The Gay Squid Theory of Wine Publishing
There will be some that argue we've always been there. But I think the case can be made that now, today, the Information Age has transformed into the Age of Advocacy. And what I'm wondering is how wine information fits into an age when advocating for one's chosen cause appears to be the raison d'etre of publishing and broadcasting.
I have to note what spurred this revelation. Yesterday, on the front page of the New York Times was an article proclaiming the discovery of a small squid that lives a half mile down in the Pacific Ocean and that appears to engage in a bi-sexual lifestyle. This little squid goes both ways. Now keep in mind, this is not the first time that homosexuality and bisexuality has been observed in the animal kingdom. Far from it. In fact the very same article made that point.
So how does a Homosexual Squid article wind up on the front page of the New York Times? Clearly the Times has an agenda to advocate for the legalization of same sex marriage and for gay rights. But this is no secret if you read the Op-Ed page of the Times. This story follow a long line of gay rights advocacy that pushes back against conservative claims that homosexuality is unnatural. It's a very traditional reaction to anti-gay propaganda.
The top shows on the cable news channels are those where the hosts have a strong and slanted opinon. The top news and information blogs are those that are slanted left or right. On the radio there seems to be no more room for the moderates. We live in an Age of Advocacy that has been rushed upon us by the Information Revolution.
Can a wine publication or wine blog be advocacy oriented? Should they be advocacy oriented? How could they show their advocacy orientation?
I think its clear that wine information and general interest wine publications can be advocacy oriented. This blog is a perfect example where the three-tier system is concerned. But any wine publication could take up the cause. It could take up the cause for cork, for "natural wines", for for low alcohol wines, for California wines, for the 100 point rating system, etc, etc, etc.
A more interesting question is SHOULD a wine publication take on an advocacy role? I'm a fan of well done, well-constructed, opinionated opinion. I find it honest. And I like that. And I appreciate the careful wielding of well-earned power. And that's what any opinion in information publishing is: the wielding of power in the service of advocacy. Certainly this is what the New York Times did on its Front Page and what it does daily on its Op-Ed page.
I'd like to see the wine industry information publications embrace advocacy too. I think by putting their power behind a principle, any number of respect wine publications could advance a conversation and even help lead to action. And I admit that these days, in nearly every realm of public policy and even wine policy, I tire of ritual inaction.
Still, publications like Wine Business Monthly, Wine Spectator, Wine & Spirits, Wines & Vines, The Wine Enthusiast, The Wine Advocate and Vinography, along with writers such as Eric Asimov, Bill Daley, Jon Bonne and others should, if they take up advocacy, do so in a careful and moderate way. They would need to pick their battles and remember that while many wine lovers like to be provoked by strong opinion and educated, they really just like wine and its culture. A little advocacy and opinion here and there will do.
But, the key to successful advocacy on the part of information providers is regularity. A single annual opinion piece on the value of the three tier system or the value of lower alcohol in wine or the benefits of cork won't do the job. Consistency is key.
A certain embrace of the Age of Advocacy by the wine publishers and the wine blogs would be a good thing. Blogs have already done this to a large degree, having been raised in the very Information Age that allowed this new robust Age of Advocacy. So, I'm not so worried about them. And I can understand the publishing houses and well-circulated magazines being very careful of being advocates lest they scare advertisers. But a squid on their cover from time to time certainly couldn't hurt.