I recently attended the Beer Bloggers Conference in San Diego and went to a panel on “Free Beer and Other Quandaries for Beer Writing Ethics.” Beer writing ethics are important to me, but I have a feeling some of you may not care. However, I still wanted to write this post to let all of my readers know exactly where I stand on these issues.
A big portion of what the panel focused on was dealing with freebies: samples, gifts, free or reduced tickets to events, etc… One point that came up early on was that readers assume writers get things for free. I do my best to avoid assumptions anywhere as they can often lead to trouble. When I first got offered a few bottles of beer from a brewery and decided to do a review on them I decided to be clear about the situation. If you’ve read the blog for a while you’ve no doubt seen my full disclosure statement, if not it’s below.
Anytime I discuss items or events that have been comped I promise to include that. I also do my best to slip a mention of the situation somewhere toward the beginning of the post. If it’s not there you can know I paid for all of it out of my own pocket. I do this in an effort to be authentic. But what does that really mean?
This question of what authenticity is was brought up but never answered as the conversation drifted away. Somewhat hilariously different sites online, including Google itself, define authenticity as “the quality of being authentic” which is unhelpful here. Luckily Merriam-Webster defines it as “real or genuine,” “not copied or false,” “true and accurate.” The last bit is what I think of when I think authentic; being true to yourself and what you’re trying to do. I do my best to be as authentic and true to myself as possible on this blog. That’s what I feel I owe to myself and to all of you. I think it will help you establish faith in me and make you consistent readers who will tell your friends to check out the blog.
This is where things got really fun. The panel talked about how much cheer-leading goes on in beer blogging. Writers unwilling to say anything negative about a beer or a brewery regardless of its quality. They also said that there exists an opposite end to that spectrum where some blogs only complain about beer or breweries and never say anything positive. As the discussion got rolling the outcome among the crowd was that writers need to be willing to fairly criticize a brewery, highlight positives, and stand by what they say.
Over the net of all posts written on this blog, the majority are not negatively critical. I do my best to be authentic and say what I truly think about things. I generally feel compelled to write about things that I really like or really excite me. This is no conscious decision on my part of trying to create a positive, upbeat blog it’s just human nature. Would you rather talk/read/write about a great experience or a mediocre one? I don’t say a “great experience, a mediocre one, or a horrible one” because the truth is that there are few horrible beers or bad breweries. The few times I’ve encountered bad beer and breweries I’ve been straight about it.
Anyway, take all of that as you will. I just wanted my readers to understand where I stand on freebies, authenticity, and criticism. Feel free to leave comments below on what you think of the above and if you think I should rethink anything. I’m always open for suggestions that could lead to improvement.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I paid a reduced admission to the Beer Bloggers Conference with the stipulation that I write at least two posts about the conference, this is one of them. To our readers, and any companies interested in sending me stuff, giving me free stuff impacts the review in only 2 ways. That I WILL review it and that and I WILL write a blog post about it. Giving me free stuff does not guarantee you a favorable review or that I will tell everyone to go buy it.