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.
Gotta watch out for those gay squids. Next thing you know, they’ll be demanding to get married!
Ok, Tom, I agree in general with your premise, but once more I think you inflate this so-called information age of ours.
From the pamphlets of the framers to the Yellow Journalism of the rest of our newspaper history, the modus operandi has been advocacy–with some news thrown in for good measure. (“Fair and balanced” is just a phrase to give lip service to objectivity.)
In my view, what goes wrong with advocacy publishing is when opinions are presented as if they were facts and facts are presented only when they support the opinions. This nonsense is all over our marvelous information age device. ;
Both comments are correct. (But Steve’s is much more fun!) (Sorry, Thomas.)
“Fair and balanced” has always been the silliest stance for any journalistic medium to take. Whoever owns that medium is also pushing for his/her position to be advocated — either openly or veiled — but it’s always apparent what the position taken is from newspaper to the airwaves.
Blogs are even more transparent: The owner/writer extols his/her own views. Can we assume then, Tom, that another recitation of the onerous 3-Tier System is around the corner?
I think you inflate this so-called information age of ours… if they were facts and facts are presented only when they support the opinions.
Tom, you need a spam filter.
But then how would we know about “Web Design Company Landon”?
The crucial thing is to separate personally-held opinion (which can include advocacy) from drum beating on behalf of vested interests – commercial, political or religious.
Writing from Britain, we are still thankfully a lot less partisan than the US seems to be. We have no television with the narrow single-focused tone of the Fox network and during the preparations for the Iraq war, Tony Blair acknowledged that there were two sides of the argument and that it was acceptable to question the government’s decision to go to war. We had no UK equivalent of the charges of “un-American” attitudes that we heard from your side of the pond.
None of which is to say that life here in Britain but I’d say that we rather like our middle-of-the-road. We have no serious left wing politicians (at least not by our standards – for some in the US our right-wingers are Communists) and no significant voices on the right. When a politician here said that we have no room for a tea party, there was no dissent to be heard.
Robert, your words make me want to move to England, and now that Murdoch has been put in his place…oh, right, you don’t have those kinds of problems over there.
In fact, Britain’s historical histrionics are the basis for many American institutions.
You need to get real, my man 😉
Interesting article for the daily wine blog. Enjoyed reading it.
Thomas – in the spirit of non-partisanship – I’d have to say that you have a point. Life in the UK is far from perfect, though I’m not sure what a scandal about the phone hacking activities of a company belonging to an American media tycoon has to do with this discussion. The hacking was a symptom of our regrettable levels of prurience – just as the uproar over the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” revealed some pretty strange hangups in the US.
My point was – and remains – that from the outside, the US does seem to be a much more partisan place than many others.
Your comment that “Britain’s historical histrionics are the basis for many American institutions” is great rhetoric. I’d love to know what it refers to.
Advocacy is great, as long as those doing the advocating make their intentions clear. I often can’t stand reading The Economist, but I keep going back to it because it does not put out a lot of guff about being “fair and balanced.” Few things in journalism are more irritating, not to mention fundamentally dishonest, than advocates who disguise themselves as disinterested parties.