March 25, 2012

Beer scoops

A little over two years ago, right before I started doing the beer writer thing full time, I blogged about my first visit to Creekside Brewing in San Luis Obispo. It was a brewpub I'd been waiting to open for months, having regularly driven down Hwy 101 through Central California and happened to discover while pulling off the highway for a bite to eat. So when Half Pint & I were visiting friends nearby, we popped in for a bite and pint during its grand opening. I used to be better about writing up each new brewpub I hit; I blogged about visiting Creekside. As an aside to my thoughts on the beer and the food, I casually mentioned that the brewing system was behind NSA-mandated terrorist-proof glass, which, when you think about it, is ridiculous.

Jay Brooks evidently agreed and wrote about it on his infinitely more popular blog. So imagine my amusement when, a month later, Don "Joe Sixpack" Russell also covered it and credited me for being the "first (to) report" on it. I didn't think I "reported" on it. I thought I merely blogged it, shared my experience and observation. I've never considered myself a reporter. I never went to journalism school. But that's just semantics, so I guess I am. I did get a master's in writing if you can believe that. My thesis was on beer and the personal stories within the industry.

Anyway, the Creekside incident was the first time I recall breaking a beer story and the few other times I've done it since were mostly incidental. Being the first with a scoop in this day and age is highly unlikely. (You have to be the only one in the right place at the right time with the right person and then tweet like the wind.) Equally so in the beer world, what with the 1,000 or so beer blogs out there. Even just right here in Portland, OR, there are well over a dozen.

I love including myself in the community. I suppose for some there's an element of competitiveness in breaking a piece of news, but that's kinda silly given the poor odds. Personally, I don't distinguish between beer "writers" and "bloggers." There are huge benefits to both. One thing we all share is a love of beer and the industry. One of the things we love writing about are all the collaboration beers. Far be it for us to not bring that same sense of fraternity into the reporting side as we respect on the actual creation side.

All of this is to say, Adam Nason, whose BeerPulse is the most comprehensive site for disseminating brewery news from coast to coast, chimed in on the issue of breaking beer news and whether or not it's any particular writer/publisher's duty to rapidly be the first to report on an item or honor the request of a brewing concern to withhold it until given the thumb's-up. His post, it appears, was at least partially inspired a tweet of my own mentioning (OK, yes, "humblebragging" in good fun, self-aware that I'm not a traditional source for you-heard-it-here-first) that I'd learned the name of a brewery in Bend, OR heretofore known as Yet to Be Named Brewery. The name, as I'd hinted at by tweeting it was "central to their mission," is Crux. Hardly earth-shattering stuff, but inquiring beer minds wanted to know.

As Nason pointed out, I'd foolishly accepted the "embargo" on unveiling the name until I had the go-'head. Believing my column in Willy Week's Food & Drink blog would break the news later this week, Crux took it upon themselves to do so, and their release was quickly picked up by some of my friends in the beer writing realm. C'est la vie.

I agree with 99% of Nason's post about reporting--beer related or otherwise. He concludes by saying:
Your job, as a journalist, is to disseminate information to your audience. It is perfectly acceptable to be a little selfish, look out for your own interests and do everything it takes to report information first (and accurately).
What you report and whether you are first matters. A lot.
What you know and whether you know first matters very little.
On The Daily Show recently, Jon Stewart mocked CNN for humblebragging that they'd "bring you the results from (the contests in MS & AL) before anyone else," when in actuality their reporting coach turned into a giant pumpkin it arrived so late. Such a whole lot of fuss just to be first. I still think credibility matters most, but beyond that, do we turn to news sources to scoop other outlets by a matter of seconds or minutes, or do we read or tune in to sources that are merely local or in other ways germane to us? If I'm wrong in that belief, maybe that's why I'm really not a reporter.

Then again, stay tuned for a story "TK" that, according to the source who personally promised me the exclusive first-look at something that he guaranteed to be a "game changer" in the beer world...;-) Now I can't wait to find out who'll post the news before me.

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