Last night, I read Jeff Lefevere’s blog post entitled “Who Is In Judgment of Whom,” which offered up yet another installment of the wine blogger vs. established wine writer debate. This is by no means the first such article I have read on this topic. It just happens to be the one that pushed me over the edge. Perhaps it was the trifecta of war references — foxholes, Al Qaeda, Weapons of Mass Destruction — that Mr. Lefevere laced into his article as a means of describing how old guard writers think and feel about their blogger counterparts. (Dramatic much?) Or, maybe it was that Mr. Lefevere, with apparent sincerity, wrote, “I really have no idea what gives [Matt] Kramer and the rest of them any more individual credibility then Joe Blogger down the street…” Yeah, that was probably what did it.
To say that Matt Kramer has no more credibility than Joe Blogger down the street is an inflammatory statement that serves one purpose above all others — to get Mr. Lefevere’s blog post noticed. Mr. Kramer has been a full-time wine writer since 1976. A full-time wine writer who has written for newspapers, magazines, and book publishers. One who has researched and written and subsequently had his work edited and fact checked hundreds of thousands of times. It is a humbling process to be edited. You learn what you didn’t know, what you didn’t explain clearly, and what you just plain screwed up. It is also a process most bloggers, regardless of subject matter, do not have to go through. Blogging is quite the self-indulgent endeavor, allowing as it does for Joe Blogger to put any thought or “fact” he wishes to share out into the universe immediately, without so much as a second glance or a spellcheck. Simply by virtue of the fact that Mr. Kramer has subjected his wine writing to an editing process for 30+ years gives him more credibility in my book than the vast majority of bloggers, myself included. He also happens to be a very, very good writer, period. To me, that’s what matters most.
There are points in Mr. Lefevere’s article that I agree with. Specifically, point number one in the enumerated list section. I also agree with the first sentence of point number two. I agree with the larger theme put forth in this article and others that print journalism is, sadly, a dying art. I adore print media. To me, half the satisfaction of reading the day’s news comes from the snap of a turned page and the stain of newsprint on my fingertips, but I accept that I am a member of a dwindling group. The fact of the matter is that web technology has simply outstripped print in terms of what it can offer with regard to immediacy, access, and multi-dimensional content. Where it has not completely outstripped traditional media is in the quality of writing it offers. Yes, Mr. Lefevere is right that there is some “significant quality” out there in wine blog world, but the establishment is also correct in its assertion. There’s a lot of crap, too.
It seems to me that the whole blogger vs. establishment argument is recycled again and again primarily because controversy creates interest and interest drives readership, and hits, and page views. Many of the articles on this topic are the equivalent of a child throwing a tantrum to get attention. They have nothing to do with advancing the quality of wine writing (whether in print or online) and everything to do with getting a blogger/writer noticed. It is sad that what we all have in common, a love of wine and of expression, is increasingly buried beneath a cacophony of infighting in the form of articles aimed at tearing down members of the wine writing community with whom we have differences of opinion. It’s sad that Mr. Kramer, someone with 30+ years of experience, someone who helped lay the foundation on which we all blog, has been reduced in Mr. Lefevere’s post to the same level as any Joe Blogger, as if all of his years of research, training, learning, and writing are meaningless. And why? Because he wrote a column for Wine Spectator challenging all of us who think we want to be wine writers to research, read, edit, develop our expertise, and generally push ourselves to be better. The audacity!
Here’s a thought: instead of writing posts demanding respect for your blog from old guard writers, put your head down and write. About wine. And, aim to do it better than you did the day before. That’s the way you earn credibility.