Thursday, November 19, 2009

Michelle Locke: The wine world will miss you more than it knows

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.


Anonymous said...

Locke is one of the best. She will land on her feet. Truth is, however, that most of the AP's work involves retooling newspapers. Looks like that MOST will soon be All.

Rich Lieberman said...

Have never met Ms. Locke, but am an avid reader. A Pro. AP's loss, not Michelle's. It's a sad day in the Bay Area jornalism world.

Anonymous said...

Locke is indeed one of the best reporters out there and the first poster does a disservice to her and other fine AP reporters, past and present, by suggesting that most of the AP's work involves ``retooling newspapers.'' Sure, there are rewrites. There also are hundreds of reporters and photographers, some of them in harm's way, expending energy and shoe leather to produce original features and breaking news stories. The AP would be wise to appreciate them, and would have been wise to so appreciate Michelle.

philip's code said...

Anonymous is correct about the AP not appreciating its people enough. That does not negate the fact that a great deal of the product involves reworking newspaper copy. I am sure no disrespect was meant.