What’s with all the hate?
Been reading through the entries of the latest Beer Session series about the state of beer writing, and there are a lot of complaints about too many fluffy, glorified PR pieces.
Too much cheerleading, they say.
Well, excuse me, but…
“Gimme a B, gimme an E”
Look, I’m not saying you have be all “Hooray for Everything” about every beer you try and every brewer you meet. Sean at Beer Search Party nails my attitude about beer writing when he asks, “Why should I be restricted to focus on the beers that I don’t like at the expense of the ones that I do to give myself ‘cred’? I think that I am allowed to write a glowing review or recommend a bar if that is my humble opinion.”
I’m A Wuss
If I try something I don’t like, or have a bad experience at a pub or on a tour, it simply won’t make it here. What’s the point? Call me new-agey or froo-frooey, but there’s tons of bile out there on the interwebs already. Why add to it?
Plus, I freely admit I’m a wuss. I abhor confrontation. It does me no good to slag someone’s beer, or run down a specific brewer’s practices, only to be put in the awkward position of having to avoid them at an industry event.
Am I worried about future access? Yeah, maybe a little. But I’m more worried about a belligerent employee after his sixth free beer tracking me down for “a few words” in a dark parking lot. Who needs that?
I Can Be Bought
Talking about industry events also leads to the disclosure question. Purists say junkets, PR trips, and other freebies are worthless; there is no way to write an honest review or evaluation of someone who’s given you free stuff.
I will gladly accept freebies. But they guarantee the provider of said freebies nothing. If I like a beer, or enjoy an event, I will say so. But I will fully state that I got it for free and leave the reader to decide if I was unduly influenced.
However, if I don’t like what was provided, then I won’t write about it. Simple as that. Those with big enough budgets to send out samples and throw parties simply write it off as the cost of doing business anyway, so what do they care?
Blogging Vs. Journalism
This gets to the more general point about blogging versus journalism (also discussed at length in the latest Session). Not to get too much into semantics, most bloggers, as opposed to “serious” journalists, write about subjects they’re already great fans of. Otherwise, why put in all the unpaid hours?
Glen Humphries at Beer is Your Friend defines beer journalism this way:
“The beer journalist tends to have to find the middle ground between the newbie and the geek. They have to write about beer so that someone who doesn’t drink much craft beer understands but also with enough knowledge that a beer geek doesn’t switch off. It’s a tricky balance to strike…”
While I definitely DO NOT consider myself a journalist, that’s the audience I’m trying to reach as well. Trying to strike that balance is very difficult, and most bloggers wouldn’t even attempt it with topics they give less than a crap about. That inherent closeness to the topic is going to skew the coverage, no matter how objective one tries to be. The trick is to not get carried away and extol someone’s virtues while deliberately shielding their faults.
So I’ll continue to talk up the great stuff I try, the fun experiences I have, and the interesting people I run into. On the other hand, I’ll freely criticize general trends and industry happenings that concern me, most likely from a marketing standpoint, as that is my background.
And, as a reminder to you industry types, feel free to send as much free stuff as your marketing budget will allow. If I dig it, you’ll read about it here. If not, we shall never speak of it again.