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Leave Me out of your Tail Wagging, Finger Pointing Ego Contest

I am glad major wine critics are denouncing wine bloggers.  That means we have their attention.  Let every one of them come out and dismiss the hack work of junior wannabes.  But, they should at least do it with specificity and call their shots instead of offering neutered general opinions that take everybody down to mud level, wallowing in their hyped morass.

By way of background, in the editorial column of the July issue of the trade magazine Tasting Panel, Anthony Dias Blue came out against wine bloggers and defended Robert Parker in the controversy that occurred between Parker and wine blogger Tyler Colman (also known as Dr. Vino), in April and May of this year. 

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If I have this conflict (in its entirety) correct: Tyler makes a legitimate ethical consistency inquiry to Robert Parker, kicking up some significant dust in the process.  Parker attacks back, but not at the specific situation through which the inquiry was made, not going after Dr. Vino, no.  Instead, Parker goes after all wine bloggers while Dr. Vino remains silent.  Two months later, Anthony Dias Blue, in an editorial in his trade magazine, defends Parker, while also indicting all wine bloggers.  Dr. Vino still remains silent. 

You can get caught up on the source material here here and here.

Simply, Parker and Anthony Dias Blue need to grow a pair of, er, courage enhancers.  Now, that I think about it, Dr. Vino needs to grow his own set, too and take ownership for the flap that he started instead of letting wine bloggers blunt the frontal assault that is rightfully his. 

Instead of attacking their inquisitor, Robert Parker and subsequently Anthony Dias Blue are throwing out generalized blanket statements, couched in smugness, that significantly neutralize their point and let Dr. Vino off scot-free.  And, unfortunately, Parker’s inquisitor, Dr. Vino, seems all too willing to let his brethren to take the brunt of the attacks caused by his, albeit effective, but nonetheless sensationalist-oriented, carpet bombs.

There are no winners here.

In fact, Tyler Colman’s silence is made more dubious by the fact that he attended the Symposium for Professional Wine Writer’s, but is not and has not attended either edition of the Wine Blogger’s Conference.  It’s not hard to extrapolate how he considers himself and his work.

Generally speaking, I believe in a few fundamental aspects of writing opinion-oriented material:

1) Discretion is the better part of valor

2) Nobody should be above reproach

3) Decency and civility shouldn’t inhibit somebody from giving reasoned analysis and a contrary point of view to prevailing wisdom

4) Mandated hierarchical respect is quaint and outdated. 

5)  If you’re going to dish it, you better be able to take it.

6) Broadsides and categorical indictments are irresponsible particularly when you can give a specific, to the point, reasoned opinion just as easily.

Item #6 might be the most important because opinion is only valuable in its specificity, not generalization. 

The responses from Parker and Blue have been a categorical rebuke that amounts to xenophobic name-calling and an indictment against all wine bloggers.  It’s a cowardly response from both of them. 

If either one of them had any stones whatsoever, instead of painting all bloggers with the same brush, they’d give a reasoned rebuttal specific to the conflict to Dr. Vino.  But, they didn’t and haven’t.

Yet, ultimately, the net result of the inquiry is that Parker amended his writing ethics and standards document and Anthony Dias Blue, whose magazine sells an “Exposure Package” that includes a full page magazine ad, feature story and sponsorship package on a radio program, doesn’t have any room to talk anyway.

If you look at this from a 100,000 feet, what Dr. Vino did was a legitimate question that resulted in a response, even if the inquiry was more sensationalized watchdog than legitimate news reporting, and the response ultimately came in the form of Robert Parker re-writing his ethics and standards.

However, in the ensuing melee, the three principal parties in this equation – Robert Parker, Tyler Colman, and Anthony Dias Blue need to fight their own fights and leave wine bloggers as a category out of it.  Wine bloggers have been called the equivalent of being “losers.” I would argue the only losers in this fracas are the three people that have chosen not to fight their fight mano y mano, instead letting “wine bloggers” be a catch-all distractor for grievances.



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Comments

On 07/19, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Ego contest is understating it. Tony Blue has no less than six photos of himself on his ‘Style’ homepage. And all three parties need to step up and face the music. It is always good to stop by and read your work. Best on the web.

On 07/19, Noble Pig wrote:

I think this was one of my favorite pieces you have published. You nailed it.

On 07/19, Alfonso Cevola wrote:

I just read Tony Blue’s editorial about bloggers. He sounds confused and frightened.

On 07/20, Josh wrote:

Let me give a bit of a defense of Tyler here.

I don’t think his original posts re: Parker were motivated by sensationalism at all. In fact if you look back at the first post he mentions Mark Steinberger’s Slate article and links to Squires accusing him of shoddy journalism.

In my estimation, the entire deal started as a bit of a defense for a colleague and a friend, and a defense of “journalism” writ large. It’s a common thread throughout the posts.

Great post Jeff!

On 07/20, Jeff wrote:

Josh,

Of course, you’re right.

