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Roger A. Baylor

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Re: This round goes to AB-InBev, as Mr. Mug Shot is no more.

by Roger A. Baylor » Wed Jun 23, 2010 6:01 pm

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.
Roger A. Baylor
New Albanian Brewing Company &
NABC Bank Street Brewhouse
New Albany, Indiana
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Re: This round goes to AB-InBev, as Mr. Mug Shot is no more.

by Robin Garr » Wed Jun 23, 2010 6:29 pm

Roger A. Baylor wrote: I'll take Door Number 2.

Thanks, Roger. Much appreciated. I knew we could count on you for a candid AND curmudgeonly response. ;-)
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Re: This round goes to AB-InBev, as Mr. Mug Shot is no more.

by Roger A. Baylor » Wed Jun 23, 2010 6:34 pm

You're welcome. Looks like all those visits to the therapist were for nothing ...
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New Albanian Brewing Company &
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New Albany, Indiana
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Re: This round goes to AB-InBev, as Mr. Mug Shot is no more.

by Chris M » Wed Jun 23, 2010 8:25 pm

Roger,

I think you should open yourself to the possibility that reader complaints and not advertiser complaints is what lead to your downfall at LEO.

I know one person who did write them to complain, and one other who threatened to. Don't know if they followed through or not. I've never read your LEO articles, but I'm assuming they take the same tone many of your posts here do. Doesn't bother me. Obviously bothers some.

I'm sure a lot of people enjoyed your articles, but you know how that goes. You only hear from the unhappy ones.

It isn't always the phantom menace out to get you. Sometimes it's just you. I have that same problem. As my wife is apt to tell me "Chris, it isn't WHAT you said, it's HOW you said it. Tone, tone, tone."

She's a smart woman... well, except for the whole "marrying me" thing.
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Re: This round goes to AB-InBev, as Mr. Mug Shot is no more.

by Roger A. Baylor » Wed Jun 23, 2010 9:59 pm

Chris M wrote:Roger,

I think you should open yourself to the possibility that reader complaints and not advertiser complaints is what lead to your downfall at LEO.


I wouldn't rule it out, although it was not offered as a reason for dissatisfaction. But a reader complained about my Che wallet. Maybe the tea partiers engineered my downfall.
Roger A. Baylor
New Albanian Brewing Company &
NABC Bank Street Brewhouse
New Albany, Indiana
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Re: This round goes to AB-InBev, as Mr. Mug Shot is no more.

by Carla G » Wed Jun 23, 2010 10:37 pm

Chris M wrote: think you should open yourself to the possibility that reader complaints and not advertiser complaints is what lead to your downfall at LEO.


Having worked at LEO for many years myself (once upon a time) I can say if the above is the case then it's a whole new attitude for LEO. Used to be they thrived on angry letters from readers. Not necessarily because they're smarta$$es (I don't think they are, and if they are it's in a good way.) but because an angry letter was seen as an indication that at least folks were talking and a dialogue was bouncing around. You're not a very effective writer if you're not pissing off somebody, somewhere .

Naw I bet Roger's right. It's advertising driven. Roger it's their loss. And sadly, in the end, it really won't do anything to improve their sales outside of a couple of AB or Miller ads. At least the rest of us can still read your blog.
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Re: This round goes to AB-InBev, as Mr. Mug Shot is no more.

by Marsha L. » Wed Jun 23, 2010 10:39 pm

I am so jealous. I can't seem to get anybody to write an angry letter about my column. And it's not like I haven't tried! :lol:
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Re: This round goes to AB-InBev, as Mr. Mug Shot is no more.

by Todd Antz » Wed Jun 23, 2010 10:51 pm

Roger A. Baylor wrote:
Chris M wrote:Roger,

I think you should open yourself to the possibility that reader complaints and not advertiser complaints is what lead to your downfall at LEO.


I wouldn't rule it out, although it was not offered as a reason for dissatisfaction. But a reader complained about my Che wallet. Maybe the tea partiers engineered my downfall.


That is still one of my favorite letters to the editor. The guy wanted to come over and try New Albanian beers, but when he heard Roger had a Che wallet, all bets were off. Then he closed it with a complaint about the prices of New Albanian beers, forgetting that he had not tried any of them yet.

Its a crying shame that Roger was let go from LEO. It is definitely their loss, but it is also our loss, to not have a differing opinion in print every other week. All he ever tried to do (my opinion here) was open people's eyes to something different in his columns. Different beers, different venues, and different events from what the mainstream media in town is broadcasting. Showcasing something different was what I though an "alternative" magazine like LEO was all about. Apparently it is, as long as your different is the same as the management's idea of what is different.
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Re: This round goes to AB-InBev, as Mr. Mug Shot is no more.

by Matthew D » Wed Jun 23, 2010 11:11 pm

Carla G wrote: You're not a very effective writer if you're not pissing off somebody, somewhere.


