Prostitutes and Storytellers

Let's make a deal.....

There are two wake-up calls awaiting wine and food publications once the Press Ombudsman’s revised Press Code comes into effect. The one concerning freebies ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ accepting and dishing out ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ has been discussed. The other one deals with the advertising issue.

What? Advertisements becoming illegal? No. However, the relationship between editorial content and commercial interests in the media,will be more closely monitored, and it is high bloody time.

Let me illustrate: certain publications in the game of wine and food writing seem to be unaware that Editorial and Advertising are two different disciplines. The former is the “story”, the copy written about the topic with which the publication aims to inform and entertain readers, readers being those people purchasing the publication.

The Advertisements are those colourful chunks of space with slogans enthusing the merits of a specific product in the hope that those people who bought the publication for information and entertainment may just spot the advertisement and purchase the product.

Of course, most people are not idiots and realise the need for advertisements. They supply the cash that keeps the magazine going.

The problem is when the border between Advertisements and Editorial is not clearly recognised by the publication. This occurs when wineries, hotels or restaurants are given the message by a publication that they will only be reviewed, visited, scrutinised for editorial coverage if the relevant business also places an advertisement.

Can this be? Yes, indeed.

Upon issuing a media release to certain publications one is told that it won’t be looked as the winery or hotel “has not advertised with us”. Forget about the fact that this media release might contain information interesting and relevant to the readers who purchase the publication, an act they engage in to read copy more than look at advertisements.

There is another tactic. This comes into play when advertising representatives hustle for advertisements. “Place and advertisement with us, and I’ll make sure you get some free editorial, hey.” In this situation one can place an advertisement of a toothbrush holder, and ensure that your product gets extra unpaid for editorial space, boring the hell out of the reader, but keeping the bean counters happy.

Having been privy to the new Press Code, these kind of practices will be a thing of the past. As it should be: editorial is editorial and advertising is advertising. As far as I’m concerned, employees in these different disciplines shouldn’t even share the same staff bathroom.

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11 thoughts on “Prostitutes and Storytellers

  1. It is about time and long overdue.

    I sent in wine for tasting with the desire to participate in one of the big food and beverage extravagant events in Carmel.

    Was told by the organization who decided on the wineries who were there, “I would have to pay to play” by taking out an expensive advertisement in the magazine who helped sponsor the event.

    I wasn’t asked. They decided on deeper pockets.

    That being the case, why was my wine requested when they did not tell me the rules of the game?

    Obviously, a great way to amass some great wine for free.

  2. Freebies are the worst. I used to work for one of the big corporates and the way “journalists” like Andrew Marais, Andre Rossouw and Melvyn Minnaar would hassle us for excessive free samples and wine for parties and functions was very irritating and unethical. You are, however, living in a dream world if you think any Press Code is going to change this.

  3. Just say NO!!!!
    We are living in a world where very brilliant young minds with no ethics are using their brilliance to squeeze your hard earned money out of your not so deep pocket and multiply it by the numbers of people like you, they end up with very deep pockets.

  4. Cecily, after complaints from other wine writers and PR consultants we know that complaints against Minnaar’s solicitation of excessive freebies (travel, wine) have been laid at Rapport newspaper. At this moment in time, Rapport’s Ombudsman says solicitating freebies by freelancers is not a problem that warrants action.
    Fortunately other media insitutions have stricter standards. See http://themediaonline.co.za/2011/03/freebies%E2%80%A6the-state-of-play-in-newspapers-today/
    The Press Ombudsman, however, says that the matter of freebies will be better regulated by the Press Code which is currently in draft form.
    Subscribing to the Press Code, however, is not mandatory.
    Thanks for your comment.

  5. Surely wine writers deserve a little slack? We all know that Melvyn writes twaddle and does so for the money and freebees and that Rapport will publish a laundry list to fill up space. Do we really need a moersa hammer to squash a mosquito?

  6. There is no such thing as “the new Press Code” – the whole system is currently under revision and nothing has been decided upon yet. We are going to evaluate every proposal soon, with recommendations to the Press Council that meets on March 24. To say “having been privy to the new Press Code” is therefore misleading. – Johan Retief, Deputy Press Ombudsman

    1. Dr Retief, dankie vir verheldering. Die kommentaar wat jy van ‘n paar van ons gevra het het my in ‘n moontlik ego-belaaide oomblik dit laat vertolk as “privy”. Bly jy deel in hierdie gesprek. – Emile Joubert

  7. Of course, there is an amusing irony here. The +ô+¦-+Gö£Göñ+ô+¦-úGö£-¦+ô+¦-ú+ô+¦+ëwe+ô+¦-+Gö£Göñ+ô+¦-úGö£-¦+ô+¦-úGö£Gòù – the host of the website – is a chap who feels there is no ethical problem in being both PR/+ô+¦-+Gö£Göñ+ô+¦-úGö£-¦+ô+¦-ú+ô+¦+ëmedia consultant+ô+¦-+Gö£Göñ+ô+¦-úGö£-¦+ô+¦-úGö£Gòù (obviously for payment) and a commentator in the wine industry (+ô+¦-+Gö£Göñ+ô+¦-úGö£-¦+ô+¦-ú+ô+¦+ëwine journalist+ô+¦-+Gö£Göñ+ô+¦-úGö£-¦+ô+¦-úGö£Gòù). As they say in the classics: +ô+¦-+Gö£Göñ+ô+¦-úGö£-¦+ô+¦-ú+ô+¦+ëconflict of interest+ô+¦-+Gö£Göñ+ô+¦-úGö£-¦+ô+¦-úGö£Gòù.
    As media operator he is happy to organise (obviously for a fee) those freebies the cheerful wine writers will then cheerfully write about his clients and their wine. The press ombudsman should have great fun considering this conundrum.
    I am more than willing to argue in any debate about freebies (which is certainly a worthwhile, complex subject). But that I have this penchant to get things (wine, etc) free (for whatever reason), is a radical invention of his obsessed mind. To answer it simply: I have no need for such things.
    (It+ô+¦-+Gö£Göñ+ô+¦-úGö£-¦+ô+¦-úGö£Gòùs surprising, though, how much one gets offered from the likes of PR operators – seekers of publicity for their paying clients – when one has independent views in journalism.)

    ………We had to edit out the very gay bits included in this comment. – Editor

  8. Melvyn Minnaar is wrong on two counts.
    This blog is not the sole work of Emile Joubert, but freely uses missives and comment from various commentators both in and outside the industry.
    On the issue of conflict of interest: as writing on winegoggle commands no payment, we can write anything we like. Or am I missing something? So where the conflict?
    I know you are feeling the heat after complaints about your behaviour, but please do not get carried away. As the king of freeloaders it would indeed be an honour to see you on a panel debating this issue.
    If I organise this, can you arrange some wine?
    Emile Joubert

  9. I am one of the PR girls in the wine industry, often referred to as “poppies”. Minnaar’s comments are strange, as my superior always has to send extra samples and asks us to be careful because he is “difficult”. We can’t talk to his bosses at Rapport, because this would harm our chance of getting media coverage. Similarly, I would like to supply my real name, but this would harm my position. Fortunately I only work on wine clients a quarter of the time, as it is very hard with people like these around.

  10. Pot calls kettle black, Mr Minnaar. You yourself do commercial work while practising journalism. The name Bellingham ring a bell?

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