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Whisky journalism ethics

General chat and talk about whisky.

Whisky journalism ethics

Postby MGillespie » Thu Dec 29, 2005 2:33 am

OK, gang...I'd like some guidance from you on this one...

While it was never something I'd anticipated when I started doing WhiskyCast, I'm starting to find boxes arriving at my door from PR folks interested in having me do something on their whiskies. I assume this kind of thing happens to more established whisky journalists on a regular basis, but I know of no established guidelines for handling this sort of thing.

I've been very clear all along that I will not "rate" whiskies, since I do not have the experience to do so, and have emphasized that no one pays for their products to be featured on the podcast -- and that will never change.

However, I have found myself in a dilemma the last few days after receiving a large box from a very well-known distiller. How should I disclose when I've received samples from a distiller and later decide to do a segment on that product based on the news value alone? What's more...how should I handle it when I post in this forum, especially in the "what did you drink last night" and "what are you drinking now" threads? I want to be honest with you if I've tried something, but I don't want to seem like a shill for a whisky or be seen as boasting.

For now, what I plan to do is disclose the fact that I've received a sample on the show if I do a segment on that whisky...unless I sample it at a public event like Whisky Live where it's generally available to anyone. I'll do the same here if that's OK with the majority.

I don't expect this to be a regular thing...but I value my reputation for ethical journalism and want to make sure I preserve it.

What do you think?

Mark
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Postby kallaskander » Thu Dec 29, 2005 8:53 am

Hi there,

Mark it seems you will have to wear at least two different hats in the future. If you post as Mark here, you are entitled to your own opinion as you always were and still are. This opinion could be influenced by the samples you receive if you do sample them. That too is alright and can not be helped. It is what new experiences always do.
As a journalist you fight harder to stay objective, to stay "not bought" if I understand your post correctly. Here is no really good rule of thumb. Treat all samples they send you equally "good" or equally "bad". No matter what you do, they will influence you. The only secure counter meassure would be to stay away from anything thrown at you. My advice for what is worth try the best you can not to be influenced. You will fail, of course but you will fail in style.

Trust us to be fairly resitant against attempts to push us somewhere.
Greetings
kallaskander
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Postby MGillespie » Thu Dec 29, 2005 3:41 pm

kallaskander wrote:
Trust us to be fairly resitant against attempts to push us somewhere.
Greetings
kallaskander


Thanks for the advice...I would expect nothing less!

Mark
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"Special Delivery"

Postby Wendy » Thu Dec 29, 2005 4:15 pm

Hi Mark:
My initial response is, “Don’t worry about it.” You have been quite upfront about your boundaries and the role of the whisky podcast and I doubt that this will remain unchanged. I don’t equate receiving samples as a bribe to nudge you one way or another; I think it is all about exposure and fair game. I have no reason to believe that you will lose your ability to fairly judge a purchased bottle vs a free bottle based on your personal likes or dislikes. It is also a calculated risk that the whisky distributors take everyday with the consumer. There are no guarantees that what is being delivered at your front door is a taste expression that you will enjoy, as well as, it is your choice to comment or not. My only suggestion is that if you feel overwhelmed by the deliveries, my address is… :wink:
Cheers,
Wendy
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Postby MGillespie » Thu Dec 29, 2005 4:41 pm

Thanks, Wendy!

Mark
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Postby toshie » Thu Dec 29, 2005 7:00 pm

Mark, the whiskies will come if the distillers respect your words; they will stop if they think you're a mere mouthpeice and don't need 'persuading' any more :wink:
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Postby comicmutt » Thu Dec 29, 2005 7:30 pm

Good words, Toshie and I totally agree.

Mark, I review graphic novels and comic books, and publishers regularly send books for review and the only thing I owe them is a fair and honest review of a book's strengths and weaknesses. On the few forums I visit, I honestly give my thoughts on books whether they were sent to me gratis or not. As long as you do that, you're doing a service to your readers and the companies who provide you with the product for review.

An additional note: you are WAY cooler than me. Free comics are great, but free whisky. Wow! :shock:
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Postby MGillespie » Thu Dec 29, 2005 7:47 pm

Thanks, guys...I appreciate it. I've read criticisms that have been posted about other journalists in the past, and just want to make sure I start off on the right foot...

Welcome, comicmutt...I grew up in Indianapolis...

Mark
Last edited by MGillespie on Fri Dec 30, 2005 10:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby jimidrammer » Thu Dec 29, 2005 8:45 pm

A small world, I was born and raised in Bluffton, a town just south of Fort Wayne, IN.

Mark, as for your predicament, I would'nt worry too much about it. To me it's not much different than a friend bringing by a bottle to try. Are we abliged to like it? As long as you're upfront and fair in your review I don't see a problem.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Dec 29, 2005 10:54 pm

I was a sportswriter for 25 years, during which I practically never bought a ticket to a sporting event, even during 4 years as an NFL 'beat writer'. No one expected anything from me but responsibility for what I wrote. And I got the same treatment -- free pressbox meals, telephone lines, stat service, et al -- whether at home or away; favoritism was never a question.
By all means, fully disclose your sources of whisk(e)y, including retail outlets where you buy it -- they'll appreciate the publicity -- but as long as you're not asked or made to feel obliged to offer a quid pro quo and you do not solicit the offers, don't worry about it.
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Postby MGillespie » Thu Dec 29, 2005 11:18 pm

Sounds good to me, Tim...

