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Wine Blogger Challenge – Dig deep and investigate

Leo being presented with Australian Wine

Sorry to our readers of Iberian wine news, because today, is a blogger show. I listen to TWIT religiously. If you are even tangentially interested in the online tech world, I highly suggest it. Each week, they talk about gadgets, websites and online issues, and occasionally, it directly applies to my life.

A few weeks ago, TWIT featured an episode on “The Death of Journalism”, asking the following guest speakers to chime in with their educated thoughts and opinions: Leo Laporte, Steve Gillmor, Mark Frauenfelder, and Molly Wood. Now, although I’ve heard this argument several times before, I usually consider it “the sky is falling” rhetoric, where we all complain about how everything is changing and nothing is good in the world. But during this episode, I actually let down my guard and heard a suprisingly compelling argument.

If big media fails, specifically newspapers, and replaced by online streams, such as blogs and distribution devices such as Twitter, will investigative journalism suffer? In the past, a newspaper could hire a reporter to spend a week on one story, digging deep and looking for the meat, bolstered by their impressive budget. While today, TWIT presented the argument that people with blogs tend to react without reflection, riff on a news story for a few lines, smear a little gossip around, and then try to call it journalism.

Generally, I agree with this argument, or at the very least, that it could lead to a problem if we are not careful. If we never look any deeper than what we think of a particular wine, or rehash the wine encyclopedia’s definition of a region, what are we accomplishing? Some may debate that the role of a wine writer is only to educate and expand knowledge, but shouldn’t we also help create change? Should wine writers/bloggers take and expose issues, challenge ideas and report on news? Or are we only here to taste a new vintage and report only on its positive/negative elements?

Currently we play the editorial section of the wine worlds newspaper. Off the cuff responses to the latest news and events, regurgitating. But can we be more? Catavino is as guilty as the next person when it comes to spewing something out without fully digging into it. Reacting off the cuff without fully analyzing. Granted, we’ve been fighting this issue ourselves over the past year, and for example, I know that Gabriella dug deep into the history of Patxaran to get the full story, and I commend her for it. Dr.Vino is another blogger that comes to mind in conducting investigative reporting with his look at wine’s carbon footprint. Granted, he’s really an exception, considering that his research resulted in a book. What I want to know is whether Wine Bloggers can make a difference, showing that we can professionally fill in the gap when the major wine rags finally collapse (though I would say that many wine rags wouldn’t know good fact checking journalism if it bit them on the nose). ;)

I’m sure these pieces already exist out there, and if so, please link to them in the comment’s section. And while Gabriella’s Pataxaran article was investigative, it is not exactly what I’m talking about. What are the topics that need investigating and can a blogger that doesn’t blog for a living really afford the time to dig deep. What are the questions that we should be asking? What are the stories that still need to be told? Or is wine journalism only about vintages, tasting notes and historic profiles?

Leave your ideas below!

Cheers,

Ryan

Update #1 Nice look at the issue can be found here: Reporter vs Expert – Why Most Bloggers Are Stuck Reporting

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  • Taster B

    I think a lot of it has to do with access. Most journalists have a high level of accessed based on the clout of their organization. A lot of bloggers that are in the wine biz have access to wine 'news', while a lot of blogger 'hobbyists' don't have much access apart from meeting with wine-makers or other bloggers. I struggle with the same question: If I'm doing all my research from books/online resources that are already widely available, is there any value to it? I think there can be. In the end I'm sure that some of the more journalism-based blogs would be able to fill the void (Fermentation, Dr. Vino, etc), and others can just be what they are: a wine -themed weblog about anything the author fancies.

  • http://smellslikegrape.blogspot.com Taster B

    I think a lot of it has to do with access. Most journalists have a high level of accessed based on the clout of their organization. A lot of bloggers that are in the wine biz have access to wine ‘news’, while a lot of blogger ‘hobbyists’ don’t have much access apart from meeting with wine-makers or other bloggers. I struggle with the same question: If I’m doing all my research from books/online resources that are already widely available, is there any value to it? I think there can be.
    In the end I’m sure that some of the more journalism-based blogs would be able to fill the void (Fermentation, Dr. Vino, etc), and others can just be what they are: a wine -themed weblog about anything the author fancies.

