Ξ June 1st, 2009 | → 17 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, Wine History, Wine News |
Yesterday evening Robert Parker belatedly addressed the subject of an article published by Mr. Kesmodel in the Wall Street Journal, which itself was the belated culmination of a series of energetic threads, weeks in the making, around the internet. Chief among them were Steve Heimoff’s compelling thread, most recently, that of the Wine Library , and arguably his motivational source, the ‘tipping point’, Dr. Vino’s effort. The controversy generally settles around the matter of a conflict of interest by two of Mr. Parker’s principle wine reviewers, Dr. Jay Miller and Mark Squires. It seems both reviewers have accepted, independently of Mr. Parker’s personal standards, previously undisclosed material advantages including, but not limited to, paid travel, meal and hotel expenses. It must be said both Dr. Miller and Mr. Squires are largely indifferent to the appearance of a conflict of interest. Neither gentlemen has been willing to hazard a comment independently of their boss, defering instead to Mr. Parker; hence his new ‘Hospitality Standards’.
What is particularly bizarre in all of this is the remoteness of the principle figure, Mr. Parker himself. As he explains with respect to the Wall Street Journal article,
Let me address the question of why I didn’t speak to the reporter. The facts as I know them from my staff are that he contacted my office on May 18th while I was away on a tasting trip to California. He did not indicate why he wanted to speak to me so my office sent him an email asking about that and about his deadline. He responded that it was a story about the blogosphere controversy surrounding Jay Miller and, to a lesser extent, Mark Squires and he said that his deadline was May 20th, an impossible schedule for me given my commitments on the west coast. He emailed my office again after it was closed late on a Friday extending the deadline but my assistant didn’t even see that email until she returned from vacation after the story had been published. However, had I been back from the west coast with time to respond, I would have directed him to my postings put on the Bulletin Board several weeks earlier. In fact, I’ve got a copy of an email Mark Squires sent him doing just that for his postings but their content wasn’t utilized in the story.
While his Empire implodes under the scrutiny of well-informed critics, he is unable to check his email.
Though he may refer in his defense to a mind-numbing, loquacious thread, it remains true that he is steeped in contradiction. Witness this strange contortion,
The WSJ story was a rehash of a story about Jay Miller and Mark Squires in the blogosphere a month earlier. I investigated it fully then, found absolutely no evidence of bias, and disciplined Jay Miller. He took three all-expense paid trips to Australia and South America and he knows this is unacceptable. Jay is a person of considerable talent and integrity, but used very poor judgment. Moreover, I am clearly at fault for not properly supervising him.
Mr. Parker found no evidence of bias yet he nevertheless disciplined Mr. Miller. What are we to make of this? Perhaps Dr. Miller was unaware of Mr. Parker’s standards. Is that possible?
Mr. Parker goes on to say,
There is absolutely no excuse for any of this but I should say all of the writers I hire are not employees, but do contract jobs with strictly defined parameters and ethical standards. They are all impeccable professionals, carefully chosen for both their talent and honesty. I am very proud of their contributions. While I am embarrassed by Jay Miller’s behavior, I am grateful it was brought to my attention. In short, this will never happen again. All of them understand fully that largesse and hospitality from the wine trade is unacceptable.
So, Mr. Parker hires contractors “with strictly defined parameters and ethical standards.” He insists they are chosen “for both their talent and honesty”. So where were Mr. Miller and Mr. Squires on that particular training day? And yet Mr. Parker is grateful the conflict of interest was brought to his attention. And who was it who brought it to his attention? It was select bloggers, the very bloggers he claims are writing fictions.
…the totally fictitous stories circulating are more difficult to comprehend, and I have seen so many of them over the years, it just saddens me how far journalists, and now bloggers, speculate, manufacture, and state as fact, without any attempt at investigation to substantiate the truth of what they write….
Perhaps some good will come of this, especially with the new FTC guidelines. Mr. Parker, Mr. Miller, and Mr. Squires may yet come to realize they are themselves bloggers.