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 TorontoBeerBlog.com, 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.
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?