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In tabloid speak we need to strike while the iron's hot and make hay while the sun shines. Dominic Roskrow looks at how whisky is enjoying life as a media darling

News | 07 Apr 2004 | Issue 38 | By Dominic Roskrow

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Once upon a time a journalist on a regional afternoon newspaper would start his or her day by arriving at the office at dawn and calling the emergency services for a list of road accidents, fires and crimes. That list would form the basis of the news for the day’s paper.Those days have long gone. Satellite television and the abundance of news programmes have meant that such coverage is hopelessly
out of date by the time a paper hits the streets.‘Ambulance chasing’ has been replaced by a steady stream of consumer-focused or celebrity gossip stories, preferably ones that are the showbiz equivalent of a road traffic accident. So if a politician argues that suicide bombers have a point, or there’s a whiff of an organisation ripping off Joe Public, the daily newspaper journalist goes to work with alacrity.Such a passion for trivia used to be confined to the ‘silly season’ – the times of the year when there was a shortage of stories berating
governments for lying about world events to justify wars. Now it’s common currency at any time – 24 seven, to use current parlance.All of which goes a long way to explaining why the Cardhu story became such a big issue outside the world of whisky.I don’t want to go back there again – if I never hear the ‘C’ word again it will still be too soon – but the fallout from that dispute has been to raise awareness of whisky, and particularly single malt whisky, to new and previously unscaled levels.Barely a week goes by these days without at least a couple of calls to the offices of Whisky Magazine from a British national newspaper
or the BBC. We get asked for advice, we are asked for comment, and we are invited to take part in all manner of debates. Whisky is news.Even as I write this I’m glancing at a picture of The Whisky Exchange’s Sukhinder Singh in the Independent’s business pages. And perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Having turned their spotlight on whisky, journalists from all backgrounds seem to have become fascinated by a world where history and heritage counts for so much.At a time when globalisation is all the rage and the decline of our traditional manufacturing base means that ‘jobs for life’ is an all but redundant concept, the media has latched on to a world that is awash with personalities, many of whom have cut their teeth for 40 years or more. A world with its emphasis on tradition, and in which locality is paramount.Wine might claim the same thing, but its world is far more elitist and is nowhere near as warm or embracing. Beer, too, but its scope is more limited. Whisky is unique. What other drink sits as comfortably in the grip of a heavy metal singer as it does the monarch of the United Kingdom? It seems to encapsulate all that we consider good about the old ways; a bastion from homogenisation and glibness.All this interest presents this magazine with a challenge and a potential dilemma. Is it possible to cater for the new inquisitive media-driven reader while providing a steady stream of informative stories for more informed Whisky Magazine readers?Just the other day I received a letter saying that we had no right to criticise Diageo’s marketing direction when we do the same thing by using blatant promotional tricks such as putting Sean Connery or Bill Murray on the cover.I would argue that these examples represent the very opposite. We have not changed the contents but are accused of ‘sexing up’ the cover. The equivalent would be to add stories about vodka and gin and put the same old distillery still picture on the cover.But while the wider world remains interested in whisky we will continue to try and produce a magazine that will pull them in. And that means we’ll continue to write about cocktails, style bars and personalities such as Dale DeGroff whilst maintaining coverage of distilleries, their whiskies and the people who make them or work with them.That’s the great thing about whisky: it can straddle the world of trendies and traditionalists just as much as it does the worlds of paupers and princes.That provides us with a great chance to bring new drinkers to whisky, and it would be madness not to take it. After all, isn’t that where the future’s coming from for all of us?Dominic Roskrow
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