Bloggerview #18: Mark Fisher
Who: Mark Fisher
Mark Fisher thinks like a reporter and this is what makes his blog, Uncorked, so relevant and so good. Of course, he is a reporter for Ohio’s Dayton Daily News and was their wine writer before he began blogging at that paper’s website back in late 2005. Besides good concise writing, you can count on Uncorked to point it’s readers toward important questions for the wine industry and for consumers. There is an investigative quality to Mark’s blogging the surely is a result of his reporter’s mentality, but the other thing that comes through in his writing is a true love of wine as well as an obvious desire to serve his readers. I was very happy when Mark agreed to be Bloggerviewed.
1. When did you begin blogging and why?
I began blogging in September 2005 because I wanted to be like Tom Wark. Well, that and a couple of other reasons: The executive editor of the Dayton Daily News at the time encouraged me to start a wine blog. And my reporter colleague who sat next to me in the newsroom had just launched an education blog, and I was, well, jealous of all the damn attention he was getting. We print journalists are very competitive, you know. And perhaps most important, I had been writing the Taste of Wine column for the Dayton Daily News and Cox News Service for 16 years, but it was published only twice a month, and, well, I had a LOT more to say about wine than two dinky little columns a month. A blog meant no editors, no space restrictions – in other words, heaven on earth or a print journalist. Thus, Uncorked was born.
2. In two sentences describe the focus of your wine blog.
Focus? Who said anything about focus? Hey, this is a blog, fercryin’outloud. Okay, here goes: The focus of Uncorked is commentary, opinion, an occasional poke in the eye of the wine establishment and of wine producers and (especially) wine marketers (except for Tom Wark, of course), a place where wine can be fun but not trivialized, a place for discussion, where readers can learn from each other. Oops, too many sentences.
3. What sets your wine blog apart from the pack?
Well, first, see question #2. But in addition, I think Uncorked has a distinctive mix of national and local content. If wine industry types want to see, in a snapshot, what we’re drinking and tasting here in the heartland of America (Dayton, Ohio, is God’s country, after all – at least, for one week in May, the weather’s PERFECT)), they can tune in every Friday to Uncorked to see an astonishing list of wine tastings, dinners and other events that will offer a window to the wine market here in “flyover country.” We might just surprise you. Many other posts are not local at all in content, and they attract comments from all over the country (and on occasion the world, this being the web), so Uncorked offers a bit of everything.
4. How would you characterize the growth in your readership since beginning your blog?
A slow, steady climb, although one particular post just a few short months following the birth of Uncorked, entitled "A Trader Joe’s Wine Buying Experience", put Uncorked on the cyberspace map very quickly. The entry speaks for itself, but it demonstrates very clearly how wine blogs can, have, and will, change the future of wine discourse. Not revolutionize it, mind you – I think that would be hyperbole – but change it, yes.
5. Do you accept samples for review?
Sadly – tragically – no. But I like to hear about the new releases, and if something captures my fancy, I’ll go out and buy it on the open market, and will write the occasional wine review, or fit it into something I’m working on.
6. What kind of wine rating/review system do you use and why?
I don’t use a 100-point scale, or any other scale, really, just descriptions, except for very, very occasional instances when I’m covering a vertical or horizontal tasting, and even then, rarely. For all of the reasons that have been covered extensively here on Fermentation and on Uncorked and elsewhere.
7. How do you fit the maintenance of your wine blog into your daily schedule?
Easy – and yet, not so easy. I usually blog first thing in the morning, before I go into the office (My “day job”: I am the food and dining reporter for the Dayton Daily News, and Uncorked is part of the DaytonDailyNews.com web site). But more importantly, I enjoy it. Immensely. And, quite frankly, I’ve become addicted to it. In a good way.
8. Have you utilized any particular techniques to successfully market your blog?
I’m not shy about marketing my blog via email and other avenues. I am a subscriber to a Dayton-based wine listserv, and I routinely let my fellow listserv subscribers know when I’ve posted new content on Uncorked, which is almost daily. And I send occasional (at least I THINK they’re occasional) emails to other folks in the wine industry when (and only when) I’ve written something I think may be of broad interest, or specifically of interest to them. My blog is among those monitored and occasionally featured on Wine Business.com as is Fermentation and many other fine wine blogs, which has helped build an audience.
9. In your view how, if at all, is blogging different than traditional wine writing for print?
First and foremost, wine blogging offers an extraordinary opportunity to interact directly with readers and fellow wine enthusiasts in ways that print journalism can’t match – and keep in mind, I wrote (and continue to write) a wine column for a daily newspaper (sometimes picked up and distributed by a national news service) for 19 years. The instantaneous feedback is very, very exciting, rewarding, gratifying, stimulating – you get the idea. In addition, no space restrictions, no editing … THAT, my friends, is delightfully liberating for us print guys. Throw in a potential audience that literally knows no geographic bounds (as I quickly discovered with the Traders Joe’s entry I mentioned above), and, well … who wouldn’t want to write a wine blog?
10. Which other wine blogs do you read regularly?
Fermentation. You mean there are others? No, really … I read a slew of them, but with great irregularity.
11. Do you believe wine blogs have made any marked impact on the wine industry or wine culture?
Yes. But we’re just gettin’ started.
12. Vacation: Paris or the Caribbean?
Paris. Hey, I’m a food and dining reporter, remember? Good lord, give me a month (or a year), and I’ll eat my way through the City of Lights. Then I’ll wash ashore in the Caribbean as a beached whale — but I’ll have a smile on my face.
13. Pet: Dog or Cat?
Dog. A thousand times, dog. Okay, nothin’ wrong with cats, but our 7-year-old lab-shepherd mix, Rosie, is the sweetest dog in the world.
14. Airplane Reading: New Yorker or People?
I’m from Ohio. What’s this “New Yorker” publication you’re talking about? Does it have lots of purty pitchurs?
15. Car: Prius or BMW?
Would I have to give up my Honda Accord? Forget it.
16. Chablis or California Chardonnay?
Chablis. But California chardonnay is getting better. Call me an optimist.
17. Describe what you would have at your last meal?
As a food and dining writer, this question haunts me – it’s sort of like asking a parent, “Who’s your favorite child?” I could fill a book, but suffice to say there would be crablegs involved, and rack of lamb. And don’t even get me STARTED on the wines (okay, French syrah with the lamb, but please, don’t MAKE me say more …).
18. What is Heaven Like?
See question #17.
19. If you could invite 4 people dead or alive to your fantasy dinner party, who would they be and who would you have bring the wine?
My father, who was a martini and Manhattan man for the most part, would most definitely be there. I’d invite John F. Kennedy – I think my dad would enjoy talking with JFK – and I’ll put Thomas Jefferson next to me, so we could talk wine (and perhaps spend a minute or two on the whole founding fathers gig). The four of us would have a helluva conversation, I can tell you that. And I suspect the wine would flow.
20. What advice would you give to someone considering starting a wine blog?
Hate to borrow a slogan from the corporate world but … JUST DO IT. There is ALWAYS room in the blogging pool for one more voice. If you don’t find it rewarding or satisfying, you’ve lost nothing. And if you DO find it rewarding and satisfying, you’ve gained something very important: the chance to be like Tom Wark.