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Brewers Association Cancels Flawed Beer Journalism Awards Program…

Just in from my beer writing buddy Don Russell (aka Joe Sixpack) that the Brewers Association has decided to end its five year run of the Beer Journalism Awards, recently renamed in honor of the late beer writer Michael Jackson.

And while I have never been a particular fan of the awards, which involve cash payments and travel accommodations paid for by the Brewers Association, an industry trade group, and several craft breweries, it is sad that beer writers are left without a means of promoting their efforts and judging and awarding the best among them. Over the years, the BJA honored many talented beer writers and it would be nice if that laudable practice could be continued in a less ethically challenged manner. I’d be interested in hearing what others think about continuing these efforts in the future.

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8 thoughts on “Brewers Association Cancels Flawed Beer Journalism Awards Program…

  1. Guess it’s time for Beer Journalists to organize on their own – maybe a related but separate organization that is not directly sponsored by the topics of said journalism.

  2. I agree that it honored the work of some good people, but the sponsorship by the breweries pretty much prevented my entry as a journalist the last five years.

    Now that beer journalism has expanded with technology into print, online, video, radio, podcasts and even documentaries, it would be nice to see a return of the North American Guild of Beer Writers. The NAGBW last gave out its Quill & Tankard Awards at GABF in 2002 before becoming inactive. I say bring back the guild or some other form of it with a broader scope to encompass more than just writers. Awards always mean more when they come from your peers.

  3. Hey Travis-

    Ask Dan Bradford how big a pain in the butt running the NAGBW was for his staff. I think we should be looking at how the British guild manages to sustain itself, probably without a centralized organization and largely run through the Internet and volunteer work. Many others believe we don’t have any need for such an organization. In either event, folks should be discussing these issues.

  4. There’s the information I was trying to dig up prior to making my short, uninformative, post – thanks.

    With all due respect to AAB, I’m not sure it’s fair to expect any organization, most especially one that’s trying to turn a profit, to run a Writer’s Organization in its spare time.

    The BGBW looks like a great model. If you read through their June ’09 newsletter, there’s actually a little section about how they got started: a CAMRA-related grassroots kind of thing.

    The hard part, IMO, is finding the motivated person/people to make this sort of thing a reality in the States. The cynic in me says that most journalists are going to be too worried about trying to get paid for their freelancing to spend any substantial amount of time organizing, recognizing, and improving the work of other writers.

  5. Erik-

    Agreed all around and that was my point in the comment regarding Dan Bradford. The NAGBW was a pain in the ass to run. Something more decentralized would have to be the model. Even in the absence of such an entity, I would like to see writers get together at major events for sit down discussions of issues of particular importance to them as a group and to host speaker series. An organization could grow out of something like that or not. In either event, we might be the better for simply just getting together as a group to talk once in a while. I thought about doing this during the CBC in Boston but became too busy. With GABF coming up, perhaps it’s time to revisit the issue.

  6. I take Eric’s point. As a newly minted freelancer (after 20 years drawing a regular paycheck from a newspaper) I have curtailed my journalism-related volunteer activities in favor of replacing that paycheck. That included managing the Society of Professional Journalists judging of student journalism for a two-state region. It involved hundreds of entries in more than 40 categories and was one hell of an undertaking the six years I did it. But even nominal entry fees can buy someone’s time (say a J-school student) to coordinate the awards and the judging. It doesn’t seem there is any will to do this no matter how much people like awards.

  7. Andy – The guild, in fact, was manned by volunteers. The All About Beer staff, mostly one employee as I recall, organized the awards (and I think received some compensation).

    Of course the awards, and a website listing names of members (put together through the efforts of Steve Hamburg – AABM donated the space), became really the only thing the guild did.

  8. For a few years, All About Beer donated the time of a paid staff person–one quarter of her time, as I recall–to administer the Guild’s affairs. Her tasks included organizing the competition and the awards dinner, updating and publishing a membership book, soliciting new members, updating a website, keeping the books, and producing some manner of newsletter.

    Members of the UNC School of Journalism judged the competition, for which they were paid a nominal fee.

    It was certainly a worthwhile activity, but after a time, we needed our staff memb er’s efforts full-time for the magazine and our festivals. At that point, we invited other publications to consider stepping up, but none did.

    If anyone can make the British Guild model work, that would be grand.

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