Saturday, October 1, 2016

Voice Mail From a Journalist

“Hello, Mr. Pollock? Would you prefer Jackson?
I’m calling because I’m writing a story about mid-century art and I'm hoping to hit you and Norman Rockwell up for interviews. Please give me a call back at your earliest convenience. Thanks!” 

OK, I’m not comparing myself to Lee Krasner’s baldie, and I’m certainly not comparing cider to fine art, but a situational analogy exists here. How many times do I get calls from journalists wanting to do a story on cider? And although I’ve tried and tried to illuminate the massive depths apples are capable of, in the end the final article is always just an all-inclusive survey of "the cider category." As though cider is a single thing- a single alternative. And if that's all you can report on, I would gladly retire to magazine obscurity rather than see my work, and the life of the trees I work with, reduced to a few sentences in short essay about contemporary commercial cider in America. 

If Jackson Pollock heard his art work put in comparative context with the customer-friendly, child-friendly, illustrations of Norman Rockwell I’m pretty sure some liver damage would follow. But the two “artists” were rarely in context with one another because there existed a separate world for "fine art" and "commercial art”. (Which is really commercial illustration and not art. Sorry marketing team: what you do isn't art!) 

But why is having separate worlds so hard to establish with cider? Why do the lines keep getting blurred when fine art and commercial art are content without mention of each other? The answers are multiple:
    -The small cider producer is too isolated and economically powerless to broadcast the truth; the big and medium-sized producers lie to the customer and steal the verbiage of the artisan producer; the customer is lazy and doesn’t hold producers accountable for their marketing misdirection; Americas apple farmers are complicit with the misdirection because they want their orchards to be viable to a ‘hot’ industry; and journalists lack professional integrity and personal faith in the subject-

I have tried to expose all those other problems with my cryptic and voiceless little blog here, but for this entry let’s focus on the latter problem, the journalists. Why not? You are part of the problem!

    Are you guilty of sweeping a call list trying to hit-up everyone that appeared under a search for cider? Are you trying to tie this story into another story like tourism, the fall season, new businesses in the area, etc., etc.? Does this "cider story" somehow reflect well on the ad space sponsors of your magazine (or maybe it's just plain about them!?) Have you already imagined how this story will unfold even before you made your first call? Is it actually written (!) and now all you need are some press photos from cider producers to add legitimacy your non-expert opinion?
   Does any of this sound like you? Um, That’s because you suck. You are just trying to use cider and someone's life endeavor to promote yourself or the magazine. Wake up! There is an actual story to discover if you stop making everything reflect back on yourself and your sponsors!

In contrast, let me tell you what good journalists do (and I’ve had the pleasure of working with some excellent journalists and writers over the years. You know who you are.)
   They call and set-up an interview expecting to study the subject, not direct it. A good journalist listens to the subject and isolates them without trying to tie them into every little trend happening in the world today. They trust their own ability to write the story with the found material and they do not have preconceived notions or the word-counts in mind while the interview is taking place. They also trust the subject will be news-worthy, but just as importantly, they ditch the project if the subject is not news-worthy! And a good journalist starts months (even years) ahead of time rather then calling 3 days before submittal.

OK, I'm getting a little side-track with my rant here. I don't know the problems you journalists face getting published but I'm tired of going over the same-old Cider 101 stuff with you. And I know magazines are not to blame for the lack of clarity between fine cider and commercial industrial cider but you certainly are not helping (save for a few good reporters) by blurring the lines for the reader. Dig deeper next time, the trees have. (Or should I say, the trees worthy of cider have.)

Monday, August 29, 2016

What gives cider depth

I have seen old overgrown orchards of Liberty, Goldrush and Freedom dotting a steep hillside. And I have seen well-maintained high-density orchards of Yarlington Mill, Somerset Redstreak and Stoke Red.
If the cider industry and apple growers don't understand how the former can produce much more complex cider than the latter then I weep for the future.  
-to be continued in comment section, below-

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Ah, poor man!

THE era of the Wild Apple will soon be past. It is a fruit which will probably become extinct in New England. You may still wander through old orchards of native fruit of great extent, which for the most part went to the cider-mill, now all gone to decay. I have heard of an orchard in a distant town, on the side of a hill, where the apples rolled down and lay four feet deep against a wall on the lower side, and this the owner cut down for fear they should be made into cider. Since the temperance reform and the general introduction of grafted fruit, no native apple-trees, such as I see everywhere in deserted pastures, and where the woods have grown up around them, are set out. I fear that he who walks over these fields a century hence will not know the pleasure of knocking off wild apples. Ah, poor man, there are many pleasures which he will not know! Notwithstanding the prevalence of the Baldwin and the Porter, I doubt if so extensive orchards are set out to-day in my town as there were a century ago, when those vast straggling cider-orchards were planted, when men both ate and drank apples, when the pomace-heap was the only nursery, and trees cost nothing but the trouble of setting them out. Men could afford then to stick a tree by every wall-side and let it take its chance. I see nobody planting trees to-day in such out-of-the-way places, along the lonely roads and lanes, and at the bottom of dells in the wood. Now that they have grafted trees, and pay a price for them, they collect them into a plat by their houses, and fence them in, -- and the end of it all will be that we shall be compelled to look for our apples in a barrel.
-Thoreau, 1862
No, the wild apple did not go extinct but the way of life most certainly did. I want you to pay special attention the those significant words, "pay a price", in which Thoreau cryptically reveals to us the cause of the inevitable ruin. That cider, and the tree from which it sprung, became an artifice of man's economy.

We don't live in that world anymore. We live in a commercial world with commercial cider from commercial orchards. But the apple is still finding ways to escape! What a miracle of nature!!! There is hope yet for us too.