Sunday, June 07, 2009

SOUND OFF: VINO VERITAS?

In his blog, "Dr. Vino," Tyler Colman recently revealed that writers for a well-known wine-industry newsletter, The Wine Advocate, had accepted paid trips to cover the industry. The newsletter's founder, Robert M. Parker Jr., has maintained the importance of paying his own way on such trips, The Wall Street Journal subsequently reported, but one of the writers racked up a $25,000 tab for travel, hotel and meals that was paid by Wine Australia.

Do such payments call into question a reporter's credibility, or do you think that an honest reporter can maintain his or her objectivity under such circumstances? Does it make a difference that Parker previously had stressed the importance of paying his own way to cover the industry?

Post your thoughts here by clicking on "comments" or "post a comment" below. Please include your name, hometown, and state, province, or country. Readers' comments may appear in an upcoming column. Or e-mail your comments to me at rightthing@nytimes.com.

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Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@nytimes.com or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.

c.2009 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)

2 comments:

Rob R. said...

This is a question that I struggle with a great deal as a travel writer. I certainly make an effort to pay my expenses whenever possible. The fact is, however, that there is simply no way I would be able to do my job without accepting free travel or accommodation from some of the places I am writing about — my paycheck for the story wouldn't begin to cover one tenth of the cost of an airline ticket.

Again, I don't like being placed in the position of accepting handouts from the people and companies I'm writing about. Yet the alternative would allow only independently wealthy people -- or people who are traveling for other reasons -- to become travel writers.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a problem with the writers accepting free travel accommodations and food from Wine Australia. Wine Australia, as far as I can see, is not an individual wine company, but rather a government corporation that "provides strategic support to the Australian wine sector". I presume the writers went to Australia to review the individual wine makers, and the wine industry as a whole perhaps. The group paying for their travel expenses just gave them a helping hand to bring more notice to the Australian wine industry. I am sure that the writers can form their own opinions on the individual wines they reviewed.

I agree with Rob R. People who write columns for travel, wine or food review do not earn nearly enough money to cover any travel expenses. If you want them to be able to go places and give you reviews it has to be paid somehow, and sadly most people are not even willing to buy the magazines or newspapers to help pay!

If you don't want the writers to get handouts from the industry they are reviewing then you need to find another way to pay their way. If not then you will be left with "free" reviews from on line people who may really have an agenda to promote their company!

Just my two cents worth.

Penney

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