It has been an interesting week in the blogotwittersphere. Twitter has been abuzz with a debate that started as a question regarding policies at the famous Wine Advocate and morphed into a conversation on wine blogger ethics and credibility.
The beginning of the trail was a story broken by
Colman then posted a follow up on April 16 in which he describes an email exchange he has with Jay Miller and Robert Parker himself. Colman had some questions regarding the Wine Advocate policy and indirectly questioned their ethics, based on information that Miller and Squires had accepted press junkets. Here is an excerpt:
I’m curious how these actions square with the policy in the Wine Buyer’s Guide, which reads in part: “It is imperative for a wine critic to pay his own way. Gratuitous hospitality in the form of airline tickets, hotel rooms, guest houses, etc., should never be accepted either abroad or in this country…In order to pursue independence effectively, it is imperative to keep one’s distance from the trade. While this attitude can be interpreted as aloofness, such independence guarantees hard-hitting, candid, and uninfluenced commentary.”
The recent actions of Squires and Miller have left me wondering: Has there been a change in policy for The Wine Advocate reviewers? If so, have you disclosed that to your readers? What is now allowed?
Neither Parker, nor Miller, responded in a way that satisfied Colman. So, he continued to press.
Apparently, Colman touched a nerve because Parker made a post on his forum referring to some wine bloggers as “extremists [that] could care less about the truth” and that “invent stories that are totally untrue and easily proven as such”. He followed that up with a post yesterday, in which he questions the integrity of attendees to the Wine Bloggers’ Conference and call wine bloggers ‘blobbers’ “since they are the source of much of the misinformation, distortion, and egegious falsehoods spread with reckless abandon on the internet”. He also accuses them of not checking their facts or investigating as journalists. Interestingly, he then goes on to make false statements about the conference.
Today, Colman posted a follow up defending his position.
But journalism is precisely what I’ve been doing all along. I went to Parker and Miller with legitimate questions and they were evasive. I spoke with Wines of Argentina and the truth came out. That’s called journalism. Instead of lashing out with invective (”extremists” or “jihadists” or eliding wine bloggers with the Taliban) at me and others who have raised very legitimate issues, Parker should take this episode as indicative of the respect he commands and the seriousness with which the wine community takes the ethical standards he established long ago.
Needless to say, there are wine bloggers, such as Lenn Thompson, Tim Elliott, and Joel Vincent (founder of the Wine Bloggers’ Conference) who take exception Parker’s comments. In a Twitter conversation I had with each, Elliott feels that Parker is off-base and Vincent feels that Parker has an opportunity to “help lead the blogging community or get replaced by it. Its up to him.”
It will be interesting to see how things settle out. Will the Wine Advocate become less relevant over time? What will happen when Robert Parker is no longer around? Will bloggers be able to convince the establishment that they are serious journalists? Will a code of blogger ethics eventually emerge? Does anybody care?
Time will tell.