Monday, 19 November 2012

The death of the wine writer?

Last Friday, I wrote a news piece on based on wine writer Andrew Jefford’s comments from the European Wine Bloggers Conference in Izmir, Turkey, earlier this month, where he hailed the wine writer to be “dead” in a keynote speech. The piece attracted a lot of attention and debate, so I thought it was worth featuring here on my blog. Interestingly, I am an example that goes against Jefford’s argument, as I make my living as a full-time wine writer.
I appreciate that I am hugely lucky and in a minority, but there are still a few of us out there, and the traditional media of newspapers, magazines and books is far from dead, but rather being forced to adapt to our techno-focused times. There will always be room for talented writers in all fields – you just need to work incredibly hard and network your butt off in order to succeed in today’s ever-competitive publishing industry. What do you think – is the wine writer dead?
Here’s the Jefford story I ran: Award winning wine writer Andrew Jefford has hailed the wine writer to be “dead”. During an address at the European Wine Bloggers Conference in Izmir, Turkey, last week, Jefford said: “The fact that this conference exists is proof that the old wine writing world has disappeared. The creature which we used to call ‘a wine writer’ has died.” Jefford revealed in his speech that print articles represent under 40% of his income, a percentage that is falling every year, describing it as “the least remunerative of the things I do.”
He suggested the word “communicator” as a better descriptor of today’s wine professionals. “There are no more livings to be made exclusively in the old way. The wine world probably doesn’t need more writers,” he admitted, though said there was still a need for “multi-tasking communicators”. He also warned against those seeking to become “generalist” wine writers. “Can anyone hope to be a generalist in a wine world which, like the universe, is expanding rapidly in every direction?,” he asked.
With the rise of the internet, Jefford believes the “old gatekeepers”: newspapers, magazines and publishing houses, are becoming less important as an arena for wine writing. “Those who can generate income without recourse to the old gatekeepers will be creating the most durable and profitable model for wine writing in the future,” he said.
Finally, he made a plea for more humour and irreverence in today’s wine writing. “There is an urgent vacancy for humorous, witty, caustic writing about wine powered by gonzo irreverence. The vast majority of wine drinkers take it for granted that wine is inseparable from hilarity. Almost all of us take it too seriously, too earnestly, too reverently,” he said, urging wine bloggers to  “let rip”. 

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