a gap in the market for another competition that nurtures ‘born bloggers’, is it time for those people to band together and create that competition, rather than attacking what’s been done already?

    I’m not saying I have the answers to these, but thought I’d put the questions out there.

    • Thank you for your comments.

      1) As a few people have said, the goals of BDWA were not clear to many people and so the results seemed “odd” as Jamie Goode puts it. I absolutely have no problem with the winners as people, they are excellent and serious wine journalists who have contributed to the field over the past 20-30 years.

      2) Why would a competition undermine itself if it is supporting new writing, whether that is experienced journalist or not? Answer, no I don’t think it would. The point of this blog post: is that there is a difference between journalism and new media/digital/blogs. If an award can recognise this, then great, it’s furthering the genre.

      3.) I don’t think anyone is “attacking”. Most people appreciate what Rob Mac does for bloggers, especially myself. This is the first time this issue has been aired and people are passionate about blogging. If you have competition about digital media, then people will talk about it, online or not. This is a good forum, your good self included! I agree with you in the respect I hope it will lead to something positive.

      I don’t envy a competition involving bloggers, it must be like HERDING CATS!

      • Hi Juel — thanks for your reply. Yes, certainly, a competition explicitly intended to support new writing would be fine. But if BDWA isn’t setting out to do that, but is setting out to recognise quality content per se (I was wondering), does limiting its entry only to ‘new’ writers send a message that new writers can only compete against other new writers.

        And I should clarify that I certainly didn’t think everyone was attacking. But calling something a travesty (for instance) is quite full-on. From what I know of Robert, Gabriella & Ryan, my instinct was to wonder whether such phraseology might not be somewhat unjustified. I think some of the comments *do* come across as something of an attack (certainly would to me, were I the target!)

        Absolutely agree that the most important thing is always to take away something positive.

        • Ah, you should see Rob and I have “discussions” sometime! He will tell you we have very passionate debates, and I value that immensely ;-)

          Full credit to Rob, because he is true to his word about “wine conversation”. Also, full credit to Tom Cannavan for saying the difficult things a lot people dance around. He is the Bill Hicks of wine! In a good way, we wouldn’t be having this conversation if it wasn’t important to everyone here who are working to further wine communication.

  18. Hullo Juels

    Really enjoyed the article and the debate with Fiona Beckett. So much so that I was inspired to put down on my blog some thoughts about traditional wine journalism rather than blogging. I hope you don’t mind me putting a link to it http://bit.ly/ndhiCy

    Henry

    • Just read this, great article! I remember the days with Jane Macquitty at Studio 54. There are a lot of changes going on in this (fairly niche) field of writing. It’s great it is so dynamic, but then I believe, the times we live in is full of change in general, politically, economically.

      One of my beliefs is that wine is the key to friends, discussion and ideas. In other words, culture. I agree that there could be more about culture in wine. We are at the end of a 27-year boom cycle. I can see it quite clearly in the area I have worked in, fine wine. I’ll never forget the story at Krug when I was told during the credit crunch in Germany, people were ashamed to be drinking Krug in public but because they loved it so much were still drinking it in closed window “lock ins”.

      Times they are a’changin.

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  20. A little late to this party (after having re-crafted my smashed heart and making it pump just good enough to walk to the nearest bar) but just to say what a wonderful piece this was.

    You should have done the seminar, with Jeremy and I in the crowd listening to you.

    Chapeau Juel, humbled to read your words, and loved every last character …

    • Grazie Alfonso – are you not both Texans like Bill Hicks? I love Texas, I hope your heart is feeling better… I would have loved to been at the seminar, and as we have so many Italian friends in common, I hope to meet you soon if I should be so lucky. I enjoyed your journey through Sicily on your blog very much. JM

  21. Wow, this is some thread! I’m getting here a little late for the party but thanks for the shout out and thanks for saying… “We want a blogger to be subjective!!! With bad punctuation, so be it!!!” I couldn’t agree more…

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  23. Great piece which I had to RT but speaking as a fat middle aged male blogger I am not sure where that puts me. Great writing though, will watch with interest and add the RSS feed to my paper.li.

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  25. Apologies Juel I have come late to this very interesting discussion. As Fiona says the distinction between ‘mainstream’ journalism and blogs is increasingly blurred, although the opportunities offered by the two mediums can be very different.

    I find that there are a number of blogs that aren’t self-centred – that don’t concentrate on I. Equally there is plenty of journalism that is self-obsessed – many restaurant reviews, for example. Thankfully there are a wide range of voices and different writing styles both in blogging and journalism

    I’m also dubious about the claim that journalism must be objective. Think of some of the great journalists who have held very passionate views, which have informed their campaigns and investigations.

    I’m posting a separate reply to Tom Cannavan’s comment of 17th August.

  26. Tom Cannavan says:
    August 17, 2011 at 10:14 am

    ‘Let’s be absolutely honest here: the London wine writing scene is full of posh, middle class, middle aged people who are all part of a circuit: tastings, trips, dinners. They/we (I’m not denying that I have one foot in the camp) are a fairly cosy unit that awards each other prizes, commissions each other to work and which is intimidating and impenetrable when viewed from outside. Let’s call them The Circle of Wine Writers. One thing’s for sure: none of these people were ‘born digital’.’

    Tom. Let’s not call them ‘The Circle of Wine Writers’ – a very bad idea. It’s a very bad idea because this description is a travesty of the real Circle of Wine Writers (CWW). By all means label this group – the London wine circle or similar – but not the Circle of Wine Writers.

    Why a travesty? Because the CWW’s around 275 members are spread around the world. 34% of its members live outside the UK across a range of countries including within Europe: Denmark Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Sweden and then onto: Australia, Canada, Chile, Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Africa and the US.

    Why a travesty? The CWW has a number of ‘born digital members’ starting with yourself, Tom, and Jamie Goode not forgetting Andrew Barrow, Chris Kissack, Gabriella Opaz and Peter Wood, our latest member. Many more of our membership can be described as ‘livin-digital’. 29% have active websites or blogs. This figure excludes static sites, which are not regularly updated rather are used as glorified electronic business cards.

    Why a travesty? The Circle welcomes applications from pure bloggers. Although when originally set up back in 1960 its membership was confined to a small number published wine writers, over the years this has evolved to include broadcasters, photographers, filmmakers, lecturers and people with websites and blogs. I hope the CWW can continue to evolve to reflect a changing world.

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