14 Aug 2009 @ 11:33 AM 

I don’t believe I’m doing this.

Over the past year or so this topic has popped up from time to time – the topic of beer blogging and why it’s killing craft beer.

Okay, that’s hyperbole.

But in all seriousness, it rears its head occasionally – usually from an established writer who appears to be maybe a little bitter about blogs cutting into their area of expertise. I heard it at the Craft Brewers Conference from established writers. I’ve seen it pop up on wine blogs and in little articles here and there. The latest is from George Lenker at MassLive.com. I kind of wish he could have written his entire article in one go, but you don’t want blog posts to be too long (I should follow my own advice).
Wow.. this is meta.
This is not a response to George – who is an excellent writer, I might add – or anybody in specific, but a response to the topic in general.

The basic gist of most of these seem to be something along the lines of this: “Far be it from me to tell people that they shouldn’t write, but they really shouldn’t write.” and “They’re hurting the industry by not being professional.”

I understand. I do. You’ve got somebody who has been busting their ass their entire life to write. Writing is their bread and butter and they take pride in every word produced. They work night and day to get published and seen and known. It’s hard work. And then? Any jackass with access to the internet and WordPress can just pop up and decide to just blather on about the same topic. Grammar is not considered, audience is not considered, quality, even, is not considered, they’re just writing for – god knows whatever reason – because they love the topic? Pah! Half the time all they do is bitch and moan!

So, partly I see these articles and mutterings and the whole general opinion as part self-preservation, a sort of justification of why what they’re doing is important, and part turf protection.

I’m probably going to get myself listed in the column of “unbalanced and even incendiary writing” by going on from this point, but I think that that point of view is unbalanced and possibly even incendiary.

Here we go.

Blogging is (for the most part) not journalism. Journalism is well-researched, well-constructed, well-edited, informative and generally more lengthy than your average blog post.

Beer bloggers, sorry. It’s true. Blogging (including me!) is almost always op-ed. That is NOT to say that it’s not well-researched, well-constructed, well-edited, and informative.

Journalists, take note: What bloggers do and what you do is vastly different, and if you can’t see that line then I’m afraid you are going to continue to fruitlessly struggle against new media.

The way I see it, there are three types of bloggers:

1) Bloggers who are using their blog for an online diary and to keep in touch with their friends.
2) Bloggers who blog because they love a topic.
3) Bloggers who blog because they are trying to become professionally involved with a topic.

We can pretty much safely dispense with #1 for this conversation. These people are essentially blogging in the place of social media and they pose no threat to any sort of industry whatsoever.

#2 are where I’m assuming most of the incendiary and unbalanced writing is supposedly happening. #3 is probably the real threat. There is a problem where #2 and #3 are not easily differentiated from one another. Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell intention. To be fair, sometimes, #2’s don’t even know that they’re actually #3’s.

Journalists shouldn’t have to worry about #2, either. These are not your competitors, they are enthusiasts. They are fans. They want beer to succeed. Don’t pooh-pooh them. Support them. Write more, they’ll read it. They want it! What’s more – read their stuff – they’re the voice of the enthusiastic consumer. They are the forerunners of market trends. It’s good stuff. There may be misspellings, grammar errors, or whatever, but it’s good information and it’s excellent enthusiasm. As with anything that people are passionate about, you are occasionally going to get somebody who is wound up (hi – that’s me today) who just cranks out some angry stuff. So who cares? It’ll even itself out and go away in time. If anything, it’s making journalism look better, because journalists have the benefit of having an editor.

Since I consider myself part of #3, I’m going to speak from that perspective and give you a little rundown of my motives and feelings and hope that that speaks for all of the other #3’s out there.

I love writing and I love craft beer. I want in on this industry. It was the entire reason that I, with the urging of my very supportive friends, started a blog. Because exposure is important and, come hell or high water, I’m going to carve myself a niche. I do not get paid to write this stuff. In fact, I pay to do this. I have to pay for web space and hosting. If something goes wrong with the site I have to fix it. I don’t have an editor. I have a lovely wife who (thank god) is getting her Ph.D. in English and every time I post I say “Sweetie, please sweetie, I love you, can you fix my post if I sound like an idiot?” I don’t even have extra time put aside for this. I work 40+ hours/week doing something completely unrelated to beer OR writing. I’m busy until 9:30 – 10:00 on most nights, and I’m still doing my best to crank out 2-3 articles/week.

We #3’s are doing this because we want to be like you journalists and this is our way of cutting our teeth. We probably have other jobs and financial obligations that are stopping us from freelancing full-time. Would I love to write full time for a magazine? Hell’s yes. Good GOD, yes. But that’s going to require a lot of time – and a lot more published articles than I currently have on my CV – and in the meantime, in order to keep myself writing and in order to keep myself sharp, I’m blogging. It’s an outlet for ideas and for words.

When you, you established journalist, tell me that blogging is bad for writing, or bad for the industry, or bad for me, it makes me defensive. Because it’s wrong. It tells me that you’re not reading a lot of blogs, you’re just indignant about it in a “Those crazy kids are all over The Google these days! I can’t understand a word of it!” You’ve probably read a few, and maybe you don’t like them, and you’re responding. (Yes, I know. Pot, this is kettle. Hi. Black, are we?)

But you know what? There’s a lot of quality stuff out there, dammit, and I write some of it. Is some of it trash and throwaway? Sure. I bet you write some of those, too. The difference is that you get paid for your throwaway articles. I’m just doing it because sometimes I need a Monday spot and I was really busy on the weekend. And – hey – read the AP feed for an afternoon and tell me that every article that you see is quality writing.

Finally – I read a lot of beer blogs. More than 75% of the time, beer blogs focus on beer reviews. They are usually informative and well-thought-out and (this is important) op-ed. For the most part, they attempt to be fair about the beer involved. 95% of the time, you get fanboy/fangirl praise from bloggers to breweries. I don’t think people really want to be critical, but I do think that the internet is filled with snark. Even when they point out flaws, they generally also point out good things. If there’s incendiary blogging going on out there, I haven’t seen it. I can only assume that it’s me, because all of these other bloggers appear to be nice people.

So opens the comments section. I’m ready. I think. Out with it! Flame on!

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Categories: blog, media, op-ed
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 14 Aug 2009 @ 11 35 AM

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