Fight Less. Write More.

15 Sep

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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.

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7 Responses to “Fight Less. Write More.”

  1. Jeff 09/18/2009 at 7:04 pm #

    Hi Ms. Drinkwell (I’d like to address you by name, but it appears as if you’re anonymous),

    Thank you for adding your thoughts to the conversation and writing a post in response to my post at Goodgrape.com

    Perhaps I didn’t explain my point properly, but given the reasonable amount of distaste you show, it might not matter.

    While I think I could have better explained my Kramer/Joe Blogger point, I do want to acknowledge that you’re point about editing a writer is a very good one and one that I hadn’t considered.

    I could write more, but I’m not sure I could cross the bridge in explanation. I do hope you’ll consider visiting my blog again.

    All the best,

    Jeff
    http://www.goodgrape.com

    • Ms. Drinkwell 09/21/2009 at 12:05 pm #

      Hello Jeff,

      Thank you for your comment. I have in fact visited your blog again in order to read the comments regarding the “Who is in Judgment of Whom” post. Since doing so, I have more insight regarding your position, but I can’t say that I agree with it any more than I did initially. Like many of your commentors, I happen to believe your decision to question Mr. Kramer’s credibility was a poor one that undermined some of your better arguments. This combined with the fact that I find the repeated us vs. them post/articles by wine bloggers and writers to be exasperating and a general waste of time (Who reads them except other wine bloggers/writers?), is what led to my post. I am curious, though, as to what kind of background or training you believe a wine writer needs to have to be considered a credible voice? And, assuming Mr. Kramer (or someone else of his stead) had none to begin with, would 10 or 20 or 30 years of on-the-job training and learning and eventually gaining some expertise in the subject not suffice?
      I am open to hearing your thoughts and keeping this discussion going, should you have interest. And, for the record, simply because I had a difference of opinion with you does not mean I will never read your blog again. Quite the opposite.

  2. Jeff 09/21/2009 at 12:23 pm #

    Hi, Ms. Drinkwell (I’m going to have to come up with a nickname or something for you …)

    Like you, I am bone-weary tired of the us/them, but that Spectator column hit a nerve with the suggestion of publishing a monograph … and it seemed reasonably self-serving …

    That aside, I generally map out what I’m going to write on a weekly basis and this jumped the line because the post wrote itself in my head.

    Sometimes that happens.

    Now, trust me when I say I really like Matt Kramer the wine writer, I do. However, I guess my overall point is how qualified was he, relative to his current position, when he was just 3/4/5/6 years into his career in terms of professional wine writing? He was probably at the same level of sophistication as many other bloggers, honestly.

    And, it was really everything he has done AFTER his start in wine writing that made him credible. So, if you strip away all of his experience and you compare a Joe Blogger who has been writing for 5 years with a young Matt Kramer who has been writing for five years what would really be the difference … hence the statement I made about credibility that leads into a commentary about the value of a brand on a masthead for lending credibility. Absent experience and absent writing for a brand like Spectator what is his credibility? It’s not an apples to apples thing.

    Honestly, it’s not a point I feel strongly enough to defend vigorously and, in hindsight, I wish I didn’t mention it because that one statement overshadowed what was otherwise a decent post.

    i do have to take issue in regards to “demanding respect.” I don’t do that, or at least I don’t think I’ve done it, certainly not consciously. However, I do use graphic imagery sometimes to help draw the picture — so guilty as charged in this regard.

    thanks much for indulging the long comment.

    My regards,

    Jeff

    • Ms. Drinkwell 09/21/2009 at 2:41 pm #

      “So, if you strip away all of his experience and you compare a Joe Blogger who has been writing for 5 years with a young Matt Kramer who has been writing for five years what would really be the difference”
      Ah, the lightbulb is starting to go on now. This level of specificity — a young Matt Kramer vs. a young Joe Blogger — wasn’t articulated in your original post so I read it as a straight up Matt/Joe comparison, and judging by the comments on your blog I wasn’t the only one to do so. I think this is a great example of where an editor would come in handy, someone to say, “clarify this part” (among other things) before you hit the publish button. Alas, everything is so fast paced in blogging world that it seems imperative that we publish NOW so as to be on top of the latest news and not lose readers, but this hurry up and go often leads to mistakes. Even on the really good blogs, the number of misspellings and errant apostrophes is greater than what you generally find in print pubs, and sometimes those errors do make me question the credibility of the blog. And, I guess that’s one reason a Matt Kramer might have had more credibility at year 5 than, say, me. The brand on the masthead lets readers know that the writers have been vetted by the publication; that they were hired over other writers who applied for the same job because they had better (or at least equal) skills; and that their writing has been looked over by someone else to ensure it is error-free, factually correct, and clear. This is a very simplistic way of putting it, of course, but I think there’s merit in it.
      Wish there was some kind of wine blogger editing community out there where we could share ideas about issues in wine and the quality of writing away from our individual comments sections. That would be kind of nice.
      And, point taken on the “demanding respect” thing.

  3. Thomas Pellechia 09/23/2009 at 12:07 pm #

    How did I miss this blog?

    Now that this issue has draw me to it, Ms. Drinkwell is in my bookmark.

    And yes, the argument is tiresome, but the facts remain: the majority of wine bloggers not only can use and editor–they could stand to do some studying.

    Forming a base for your opinions takes studying and knowing your subject–that is what gives any writer credibility. Far too many wine bloggers seem obviously long on opinion and short on a base for it.

    • Ms. Drinkwell 09/23/2009 at 2:34 pm #

      Hello Thomas,

      I appreciate that you took time to comment and to bookmark the site! “Far too many wine bloggers seem obviously long on opinion and short on a base for it.” Couldn’t agree more! No matter how good an op-ed writer you are there is no substitute for knowledge and continual study of your subject. And, a good editor will make a writer better and more accurate over time. Wish I had one!

  4. Thomas Pellechia 09/23/2009 at 12:08 pm #

    As you can see from draw/drawn plus an/and, commenting on blogs can also use an editor…

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