Robin Garr wrote:No way I'm speaking against Roger here. But based on my experience, I had to stand up and say something about the assertion that LEO Weekly expects its writers to "toady" to advertisers. If Roger agrees, Todd, that's one thing, but I await his comment, if he cares to make one.
Roger is the Ron Artest of craft beer, with an angel on each shoulder offering radically different pieces of advice. But Artest is on a roll, so I think I'll take Door Number 2.
Yes, I largely agree, although I readily concede that we're unlikely to see a memo to that effect, and there are other reasons, too.
First: All other considerations being equal, LEO surely knew what sort of writing stylist it was getting when I was brought aboard to share space with the Bar Belle. In my opinion, the fundamental problem is that I arrived at the behest of former editor Cary Stemle, who was jettisoned when ownership changed and (chuckle) "went South."
Now more than ever, it appears to me that my days have been numbered ever since then, not entirely owing to LEO “toadying” to advertisers (more on that shortly), but because there was discomfort on the part of both new management and successive editors (a) over a potential “conflict of interest” pertaining to my day job as brewery/pub owner, and (b) about my polemical style (which hadn’t been an issue before the change).
As for the “conflict of interest” angle, I’m confident that a dispassionate examination of what I’ve written will fully absolve me of that charge. Overall, I mentioned the business very seldom. If anything, mindfulness of not being able to write about my experiences selling good beer as a businessman specializing in doing just that rather limited the number and scope of potential topics. Sorry, but the conflict of interest dog won’t hunt.
As for my style, if ever there was an overall writing style in keeping with what LEO continues to believe about its own alternative/independent role, then it’s mine. I am not now, nor have I ever been, anything but curmudgeonly. It's hard not to have an opinion when you read my columns -- good and bad.
Yes, to some it’s only beer – not mountaintop removal, or presidential politics, or civil rights – but beer doesn’t exist in a vacuum any more than dining, sports or any other aspect of society. Beer’s my life, I live it fully, and I’m fairly good at it (ask my liver). Without passion, there’s nothing worth fighting to achieve.
It strikes me as no coincidence whatever that those elements of my style lately deemed most objectionable were my relatively rare (in the context of LEO) expressions of repugnance for light beer and megabreweries. In fact, whether it was brought to my attention overtly (two, maybe three times), or merely quietly expunged from my text (yep, I was reading them), these periodic references to light beer and megabreweries were the ONLY ones treated that way.
The gist was unmistakable: Certain topics are off limits, and that’s just maddening given LEO’s polemical proclivities in other areas. In short, and hypothetically, if I were to have written: “Mitch McConnell is an SOB,” it would stand and be lauded as reflecting the LEO party line. But if I wrote, “Mitch McConnell is an SOB because he drinks Budweiser,” it would not, because suddenly, merely by mentioning Budweiser, my writing becomes somehow less compelling because I might be construed as offending or insulting … um, well, er, offending or insulting who?
It’s the most relevant question to ask.
Insulting Mitch McConnell? Right. LEO’s been there, done that, and thrives on it.
Insulting Budweiser drinkers? Could be, and maybe they’re really that sensitive, but after all, the paper’s FREE. How on earth can you boycott something that doesn’t cost you any money? Not only that, doesn’t most human experience show that rather than throwing the paper to the ground in disgust, Budweiser drinkers will continue to read it, just so they can get their dander up while they drink twice as many bad beers as before?
Insulting advertisers? Yeah, I think that’s at the heart of it. It’s the most sensible explanation, and one mustn’t lose sight of Occam’s Razor in these confusing times.
“Toadying” may or may not be the right word, but LEO insiders have suggested as much to me (nope - I won't name names), and it is perfectly in keeping with the thuggish corporate history of megabrewing – wait, I forgot; can’t write about that sort of injurious truth, but at any rate, have you ever wondered why one entity deserves withering scrutiny, and another doesn’t?
Just follow the money. I may be wrong. I like my odds, though.
Here’s the part that’ll surprise you. In truth, it doesn’t bother me that LEO isn’t as independent or alternative as it thinks it still is, and it doesn’t even bother me that the newspaper might toady to advertisers. What bothers me is LEO pretending otherwise – on both counts, and wishing for you to believe that “Budweiser is swill” equates to libel, slander, errant stylistic parameters, or all three. If LEO really is what it believes itself to be, then it’s all on the table, for all topics, for all writers, without exceptions.
And so, in effect (I'm paraphrasing), I’ve been told that I’m a good writer, and for so long as I’m a good writer, potential conflicts of interest mostly can be tolerated, but if I write something bad about sacred cows, then I’m no longer a good writer, and someone also might be offended, and what’s okay to write about a strip mine operator should never be written about a megabrewer, and I can be a good boy and censor myself, or I can be censored, but it’s not censorship – it’s editorial judgment, and if I discuss it in public, well, I’ve entirely broken faith, shed my integrity and defecated in my nest.
Spare me. Anyone seen that farm wagon I came into town atop? For a mere half-C note per submission, who needs to feel like taking a shower all the time?
Thanks for asking, Robin. That’s my take, exclusively for Forum readers. Kindly note that none of this will stop me from reading LEO. It’s still a viable alternative when compared to the C-J’s stupefying irrelevance, and I remain a left-leaning rabble-rousing contrarian who enjoys the views expressed in many LEO pieces, and agrees with them a staggering amount of the time. Without LEO's work on the Bridges Debacle, would any other side to the story ever have been presented in Louisville?
However, it saddens me tremendously that there’s a double standard with respect to my field of expertise.