The People vs. blogTO vs. The Only: On the nature of beer blogging


Earlier today, blogTO, the place where my weekly beer-related posts find their home, posted an article about The Only Cafe, noting that “the Danforth could be about to get its first big swig of micro-brewed ale if The Only Cafe’s latest expansion plans come to fruition.”

Shortly thereafter, a few beer bloggers responded on twitter, upset at the speculative language in the article–you’ll note that the article’s writer Chris Bateman sticks to “coulds” and “mights” and notes that nothing is set in stone because well, nothing is set in stone. They were also upset that blogTO appears to have broken the story before The Only was ready to go public with the news.

Now before I get into it, I want to note a few things: First, I didn’t write this article, I had no knowledge of it, and only found out about The Only’s plans when I read this article myself. (I actually wrote another fan-fucking-tastic article about the Junction for blogTO today that largely seems to have gone unnoticed–but I’m not bitter).

Second, I like all the parties here. Chris Bateman, staff writer for blogTO writes good stuff, and I likewise read and would gladly drink with both Greg Clow of Canadian Beer News and Chris Schryer, of, the most vocal in the twitter “battle” that ensued. I also like Derek Flack, the blogTO editor who confirmed to me that he was at the helm of the twitter account during the tiny melee (and for anyone upset that Derek got snarky, I’d ask what you’d expect of blogTO on twitter? That’s like snark on snark. And that’s to say nothing of his knowledge of what a healthy twitter conversation might do for blogTO traffic).

Having said all that, the mini-confrontation got me thinking about the nature of beer blogging and how this argument highlights two distinct approaches. On the one hand, you have blogTO, who are in the business of providing information to the public about Toronto culture, and on the other hand you have writers like Greg and Chris, who are beer bloggers that like, support, and write about our city’s beer scene.

For me, the fundamental difference was typified in this tweet from Chris Shryer.

chris tweet

The commentary about the journalistic integrity of running a story based on one source aside, this tweet sums up the whole argument. Chris, and other well-meaning beer bloggers like him, is in the business of supporting the city’s beer scene. Beer bloggers largely want to boost and support the hard-working folks bringing us our delicious supplies of craft beer. The Only, always an amazing craft beer spot guided by the awesome Fabian Skidmore, in their point of view, should have the option of releasing their plans when it’s strategically best for them to do so.

I understand why Greg, Chris, et. al. feel that way.

Now that the news is public, there is a potential for more hurdles for Fabian and The Only. More vocal news means NIMBYist neighbours have more time to get pissy and fight potential expansion, the cost of acquiring neighbouring space might go up as sellers realize The Only’s intentions–there are myriad reasons that a “leaked” story might make things harder for The Only.

But here’s the thing: BlogTO isn’t in the business of helping The Only. It’s not in their mandate to support local businesses at all. In fact, they have a “deadpool” that happily reports when local businesses fail. BlogTO is a website about Toronto that is quite literally in the business of getting stories out there that people will read. That’s all.

Having said that, I hope it’s clear that no one here is “wrong.” Beer bloggers are right to be upset because they want to protect the kickass entity that is The Only, so god bless them for getting their backs up!

BlogTO is right for getting a tip about a story, contacting the organization in question for follow-up, and getting the story online as soon as they can (with all due attention to the speculative nature of the information). So good on them for generating hits today (and following it up with an engaging, albeit abrasive, twitter conversation).

The real question is where should “real” beer blogging lie, philosophically?

Should the emphasis be in getting the story out there–friends, colleagues, and sources of free samples be damned?

Or should we remain loyal to those working hard to bring the beer we love to the city? I mean it’s tough enough out there for craft brewers without beer journalists trying to bring them down or expose their stories before they’re ready.

Personally, I try to walk some sort of middle ground. Like Chris and Greg, I’m fiercly supportive of local brewers, but I would hope that wouldn’t get in the way of telling a good story where I see one. I’m currently waiting on confirmation of some big news from a local brewer, but you can believe that’s it’s burning me up to wait, hoping I don’t get “scooped.”

What do you think and which do you prefer to read? Should beer bloggers first think of their readers, or the industry they love?

2 thoughts on “The People vs. blogTO vs. The Only: On the nature of beer blogging

  1. In general, one should not abuse any information that is given to them in confidence. As someone who is interested in beer, you are often told things by brewers, barkeeps, organizers et al that is not meant to be shared for a variety of reasons. Many of which you have outlined above.

    It’s equivalent to mentioning a pregnancy before the first trimester is done. Sure, it’s good news but if things go wrong, they go REALLY wrong. Until a business proposition is a done deal, I don’t think they should be mentioned unless in some veiled words.

    My loyalty would generally be to my source. Before saying anything, I would ask more source if it was okay to share this information. Someone let the cat out and hopefully it doesn’t negatively impact the Only Cafe.

  2. Ben,
    Thanks for posting this, and giving a good space to explore this in greater volumes than 140 characters. I didn’t fancy getting into a troll-war on BlogTO directly, trying to address concerns with people who might care.

    So, here’s the thing, I agree that BlogTO is a news source, and therefore is held to a different standard than a blogger. And I don’t doubt they have a source for this story. But I just can’t see why they would post it today. A theoretically speculative story (even if their source is totally accurate, it’s nowhere near a done deal) about a beer bar hardly seems worth the potential fallout. The only gain is claiming “first”, which is petty and childish beyond belief. In addition, they now have a handful of people who actually do have influence within the beer scene (and while I’m one, I’m far from the most important), who will seriously question giving stories to BlogTO, because they have potentially seriously screwed one of our friends.

    Add to that the reaction from them on Twitter today, and I’m just shocked. I realize that news editors might not understand the insanity that is rezoning and license changes in our city (though I was kind of hoping BlogTO might have been an exception here) once it was pointed out to them that their article could directly endanger the project they were reporting on, a simple “oops, we fucked up and are sorry” would have been easy and spared them a heap of heartache.

    I don’t even know if Fabian cares because I haven’t bothered to ask him yet. It’s just a matter of good taste: running this story when the bar refused to confirm it was a dick move, that really didn’t serve any greater good.

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