At 61, my dad is back in law school and his very first course is Ethics. First—props, dad, that is super cool. Second, I found it fitting that Ethics was on the agenda. It’s something most of us need to re-visit once in a while, and most recently I’ve been questioning the ethics of wine writing.
There are lots of perks to this job. Wine samples, press lunches, dinners, and yes, press trips. To you this may sound like free wine, free food, and free travel, but ask my husband and he’ll tell you how annoying the notepad is while we’re having dinner, and don’t even get him started on press trips. At the beginning of my career he thought I was just gallivanting across the globe, until he decided to tag along on one of these trips. He quickly saw how intense the travel is, often on and off planes a couple of times in one day, treacherous road trips that would have even a steel gut rumbling, and the endless meetings that often begin at 7 a.m. and don’t have you in bed until well after 2 a.m. In between, we’re documenting our research, keeping our endless tasting notes organized, and coming up with creative ways to teach you about what we’re doing. While the experiences are amazing, at the end of the day it is still a job.
Recently, I was invited on a press trip BUT…I was asked to guarantee the placement of an article about the company before joining the trip? HUH? Who can write about something they haven’t yet experienced? I know it is super hard in our ever-tightening economy to turn down work, but is it really worth the money if it makes you feel so cheap?
Turn on the news. Look at Haiti. Every major network has reporters in place to give us first-hand accounts of what’s happening. They didn’t report on the earthquake before it happened. That’s not the job of a journalist. As a food and wine writer it’s our responsibility to share great finds, bargains, and the inside scoop on great places to visit with wine, and wine lists that rock. Most people laugh and say, “Tough job you’ve got”. That’s precisely why those who are so lucky to have it shouldn’t ruin it for the rest of us. The quickest way to lose your status as a journalist is to let yourself be bought.
Remember quid pro quo is unethical and if you don’t get that Google it, and while you’re at it, search Karma too.
Here is a great wine and they didn’t pay me a dime to mention them. They deserve it.
Thelema, Cabernet Sauvignon, South Africa, $40
The first sip is impressive like a strong handshake, and followed up by an alluring nose of tobacco and ripe blackberries. This wine is smooth, stylish, and will age gracefully.