Dave McIntyre experiences the recent Wine Blogger’s Conference and reaches conclusions about “whine” bloggers, calling them self-absorbed and amateurish.
OK, he didn’t use either one of those words. But his four attributes of wine bloggers include a tendency to write more about themselves than wine, a sense of entitlement, and a herd mentality. So I’m thinking “self-absorbed and amateurish” kind of distills those down to their essence.
I, personally, think its hard to generalize about a group as large as wine bloggers. As of the last census, there were about 10 million wine bloggers in the United States, fascinating the world every single day with their accounts of whatever they drank last night, whether it was a free sample, something they bought, or something they stole from a convenience store by stuffing it under their skirts and waddling out the front door. Of that 10 million wine bloggers, it’s axiomatic that most aren’t going to be interesting, because most people aren’t interesting. We should not be surprised that the very same people we find tedious in grocery store lines are equally tedious after they open a Word Press account to explain why they chose sparkling Shiraz for their 17th anniversary dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.
I’m about to say something here that I would never have imagined myself, a professional writer for an appalling number of years, saying. When I say it, I will experience physical pain, because it goes against everything I believe and everything I’ve ever screamed in spittle-flecked rage while while throwing pencil holders or the A.P. Stylebook across newsrooms and offices.
In any discussion of why wine blogging sucks — and it does, with rare exception — keep in mind that blogs don’t have editors.
There, I said it. It hurt me, but it’s true: editors have a purpose, and that purpose is to prevent the pathologies that, as McIntyre notes, make wine blogs as a whole uninteresting and wine bloggers as a species infuriating.
Fact is, most writers need cynical task-masters looking over their shoulder and calling them on their bullshit. Without them, we turn into…well, into wine bloggers, apparently. Let’s go down McIntyre’s list:
Most wine bloggers write about themselves more than about wine. The reason for this is that writing about other things takes work. If no one tells you you’re not interesting, you might begin to imagine that you are, and its easy to write about yourself. When I was a young writer, I had an editor who announced to the whole newsroom that he would cut my pay $5 a week every time I used the word “I” in an article. (He also told me I used too many adjectives.) Since I was being paid $125 a week, $5 had an impact. If wine bloggers had editors, you can bet there’d be a lot less writing about wine bloggers and more writing about wine.
Many bloggers have an oversized sense of entitlement. Editors have rules against all the things wine bloggers feel entitled to. There are rules against accepting gifts, trips, hotel accommodations, special treatment, meals, souvenir t-shirts, or letting the subject of an article buy you a drink. I had an editor ream me out three different ways for eating the meal placed in front of me at a testimonial dinner I was covering. He thought it would have been better if I had left it untouched or — better still — rudely and loudly refused it. I understand it’s not possible to cover the wine business without taking a few of the freebies that would give real journalists the vapors, but a few rules imposed from above might keep bloggers from asking, as one publicist recently recounted, for six bottles of every wine to be reviewed.
Bloggers have a herd mentality. First of all, humans have a herd mentality. It’s one of the ways we navigate the unsafe world around us; we stay where there are others of our kind in the hope that they’ll get eaten first. A demanding editor breaks that herd by demanding something different from his or her underlings. I had an editor who compared my coverage with the wire service’s, and if mine didn’t have something extra she wondered aloud why she was paying me when she could just use the wire story. Go through that a few times and you start looking for a different angle on every story.
So here I am doing two things that I don’t generally do: I’m defending wine bloggers (at least as much as “they don’t know any better” constitutes a defense) and I’m doing it by admitting that editors have some reason to exist.
Oh, good lord how far have I fallen?
Not far enough, apparently, to stop writing about myself. That’ll be five bucks.
Hat Tip: Wine Curmudgeon.