Au Revoir to Slate, Plus A Word About Gary V
I learned this week that after a nine-year run, my Slate column was being discontinued. It was disappointing news, of course, if not entirely surprising. Wine coverage was always a luxury at Slate, never a necessity, and with the weak economy and the ongoing financial difficulties at the Washington Post, Slate’s parent company, it seemed inevitable that the budget axe would swing again. This time, my column was among the casualties. I posted the news on Twitter yesterday, and was deeply touched by the outpouring and generosity of the comments. Sure, it felt a little bit like reading my own obituary—I’m not dead, I just lost a byline!—but to know that people valued my work enough to say so, and to express their sadness and dismay at the column’s demise, was gratifying. Sharing those tweets last night with my wife and kids was the best consolation imaginable.
The Slate column was a terrific gig. From the start, we wanted to create a very different sort of wine column—a column that was punchy and polemical, that drew back the curtain on the wine world while also making it invitingly accessible to the uninitiated. We wanted it to inform, but also to entertain, and I think we succeeded. There’s no greater satisfaction for a writer than having people remember things that you wrote—specific articles, particular turns of phrase—and over the years, I’ve had a number of people tell me that they loved this or that column, or the way that I phrased something. Did I become jaded by all the kind words? Hell, no: I remember in vivid detail every one of those conversations, and I can happily live off the fumes for years to come.
I loved being associated with Slate. It is such an intelligent and engaging publication, and being on a masthead that included the likes of Christopher Hitchens, Jack Shafer, Dahlia Lithwick, Tim Noah, Jacob Weisberg, David Plotz, and so many other formidable talents was an honor. If you write for Slate, you get to work with some of the brightest and nicest people in the business, and I had four wonderful editors during my time with the magazine: Jodi Kantor, Amanda Fortini, Julia Turner, and Juliet Lapidos. I also had the pleasure of working occasionally with the fabulous June Thomas. In addition to giving you great colleagues, Slate gives you the latitude to go wherever your interests take you, to pursue any idea no matter how quirky. For a journalist, that kind of freedom is just heaven. Thanks to Slate, I found my voice as a writer and found a subject on which I could build a career, and for that, I am grateful.
Alright, enough with the valedictory stuff. Forgive the cliché, but I think change can be a good thing, even when it is forced on you (or especially when it is forced on you). I’ve been very fortunate as a journalist never to lack for work, and despite the grim state of our business, I’m hopeful that this will remain the case. New opportunities may be just around the bend. In the meantime, I intend to devote more time to this site. I’ve been thrilled and flattered by the response to the blog, and am very appreciative of the readership that it has attracted. My desire to post more content may be briefly thwarted by the storm heading our way. I know the media have a need to spread panic (damn journalists!), but Hurricane Irene sounds pretty menacing. My neighborhood seems to lose power if someone sneezes, so I suspect we are going to be without electricity for a few days. I’ll be back here as soon as the lights are back on.
Before signing off, though, I also want to say a word about Gary Vaynerchuk, who announced earlier this week that he will no longer be doing wine videos. I was a big fan of Gary’s work, and wrote a glowing profile of him for Slate back in 2007. I had the pleasure of appearing on Wine Library TV two years ago. We had a terrific conversation about wine before derailing ourselves with some spirited reminiscing about our favorite boxing matches. Gary paid me a very generous compliment during the show, and I can tell you that the admiration was mutual. I hope it doesn’t sound presumptuous when I say that I think he and I were working towards the same end—to find new ways of communicating about wine. In both format and tone, Gary did just that, and while there’s no way of calculating how many people he won over to the pleasures of fermented grape juice, the number is surely vast. He was great for wine, and I look forward to seeing what comes next for him.
Off to figure out what to drink during the hurricane. Priorities, you understand….