While pissing off somebody, somewhere might be one purpose for/ result of writing, I don't know if it makes one an effective writer. (Just as getting pissed off doesn't make a reader an effective reader). I'd like to believe that writers write to get their audience to think and, in turn, readers read to have something to think about.

Take Cal Thomas. Sure, I could say, "Man, he pisses me off." But, I'm smart enough to know that that's the result he wants. If he was really interested in having a writer-audience dialogue, he's give me something to think about. Pissing someone off is way too easy too do. Giving your audience something to think about is so much harder. And, in a democratic model, much more rewarding.

Given that the word polemic is derived from ideas of hostility and war, I'd like to think we could do better.
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Re: This round goes to AB-InBev, as Mr. Mug Shot is no more.

by Roger A. Baylor » Wed Jun 23, 2010 11:21 pm

Matthew D wrote:Given that the word polemic is derived from ideas of hostility and war, I'd like to think we could do better.


Back in the early 1990's, we used to mail the FOSSILS club newsletter to the late Michael Jackson, legendary beer writer. He visited Louisville in 1994 and made it over to the pub, and then I saw him again a few years later in Denver at the Great American Beer Festival. There, he referred to me as a polemicist, and my writings as polemics. I've never been more proud, because he used the word approvingly.

Speaking only for me, it isn't so much that I want someone to be pissed off when they read my columns, although sometimes that is the intent, and some times it's the result, intentional or not. What I want readers to do is read it, and that it elicits a reaction when they do. When you are read, that's simply not "failure."
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New Albanian Brewing Company &
NABC Bank Street Brewhouse
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Re: This round goes to AB-InBev, as Mr. Mug Shot is no more.

by Roger A. Baylor » Wed Jun 23, 2010 11:24 pm

I finally had time to publish what was to have been the next LEO column. It's at my blog, and it is my aim to return to regularly posting essays there which otherwise would have been reserved for Mug Shots.

Wednesday Weekly: To the “craft” of the matter: http://potablecurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2010/06/wednesday-weekly-to-craft-of-matter.html
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Re: This round goes to AB-InBev, as Mr. Mug Shot is no more.

by Steve H » Wed Jun 23, 2010 11:40 pm

You'd think that an avowed polemicist would be used to reaping what he has sowed.
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Re: This round goes to AB-InBev, as Mr. Mug Shot is no more.

by Matthew D » Wed Jun 23, 2010 11:40 pm

Roger A. Baylor wrote:
Matthew D wrote:Given that the word polemic is derived from ideas of hostility and war, I'd like to think we could do better.


Back in the early 1990's, we used to mail the FOSSILS club newsletter to the late Michael Jackson, legendary beer writer. He visited Louisville in 1994 and made it over to the pub, and then I saw him again a few years later in Denver at the Great American Beer Festival. There, he referred to me as a polemicist, and my writings as polemics. I've never been more proud, because he used the word approvingly.

Speaking only for me, it isn't so much that I want someone to be pissed off when they read my columns, although sometimes that is the intent, and some times it's the result, intentional or not. What I want readers to do is read it, and that it elicits a reaction when they do. When you are read, that's simply not "failure."


In your idea of being a polemicist, note that your reference, although of limited breadth, has to do with a male acknowledging another male as a polemicist. The idea of "argument" is one loaded with gender and cultural biases. I'm not saying that these biases make argument wrong or bad, but they are worth being aware of.

We probably agree on this topic more than we disagree. Maybe we'll talk more over beer sometime.
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Re: This round goes to AB-InBev, as Mr. Mug Shot is no more.

by Carla G » Thu Jun 24, 2010 6:16 am

I stand by what I wrote earlier.

Carla G wrote: You're not a very effective writer if you're not pissing off somebody, somewhere .


To think otherwise is to believe that there is only one universal truth applicable to all. Somewhere, someone, is going to disagree with you. BTW I don't think the point of writing is to irritate, merely that it is an inevitable by-product. Looking at some of the difficult subject matter that LEO has courageously tackled in the past, to say they let Roger go because some of the readers were upset is, in my opinion, naive. It is obviously driven by an attempt to get in big brewer advertising. The really sad thing is I seriously doubt much additional revenue will actually materialize. If AB (or anyone else for that matter) was honestly convinced that LEO was a viable vehicle for advertising their product they would have jumped on it regardless of the opinion of a single columnist. All that has sadly happened is that LEO has allowed itself to be stifled by big business. It's a sad folks.
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Re: This round goes to AB-InBev, as Mr. Mug Shot is no more.

by Roger A. Baylor » Thu Jun 24, 2010 8:16 am

Steve H wrote:You'd think that an avowed polemicist would be used to reaping what he has sowed.


Nowhere have I suggested otherwise. It's a veritable Ponzi scheme of self-perpetuating polemics!
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