Straddling The Fence on Pinot Noir

Publicists are notorious Jacks-of-all-Trades. And I would say the same for myself. Though I think of myself primarily as a professional publicist working primarily in the wine industry, my work has taken me in a variety of directions.

Being a blogger has complicated this broadening of views even further.

On Thursday I'll be heading down to Pismo Beach to attend World of Pinot Noir, a festival in that town that focus entirely on Pinot Noir, the varietal's various incarnations, the foods to match with it, the producers that produce it. It's the kind of intensely focused wine fest that I've worked on as a publicist. This time I'll be covering it as a Blogger.

I was invited to attend. Besides getting there (a five hour drive from Sonoma)WOPN2
all my major expenses are paid for by the festival organizers. This is how writers that the festival organizers want covering the event are usually treated. I've done the same sort of treating myself on a number of occasions. Frankly, it's a little weird being on the other end of the invitation.

The rules and expectations that come with inviting writers and journalists to events are almost always the same:

1. The writer is hosted gratis
2. They are expected to participate in a number of the events scheduled.

That's it. While the organizers hope the writer will find a story to write about and subsequently inform their readers about the event and what they learned, there is no quid pro quo. At least I've never made one nor heard of such a thing being suggested. But the fact is, I will be writing about the World of Pinot Noir, about the people in attendance, about it's organization, about observations I have, about the process.

This will make the organizers happy. But it puts my crotch fitted squarely on the top of the fence. Writer/blogger or publicist?

This fence straddling things is not so uncommon. In fact, folks move between journalism and PR on a regular basis. It's a natural flow that should be easy to understand. But doing both at the same time is somewhat more rare.

It turns out however, that making a career as a publicist is far easier than making a career as a writer. You can be pretty good at what you do and make a career as a publicist. You can't just be "pretty good" as a writer and make a career at it. Writing, particularly freelance writing, is an ego-busting, ass-dragging, often disappointing, competitive, underpaid, pie-in-the-sky career choice. It's grueling. PR….not so much.

So as I straddle the fence this coming weekend and indulge in Pinot Noir and the foods it can accompany, I'll be keeping this all in mind and trying to explore the nature of the fence and the splinters that end up in my ass.

12 Responses

  1. Arthur - March 3, 2009

    I’ll see you there, Tom!

  2. Thomas Pellechia - March 3, 2009

    “In fact, folks move between journalism and PR on a regular basis.”
    Not according to my journalism training. If you work for an entity, you cannot write about an entity–no gray area and no straddling allowed.
    Now, if you say that it is done regularly, I cannot argue, because, unfortunately, it is.

  3. Tom Wark - March 3, 2009

    I’m talking about lateral career changes that are common between PR and Journalism. Not simultaneous careers. And you are right. A publicist should not be reporting or writing on his clients.

  4. Thomas Pellechia - March 3, 2009

    Lateral career change?
    These days, changing to journalism is a downward slide 😉
    Have a good trip, and may you find an intimate to remove those splinters when you return.
    Hey, I’ll be in Sonoma latter part of April. Will let you know more later.

  5. Dombeya Wines - March 4, 2009

    Writing is severely underappreciated, and under seige. It will be interesting to see where journalism ( and wine writing, if there is a distinction) stands after/if/when we emerge from this current kerfuffle.

  6. mydailywine - March 4, 2009

    But is writing really under seige?
    Or is there just more available and the gatekeepers have been removed? Yes, much of it is dribble but there are many diamonds in the rough or even not so rough that have emerged.
    Like Tom Wark.

  7. Kathy - March 4, 2009

    When I was features editor at the Oakland Trib, Harriet Swift was one of the writers. She was difficult, always late on deadline. One Friday her story, due on Thursday, wasn’t finished. At 5 p.m. it still wasn’t finished. Finally at 6 p.m., it arrived, twice as long as assigned. I was ready to cut the hell out of it and her. The rest of the section was already in production; this was to be slotted in. I read it. And read it again. It was brilliant. I called the pressroom—they tore up a page. Harriet’s tome, in its entirety, ran the next day.
    I honestly don’t remember the subject. But I do know it was great writing. Al Martinez, who just got LATimes’d off, does it for me, too. And Philip White in Australia.
    That’s the difference between riding the fence or judging writing contests on the fly and falling in love with words.

  8. JohnLopresti - March 4, 2009

    There is a lot of new material on pinot noir available. I especially liked one grower’s discussion of ten clones, import laws, export regs in France in the past decade, and terroir; his plot is way at the north side of the Sonoma Coast appellation.

  9. larry schaffer - March 5, 2009

    I’ll be there on Friday pouring for Fess Parker – please stop by and say hi.
    As far as stradlling the fence goes, I see it as a pretty straight forward situation – write about what you experience. The organizers are obviously ‘confident’ of their ‘product’ and therefore want you to talk about it . . . nothing more.
    Just my simplistic $.02 . . .

  10. Kathy - March 5, 2009

    If you pick up clients at Pinot, what side of the fence are you on?

  11. Dylan - March 5, 2009

    That’s a great deal you have in store. Enjoy your trip, I’ll look out for the details on the event.

  12. Lauren - March 24, 2009

    What a fabulous event! Hope you enjoyed the event!

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