Who knew we’d have so much controversy about wine writing ethics? But an increasing number of wine writers don’t understand (if events this summer are any indication) that their first duty is to their readers, and not to sponsors or advertisers, and that readers are more than someone to flog wine at.
• Respect your readers: Too little content, either or on-line or in print, is traditional any more, so it’s not surprising that so few wine writers understand what traditional means: If someone pays you to run a story, you must tell your readers. No exceptions, no hesitations. Readers visit your site to get honest, unbiased reviews and commentary, and if someone is paying for placement, readers should be told. The Wine Curmudgeon has spent much of the summer writing polite replies to snippy emails because I don’t accept advertorial or paid posts, and this irritates the companies who sell this crap no end. One emailer was stunned that I wouldn’t take $50 to compromise the integrity of the blog. Guess these companies don’t understand the concept of honor. Or journalism, since I’m just a blogger.
• The Munchkin of Ink: Chris Kassel at the Intoxicology Report discusses conflicts of interest, and doesn’t understand why people who sell wine think they are above conflicts — and why one of them called him stupid for discussing the subject. This, sadly, is exactly the point about treating your readers with respect. It’s bad enough to have that conflict, but it’s inexcusable to pretend that it doesn’t matter because you are somehow special. Wine is not complicated, and as my pal Dave McIntyre has pointed out more than once, those of us who write about wine aren’t smarter or have better palates than most consumers. We just drink more wine, and we pay more attention.
• It’s not really blackmail: Also from the “I’m better than you” department, a food blogger in Britain didn’t think she was treated with enough respect by a bakery owner, and her review made that perfectly clear. Jamie Goode reports that the incident sparked a Twittter hashtage — #bloggerblackmail — and notes that “… if you take payment for content, then your work suffers. Readers aren’t stupid (well, some of them might be, but most are quite smart). They know when something’s amiss. The trust of your readers is a currency that’s not really yours to spend. If you want to be taken seriously, then you need to play it straight.” See, I told you it wasn’t difficult to figure this stuff out.