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February 23, 2005

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» Ethics in Wine Blogging from Vivi's Wine Journal
There has been a couple of thought patterns being transmitted out in the wine blogosphere about the ethics of 'schwag' or 'media samples' and what it means to review these in publications. [Read More]

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Thanks for the link.

I remember when you and I discussed this a while back. I disapprove of samples for larger reasons than simple ethics, though I recognize that a publication without a large budget relies on these to inform readers who _do_ have larger budgets.

And yeah, bloggers get schwag but so do lots of journalists. Marketing to journalists, even if they write for themsleves, is nothing new. Can we hold MSM folks to the same criteria?

I think wine mags should also be sure to highlight which wines are made by advertisers. But samples would be a start.

An excellent idea. Although I rely on attending trade tastings more than receiving samples (even though these tastings are not the best place to sample wines in my opinion) for my scribbles I do receive samples. I shall try and remember to use a * as Lenn has.

A blog standard in the making?

You're joking right? This is common practice everywhere (as Derrick points out above).

No it shouldn't be a standard unless they actually PAY you. Samples are how PR works. You submit them at your own risk and you have no recourse if someone slams your sample in public - thats the difference between paid ads and word of mouth. When you need customer testimony submit samples.

Joel and Tom,

I agree with you. But, as someone that is relatively new to the journalism/press world...I guess I don't know all that much about this topic. I know that my integrity is extremely important to me (let's hope it stays that way haha) and that I would NEVER let samples or schwag influence my reviews. I've written plenty of less-than-complementary reviews already...

Maybe we can get Derrick to expound a bit on his thoughts...

Just noticed this discussion. The price of reading sites through RSS feeds, I guess.

As Lenn says, I think full disclosure is key. Sure, the wine mags don't do this, but why do we need to assume they're doing things the best way? We can hold ourselves to a higher standard. After all, most of us are probably suspicious of high reviews for wines that advertise in the mag in question. Actually, from personal experience, I don't know if it's that blatant. I imagine low scores don't get published, but I think the advertising thing dictates who gets mentioned in an article. I've definitely had an editor ask if I could work a particular vendor into an article (I couldn't, and said so).

My feelings about samples are larger. I feel like a magazine that takes samples can't accurately report on wine for the average consumer. It's all well and good to rate a private reserve limited bottling, but it doesn't help the mainstream consumer. Also, it's easy to say a wine's a good value if you don't have to buy it. Even if you can say you'd pay $30 for a bottle, that's different than _actually_ paying that out of your pocket. I feel that this has actually contributed to high wine prices for the consumer. Imagine if Robert Parker bought all his samples and had a fixed budget for this; I'll bet lots of people would price their wines a lot more attractively to get into his tasting.

But as I said to Lenn before, if a magazine allows me to take samples, I'm not usually being paid enough to take the high moral ground on my dime. So I take the samples, and do my best to rate them fairly (which always means away from the winery).

Nope, nothing wrong with an asterisk. There is a cannon of ethics in journalism and the assumption is that unless its a paid ad or commercial, its not influenced. But lets go a step beyond that - NO blogger should feel ANY pressure to give a good review because of a free sample/bottle/tasting. I was interpreting Lenn's post as him feeling pressure to make a good review of the wine.

There have been assertions that Wine Spectator tips its hand to wines from companies that pay for advertising heavily. WS denies this of course. But when you support your publication through advertising the only thing you can do is claim to separate the reviewers from the sales people. They don't put an asterisk next to a reviewed wine saying "XYZ is a sponsor of WS magazine".

But that is a whole different level of influence. We're talking thousands (maybe millions) of advertising dollars. It pretty easy to suspect a level of impropriety there. A sample is a different stratosphere .

Put an asterisk if you like, but the best way to protect yourself and your reputation is to be consistently honest. The definition of integrity is what you do when no one is looking.

Sorry. ^^^^ Thats from me...

Joel

While I wouldn't say I felt "pressure"...I did wonder if it wasn't something I should have been doing all along.

Glad that a few people have emailed me telling me that if I'm always honest and can sleep at night...there's no need.

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