I tried to couch my comments a bit on Dr. Vino as I enjoy him and his work, but, just the same, he fanned the flames into a story that ultimately made the WSJ and the result has been an indictment on wine bloggers, a subject he has been silent on.

Jeff
http://www.goodgrape.com

On 07/20, David Hance wrote:

Generalizations almost always make the generalizer sound foolish. And new tools almost always make those who were skilled with the old tools uncomfortable.

And I’ve never heard anyone call Andy Blue “Tony” until this comment string. A new handle makes him seem a new man!

DAH

On 07/21, TWG wrote:

Great piece.  Re critics contempt for bloggers, the fact is that there are good and bad journalists and good and bad bloggers, which underscores your point about the need to avoid generalization and oversimplification whenever possible.  Little real advancement is made from general discussions.

On 07/21, Tish wrote:

Great post, Jeff. You nailed not only Andy Blue’s feeble, misguided defense of Parker, but also have made very clear how afraid mainstream media types are of bloggers. As they should be. Bloggers are living in the Age of Transparency; old-school media think they don’t have to answer to anyone.The idea that Andy Blue is discussing ethics in any way, shape or form whil offering an “exposure package” that includes paid editorial is flat-out ridiculous. Ironically, I would guess his website got a nice bump in traffic from your barbarian post.

I would, however, like to defend Tyler

On 07/21, Tish wrote:

oops. Last comment cut off. I think you are mistaking Tyler’s lack of continued comments as aloofness. I think he prefers to step aside and let others talk.

On 07/21, Dr. Vino wrote:

Jeff-

For what it’s worth, I did address Parker’s comments in the third of my three posts about the Wine Advocate.

I’m surprised that you didn’t contact me directly prior to posting to ask my reaction to ADB. In fact, I wrote him an email.

Thanks for the support, Josh. And, everyone, please see Tish’s comment about The Tasting Panel.

On 07/21, Jeff wrote:

Tyler,

Please don’t mistake one-off criticism as an indicator of my general opinion on you or your work.  And, I hope the same is true in reverse.

I do consider my writing to be columnist-style and sometimes I gotta say something that may polarize, even if I don’t have (ever!) malicious intention.

Regards,

Jeff

On 07/22, John Corcoran wrote:

Jeff, spot- on. As I get ready for my first WBC, I’m not in the least surprised by the generalized ad hominen attacks. The income opportunities of those who are paid to write have been diminished by the decline in ad spend based on a decline in paid circulation. The ad spend has migrated on-line to google, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc. It seems that wine bloggers make a neat and easy target as a loosly associated group of writers.  Today’s immediacy of information seems to obviate printed media as a contemporary information transmisiion medium. The age of didactism is over. Viva la revolution!

On 07/22, Ed Thralls wrote:

Thanks, Jeff for coming to the defense of the bloggers in a very well-devised and impressive piece.  I’ve been doing this for a year now, and feel I am far above any of the silly comparisons either of these boobs have conferred upon our world.  The rules continue to change…

Ed

On 07/22, Galen Struwe wrote:

Good blogger.  Bad blogger.  It really doesn’t matter to me, at least in this instance.  What I’m enjoying from all of this Robert Parker’s apparent discomfort with the new status quo.  I mean, didn’t it used to be that Parker was the “voice” for wine, the go to guy to whom everyone looked and waited breathlessly for opinion.  While still influential, Parker’s influence and status are eroding, and to a certain extent I suspect he isn’t all that crazy about that.  There are probably few among us who do not genuinely admire him but do we, in our heart of hearts, really give a shit what he thinks anymore?
So much of this with Blue and Parker gets down to ego.  We all know that.  Vino is a provocateur and as far as he’s probably concerned “mission accomplished”.

On 07/22, Dr. Debs wrote:

Thanks as always for focusing our attention on an important issue. Yes, mainstream press is now paying attention to us. As a historian of print culture, we should all remember that when the printing press was devised, the men working in professional scriptoria (and yes, they were all men) viewed the innovation with horror. It will be the end of civilization, they predicted. What will stop women, and other people without proper educations and training, from publishing their books? Who will pay people to write things out by hand anymore (they’d be so thrilled by the bridal trend to hire expensive calligraphers to address envelopes)? What will become of US?

That was around 1450.

This is why I always laugh when people say “the internet will be the end of X.” The internet, like the printing press, doesn’t the end of ANYTHING. It’s the beginning of something else. And what that something will be is anyone’s guess. We still write things by hand, we still use print, and we will increasingly use the internet.

But blaming your discomfort at the shifting media landscape on bloggers is just silly. Pull up your socks, mainstream media, and try graciousness instead of defensiveness for while.

On 01/03, Wedding Venues wrote:

Wine bloggers are just like any other bloggers, they are rough on everyone. It’s unlikely to see a great report about a wedding venue or new type of wine.

On 01/11, Carpet cleaning Bethesda wrote:

This site has thought me how to create my own wine in my own kitchen. The November issue was so awesome.


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