I just learned from Gawker that Michelle Locke, who has been at Associated Press for 24 years, was one of the casualties in Associated Press' nationwide layoffs yesterday.
This is a bad loss for the wine world. Locke was not on the top of many people's list of important wine writers, but she's the one who got news about wine into papers of all sizes around the country and the world.
I don't know Locke; we have never met. But I admire her work.
Most mainstream, multi-subject news reporters badly botch the subject of wine. They either giggle over the idea that they're drinking on duty, or put on their MADD cap and interview a gaggle of neo-Prohibitionists. They usually refuse to make any sensory value judgment themselves, often unwittingly turning into PR touts because they let the winery's marketing director describe how the wine tastes.
Locke didn't made those mistakes. She understood the business of wine, which was the main focus of her stories on it. But she also obviously understood wine. She didn't make value judgments -- that's not the AP way -- but she didn't allow her stories to become PR either. Locke wrote wine stories for papers without experts in the subject, but sometimes they were informative enough to run in papers with full-time wine writers.
One could argue that this means more openings for freelance wine writers, as even large newspapers will not easily be able to find stories about wine without paying extra for them.
Instead, I think newspapers will simply run less coverage of wine. That's not a good thing for anyone in the industry.
Good luck to you, Michelle. And thanks for the years of good work.