Monday, 7 February 2011

How the media could help, but choose not to

Today, somewhat surprisingly, some links to online newspaper articles in the Daily Star and the Daily Mail appeared on a few Twitter feeds. I say 'somewhat surprisingly' because they broached the subject of the sale of a new type of uber beer, a 32% (The Star) and a 41% (the Mail). These radical new beverages wore the staggering price tag of £55 per bottle and were made in such limited quantities that there is a waiting list for their order. Moreover, one of these beers is the strongest in the world.

Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink the Bismarck have been on sale for over a year now, neither are made in such limited quantities that there is a waiting list (they sell quickly mind you, so if you want one and don't get in quick you might have to wait, but that is not the same thing) and neither are the strongest beer in the world, and haven't been for quite some time. Yes they are quite expensive, but £55 is probably a bit much. Still, if you can get it, well done. Thankfully both articles explained the difference between the two beers. Oh sorry, no they didn't.

None of that is new, or even news. Its not particularly interesting either, except to people who become especially irritated by lazy journalism aimed at the lowest common denominator. In other words, me.

That is what this blog is all about really, how the media can have such a negative affect on a good thing, or a catalyst effect on a bad one.

Sensationalism sells newspapers, so facts really aren't that important. According to the Mail 'One GULP of this beer would send you over the drink drive limit' the Star were equally adamant, stating that 'One SWIG' would have a similar effect. To the best of my knowledge, which in this arena isn't too bad, neither swigs  nor gulps are standard measurements for the sale of alcohol. This is the UK, not a Spanish resort.

So why not research your article properly - at the very least get the facts right - and write something that actually explains what the beer is? I can only imagine that the truth, despite actually being very interesting not to mention highlighting what the brewery (BrewDog) were getting at in the first place (invention, creativity), isn't 'exciting' enough.

So the outcome of either article could have been so much more positive, the readers might have learnt about freeze distillation, about different beer styles and about the potential benefits of the craft beer movement in encouraging people to drink less and savour more. Instead, both talked about 'cynical marketing'* and 'a potential increase in binge drinking'.

Now, I could be wrong but if you write a fairly indepth commentary on how that kind of beer is produced you have far less chance of creating a drinking culture off the back of it, than by simply writing nonsense to make people needlessly excited/aggitated/self righteous.

Brewers (and the drinks industry as a whole) are constantly chastised about their efforts to promote 'responsible drinking'. Yet the media are allowed to publish such utter drivel, a far from responsible way of presenting a UK brewery and completely missing the point of high abv craft beers.

All very sad

*in a personal message to Jack Laws of Alcohol Focus Scotland - and one that he will never read - Mr Laws, you accuse BrewDog of cynical marketting and yet every single time they are in the newspaper for something that no sane or rational person could ever claim will add to the already serious drinking problem in the UK, you leap on it like Steve Coogan on a lapdancer, desperate to get your name and cause in the paper. I'd say thats pretty cynical, wouldn't you?

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