Mark
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Postby comicmutt » Thu Dec 29, 2005 11:26 pm

Mark, I just listened to your first six podcasts. You did a great job with these and I've subscribed to your feed now. I'm putting the others on my iPod so I can listen to them at the coffee shop. Thanks for doing these and I can see why you're being wooed with bottles of whisky.

Two Indiana people here, very cool. I live in Broad Ripple if you know where that is. We have some plans to move to Chicago or DC in the future though.
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Postby MGillespie » Fri Dec 30, 2005 1:19 am

Thanks! I know Broad Ripple very well...is the Bulldog Bar still open?

Mark
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Postby Admiral » Fri Dec 30, 2005 9:18 am

Sheesh!!!! I just saw on the other thread the goodies you've been sent....the DE range of the Classic Malts!!!????!??!?!?

Mate, you scored!! :D

Well done! Be sure to post your thoughts when you get around to tasting these!

Cheers,
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Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Dec 30, 2005 12:49 pm

I can see why you feel concerned Mark, but I wouldn't sweat it.
From the myriad views and comments posted on these boards it is clear that all are erudite, free thinkers well able to make their own judgements.

You are just one whose views contribute to the rich mix that make these boards such a joy to participate in. That you have worked yourself into a position to receive samples makes your contibution that much more informed. Nice one.

If you express your personal view, it is valid - end of. It matters not a jot where the sample comes from or the undlying reason for its provision. If the juice is good, it will stand up to scrutiny. If not it will ultimately fail, no matter how many sing it's praises.

So all power to you and do your stuff. If you like it, say so. If you don't - say so. I'll continue to consider your views as seriously as any other but will always make my own decision. :wink:
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Postby MGillespie » Fri Dec 30, 2005 1:07 pm

Thanks, guys...I appreciate the feedback. I've always tried to err on the side of full disclosure in my reporting, and I think things should be OK now. I just wanted to have this on the record in case it ever becomes an issue for someone.

And yes, Admiral...that was what was in the box...along with a few others on the list. I plan to open those tomorrow night for New Year's and will post some notes...

Mark
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Postby comicmutt » Fri Dec 30, 2005 1:17 pm

Thanks! I know Broad Ripple very well...is the Bulldog Bar still open?


The Bulldog is now called Moe & Johnny's, but a lot of people still call it the Bulldog. That's about 7 blocks south of where I live. I've walked it a few times. :wink:
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Postby MGillespie » Fri Dec 30, 2005 1:31 pm

And from 7 blocks away, you can probably hear it, too...

Mark
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Postby Lawrence » Fri Dec 30, 2005 5:43 pm

Well I think it shows where your heart lies simply by the fact that you've asked us the question. I also think it's two different issues entirly if you post on "what did you drink last night" and what you officially publish on you casts. Either way I don't think it's too much of an issue.
Last edited by Lawrence on Fri Dec 30, 2005 11:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby MGillespie » Fri Dec 30, 2005 10:16 pm

Thanks, Lawrence!

Mark
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Postby bernstein » Fri Dec 30, 2005 10:28 pm

Hi Mark,
I wouldn't bother too much either - on the contrary, sounds like you've been promoted to some sort of secret order here, Sir Mark!
And those marketing guys at Diageo's show at least some notion about where true quality can be found. :wink:
Happy New Year!
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Postby MGillespie » Fri Dec 30, 2005 10:44 pm

Thanks, Bernie...but I wouldn't go that far...

Happy New Year, all!

Mark
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Postby Jeroen Kloppenburg » Sat Dec 31, 2005 10:29 am

Hey they havent sent me such a box! I feel left out! Haha!

In all seriousness though, I never had a feeling they were expecting somehting back from me. On the contrary even.

I too receive samples, or sometimes even bottle(s). The tatsing notes section is very popular on my site, and producers like to see their (new) products presented there. When I receive something I occasionally even sent it to one of my regular contributors for them to write a tasting note off. That way its in the hand of a third party even.

PS, when I sent samples away to third people, I do try to think of their preferences, and sent samples to those people who I'm pretty sure of that they will like this particulair expression. Not to favour the producers, but becuase this is my way to say thanks for the contributions to the database.

Also, I have noticed that I only receive the really nice stuff. I guess that's their way to prevent tatsing notes that are less beneficial to them to enter the database...

But I never had the feeling they expect for me to favour them when writing a tatsing note or anything else. BTW, when visitting distilleries and so for the virtual reality section for example, dont forget you're giving them an excellent free 'advertising'. When you make mention of their products in your podcast, your giving them free advertising as well. If they give you soemthing in return for it to enjoy, while keeping your indepence in high regard, I do not see anyting wrong with that. Our hobbies (podcast for you, site for me) in general are beneficial to the whisky industry.

In fact, its part of the fun, for me at least :) I get to taste stuff I would never be able to buy this way!
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Postby MGillespie » Sat Dec 31, 2005 4:41 pm

That's the way I'm looking at it...everything we do, and by we I mean all of us on this forum, helps promote whisky, and that can only help the industry. If we talk about whisky to our friends and encourage them to try it, that's a good thing. I would hate to see any more distilleries mothballed or closed because of decreasing consumption.

Mark
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