  • Anna

    I think at the end the readers will decide what they want as with anything else. Hobbyist or pro, at the end if no one reads it, what-s the point?

  • RichardA

    I think that most blogging probably does reflect more the editorial pages than the top headlines. And as has been mentioned, time, money and access are generally on the side of the journalists who work for the major periodicals. Though there are the occasional blog exceptions, like Dr. Vino and Fermentation, the rest of us would really have to struggle to be more investigative journalists. And likely, we would be most effective on a more local level, the areas where we live. In Massachusetts, I would find it very difficult to do more investigative work on California, though those bloggers in CA would have difficulty in MA. For my own blog, I do feel I cover some local news aspects, especially concerning local food/wine events, opening/closings of restaurants and wine stores, and such. Though many of those items may not be as relevant to those who do not live in MA. And I think many other bloggers do the same, reporting on local matters. Yet we all could do more. Yet how do we do more? I don't have any answers to that. Time and effort are certainly factors and not all of us have sufficient extra time to devote to such endeavors. Maybe we need to find some blogger grants somewhere so we can devote more time to such investigative projects. I just read an interesting article in Decanter (5/08) that has relevance to these issues. It was an editorial by Linda Murphy called "What is wine writing for?" The thrust of the article is: "The job of a wine journalist has evolved from chronicling scores, history and personalities into reporting on mergers and acquisitions, government regulations, crimes and scandals." She also says that now, "Writers are picking up rocks to see what lies underneath, and asking questions that are unpleasant to answer." Linda though hopes such writing does not eclipse the pleasures and personalities of wine. So, maybe bloggers don't want to get too investigative. Maybe it is a good thing we are more positive, and don't just cover scandals and gossip. Maybe the fact bloggers generally savor the pleasures of wine is a good thing.

  • http://www.excelwines.com/blog Anna

    I think at the end the readers will decide what they want as with anything else. Hobbyist or pro, at the end if no one reads it, what-s the point?

  • http://www.passionatefoodie.blogspot.com RichardA

    I think that most blogging probably does reflect more the editorial pages than the top headlines. And as has been mentioned, time, money and access are generally on the side of the journalists who work for the major periodicals. Though there are the occasional blog exceptions, like Dr. Vino and Fermentation, the rest of us would really have to struggle to be more investigative journalists. And likely, we would be most effective on a more local level, the areas where we live. In Massachusetts, I would find it very difficult to do more investigative work on California, though those bloggers in CA would have difficulty in MA.

    For my own blog, I do feel I cover some local news aspects, especially concerning local food/wine events, opening/closings of restaurants and wine stores, and such. Though many of those items may not be as relevant to those who do not live in MA. And I think many other bloggers do the same, reporting on local matters. Yet we all could do more.

    Yet how do we do more? I don’t have any answers to that. Time and effort are certainly factors and not all of us have sufficient extra time to devote to such endeavors. Maybe we need to find some blogger grants somewhere so we can devote more time to such investigative projects.

    I just read an interesting article in Decanter (5/08) that has relevance to these issues. It was an editorial by Linda Murphy called “What is wine writing for?” The thrust of the article is: “The job of a wine journalist has evolved from chronicling scores, history and personalities into reporting on mergers and acquisitions, government regulations, crimes and scandals.” She also says that now, “Writers are picking up rocks to see what lies underneath, and asking questions that are unpleasant to answer.” Linda though hopes such writing does not eclipse the pleasures and personalities of wine.

    So, maybe bloggers don’t want to get too investigative. Maybe it is a good thing we are more positive, and don’t just cover scandals and gossip. Maybe the fact bloggers generally savor the pleasures of wine is a good thing.

  • 1WineDude

    I feel that I fill an UNprofessional gap in wine writing, seeing as how I make an average of 3 mistakes per post! I wonder if there's a business out there for copy editors and fact checkers that offer services to bloggers…

  • http://1winedude.blogspot.com 1WineDude

    I feel that I fill an UNprofessional gap in wine writing, seeing as how I make an average of 3 mistakes per post!

    I wonder if there’s a business out there for copy editors and fact checkers that offer services to bloggers…

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