In our line of work, we have one obligation above all others: our duty to our audience. (Be they readers, viewers, listeners…)
We have a responsibility to offer the very best and most disinterested advice we are capable of delivering, with clarity, integrity and probity.
Without the trust of our audience, we are nothing. We ask people to trust our judgement and experience, and the fact that we do what we do to the best of our ability and in the full awareness of our audience’s rightful expectation of decency and accountability.
In short, we take our responsibilities very seriously.
Is it as simple as that?
In a word: no. And it’s important to recognise and discuss this.
The fact is, in the world of wine commentary, there is no black and white, only shades of grey. This will remain the case unless all wine journalists have considerable personal wealth with which to fund the trips, tasting samples, meals and all the other expenses necessary to build the experience and awareness to do this job properly. And that is neither fair nor in the public interest.
Everything is a question of extent rather than outright principle. For example, some journalists baulk at the idea of accepting a wine trip funded by a single producer; however, a single wine bottle sent by the same producer to the same journalist is deemed acceptable. In essence, though, they represent the same thing: a service or product is provided to a journalist free of charge, in the hope of coverage or approbation.
Similarly, it’s almost impossible in the wine world not to become emotionally engaged to some extent – be it with wines, or other people who might work for wine producers or wine retailers. To have a friend in the industry could also be deemed a potential conflict of interest.
Another point to make is that a writer can only taste, experience and cover so much: it’s beyond the limits of human endeavour to taste every wine out there. This limited perception will inevitably skew our views – in wine, one can never be totally comprehensive, nor totally objective.
Of course, things in life are rarely black and white, and it’s quite normal and sensible to draw a line somewhere, make it clear and stick to that. This is an individual prerogative. The important thing is to get things out in the open.
So what’s our position on all of this?
The important thing in our view is to build a career on the basis of integrity and trustworthiness. Trust has to be earned over time. In our profession, that means constantly fulfilling an obligation to our readers above all and rejecting interests that do not serve that purpose.
That’s why we have worked tirelessly to build a reputation for decency and probity. At the same time, this does not mean trying to live in a squeaky-clean bubble in a misguided attempt to stay whiter than white. That is to miss the point of what we do.
We are extremely lucky to have the opportunity to experience the most amazing things – be they wines, meals, trips, meetings with VIPs…the list is potentially endless. Our readers expect and want us to report on these things.
Our aim is thus to experience as much of this amazing world of wine as possible, to learn from it and engage with it as profoundly as we can – to love it or hate it but always in a conscientious attempt to document it and hopefully understand it, while always evaluating and questioning it…
And then, when we sit down to write, or stand up to film, we are intensely aware of the obligation to exercise proper judgement and integrity in how we convey these judgements to our audience.
For example, we accept samples, trips and meals and we strive to build positive and appropriate professional relationships – but we will always try to balance these inevitably limited perspectives with a broader context of experience, and be as open as we can about potential conflicts of interest.
We acknowledge that there are limits to what we can do. All human judgement is fallible, subjective and limited. We simply try to be as good, open and honest about what we do as we can, while always striving for objectivity and working in the best interests of our audience.
If you’d like to comment on any of this, or ask us a question, please click on the following link to email us.
susie & peter