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This is not journalism


In these dark days, Philip White feels more like consuming alcohol than promoting its gastronomic glory.

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After being caught in the horrors of Saturday night’s savagery in London, Senator Sam Dastyari wrote one of the more pertinent drinks articles of recent years in The Monthly.

“Screw them if they think they are going to stop me drinking with my friends, flirting with handsome men and befriending powerful women,” his mate Richard Angell tells him, as they sit there in a bar, pondering the terror of the night before.

Screw them indeed. Without any detail – it’s not necessary – the Senator relates the feeling of watching his colleague swallow alcohol as he recalls the blood coming from a victim’s throat at the other end of that long evil night.

The notion made my own gullet pulse with involuntary revulsion.

He orders another round anyway. What else do you do?

While its unseemly consumption currently feels more excusable than at less perfidious times, the work of alcohol criticism seems totally irrelevant and unnecessary on such days.

There always seems to be much more important stuff that needs writing about.

Or grieving over.

But life does manage to go, as they say, “on”. Wherever that is.

Strange that the next article to fill my screen – a stark contrast in effective communication – came from an organisation called Wine Communicators of Australia, whose anagram invariably brings the old water closet to mind, eh, nudge nudge. In association with the Department of Primary Industries and Regions SA, the WCA has announced a “Wine Media Cadetship”.

This “aims to foster emerging talent and promote excellence in Australian wine communication … It is geared toward empowering young people who aspire to move into the field of wine journalism and communication … The program enriches the pool of wine media personnel and creates proud ambassadors to advance the positive promotion of Australia wine on an international stage.”

Don’t get me started on this business of “the positive promotion of Australian wine on an international stage” masquerading as a cadetship in your actual journalism, but the chosen communicator, the “Wine Media Cadet”, will get to spend about 10 weeks over four or five months engaged in “tailored wine and media experiences”, which include a week or so at an international wine fair or show as well as introductions to key industry operators, media training, and “wine show judging placement”, whatever that is.

The winner will also be afforded direct contact with the national and local boards of the WCs: a big deal, considering the former includes marketing and sales heavies from Pernod Ricard, Brown Brothers, Treasury, Accolade, Wine Australia and Henschke. Most of the other positions are held by liquor merchants or public relations operatives with wine clients – there are no real working journalists involved.

This all sounds like glorious fun. To get in, one must be between the ages of 18 and 35 and a paid-up member of the WCs. As far as practical propaganda goes, the winner is obliged to run a blog on the Adelaide – Great Wine Capitals website explaining these activities.

So it’s a public relations affair, really. Just what this business needs. My arse.

The brief boasts a notable dearth of the issues the wine industry really faces.

There is no mention of climate change. Nothing about environment, or the fact that after wasting billions on our Murray-Darling Basin, the source of most of our plonk, this huge unprofitable irrigation mess is currently responsible for a loss of more than 70 per cent of the waterbird population, along with the waste of a great deal of the actual, er, water. Use a thousand-plus litres from the sky or the mains or the rivers or somewhere to grow and make a litre of drink that’s 15 per cent ethanol but still only the price of a bottle of posh water and call it a business plan? C’mon, comrade.

In fact, the syllabus makes no mention of alcohol or ethanol, which is surely the matter the WCs need to move. It also avoids issues of public health across all communities.

But then, it also misses any mention of your actual literacy; the writing and comprehension skills. One presumes these must be a given.

And one can only trust that should the recipient of this award “aspire to move into the field of wine journalism”, as opposed to public relations flakery, that person will have a good hard think about these other issues before filling the old fountain pen.

Should you, dear reader, be fortunate enough to win this lovely thing, keep somewhere in mind the reality: under the guise of it enjoying some sort of moral superiority over other drugs through its noble gastronomic cover, you’re promoting the consumption of a very powerful depressant.

Once you’ve chosen which product to push, your job is to write with such evocation you reverse that revulsion Senator Dastyari imparted without actually mentioning it:

“Richard swallows a mouthful of his drink and looks at me. ‘What do you think happened to the guy holding his throat?’ he asks.”

While the reader digests this, consider the public relations kick: That Richard Angell, a frontline British Labor/Corbyn campaigner, got 24 hours of international television coverage with his line about flirting with handsome men.

Money can’t buy that kind of promo.

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