A recent "put down" post on another blog from a professional beer writer to a beer blogger set me thinking. I wonder sometimes if those who make a living from beer writing are predisposed ever so slightly, to frown upon us amateurs and have a less than well developed appreciation that blogging is not the same as a well researched and paid for article. I remarked on the "pro" versus amateur distinction here in February, when a different "pro" got into trouble in a similar way. Two instances such in as many months indicate a tension, a dynamic, an uneasy co-existence or, at least to this blogger, a subject to air!
Bloggers usually speak their minds as they choose, pick their own subjects and feel free to give reign to their own thoughts, prejudices and idiosyncrasies. The blog is personal to the blogger - it's what makes blogging what it is and what makes it fun to do. Of course there is serious content and discussion as well as a lot of knowledge, experience and passion. Bloggers get it wrong from time to time too, either in tone, nuance, grammar or fact, but the blog is essentially a pub discussion written down for others to read or ignore, to join in or not. It is not a "paid for piece" and therefore is not subject to professional standards - not that exchanging of money of itself guarantees quality.
So why does a professional beer writer blog? Hopefully they just enjoy it, want to belong and will take the rough with the smooth in this knockabout medium which is the blogoshere. On the other hand, is it because it is a form of media they feel comfortable with or one they feel they must be in on? Why does a professional writer give away his words for free? Are they written for a CV or for the potential attraction of commissions? Is it a bus they better not miss or, maybe like the rest of us, they just want to write, paid or not? Do professional writers feel ever so slightly that bloggers are taking their ground, stepping on their toes and using up their potential material? Is blogging a threat to the professional?
Professional beer writing in the UK, has a restricted audience in the sense that there are few outlets for it and is often commissioned by a magazine or newspaper that probably has no real understanding of the subject and anyway wants it light and fluffy. Serious beer writing in the national press is an endangered species (if it ever was a species at all) and sadly we in the UK lack a specialist beer press to give other opportunity. Perhaps the blog is just a valid outlet for thoughts that don't or can't attract a commission? If so, why not?
Going back to offending, I think we are all guilty of giving out unintentional offence, though amateur that I am, when I offend, I have usually meant to! That may not be an honourable position, if you read Hazlitt, but isn't all writing a personal vanity? In that sense at least, pros and amateurs are as one.
“No man lives without jostling and being jostled; in all ways he has to elbow himself through the world, giving and receiving offence.” Thomas Caryle - a Scot of course!
“An honest man speaks the truth, though it may give offence; a vain man, in order that it may”. William Hazlitt
* I thank Stonch for this term which seems to fit nicely.
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