Originally posted by Stefania Wine:
There's a much greater chance people will be allowed to read it here. The moderator here will allow it to stay.
My suggestion would be post it here and provide a link to it here on the other board. That link won't last long, but at least some people will get to read it.
I meant it was posted on the WineSpectator's thread on the WSJ article. But I'll re-post here to make it easy for people:
This is an unfortunate but apparently self-inflicted blow to the Wine Advocate’s reputation, which is painful to watch. As you recall, I wrote a very heartfelt private email to you a couple of years ago, alerting you to issues with how TWA was perceived based upon issues with how the board was being run, and how I observed participants on the board were being treated. As I told you at the time, a true friend will tell you the truth even if it is painful to share, and painful to hear—and I privately shared the concern with you regarding the heavy handed moderation style on the board, in which people were either banned or strongly censored for expressing their opinion that did not comport with the “approved view” (my term), and the oftentimes sarcastic, disrespectful way I perceived some of these people to be treated by some of your staff. You recall that I told you that it had almost come to the point that the group of people kicked out were more interesting than the group left over. You were kind enough to reply, and indicated you would look into it and get back to me, but I never received a follow up reply after that. At the time, I figured that I had gone out on a limb to share my concerns with you privately, and that apparently you gave this the weight you felt it deserved, and since I had said my peace, that was all there was to it. (I must acknowledge, I did not appreciate your forwarding my email to Mark Squires, with whom I have had conflicts ever since).
As the recent events have unfolded, I have found myself reflecting on our correspondence about some of the concerns that are now being so openly aired.
The whole Miller/Squires imbroglio raises many questions and has left many people disappointed, and has unfortunately shone a light on both management and operational style at TWA that may be in need of attention. For example:
1) The more I have reflected on the issue with the $25,000 trip and other trips by Jay, I have found myself wondering when you first learned of his sponsored trips and other perquisites. Although I assumed you learned of them just recently, the more I thought about it, I have begun to wonder how you could not have known about his sponsored trips at the time. Assuming he never submitted expenses to you for these trips, who did you think was paying for them? Did it not occur to you that someone else might be paying for them? Did Jay ever mention someone else paid for the trips?
2) Why do you believe the “independent contractors” do not need to follow the same standards you have required for yourself? When you set up your standards, you apparently felt these were important to adhere to. Is it less important that others follow them than you? You have stated that you cannot control their behavior, but you could require that they adhere to the same standards as you for any work they do on your behalf , as a condition of their continued independent contractor status. Seems to me this is imperative for the reputation of TWA. We find ourselves in the strange position of being reminded of the high standards you set for yourself but if others aren’t required to follow them, then the implied question is “Are they really that important to follow?” This isn’t healthy for TWA.
3) Some are asking if there are other standards you so courageously set forth over the years that have eroded, such as your standard of blind tastings whenever possible. Do you still taste wines blind whenever possible, and do you ask that your independent contractors follow this standard? Again, if you felt it important enough to establish in the beginning and important enough to explicitly state in each issue, you must have a good reason. Is TWA still following the stated principle of blind tastings whenever possible?
4) I wasn’t going to bring this up to you again, but in the spirit of Dan Posner being banned, I will one last time. There is a style, which I find troublesome, on the board, of participants and subscribers being at times treated in a heavy handed way that can be seen as sarcastic or lacking in respect. People are sometimes afraid to post certain things, or to bring up certain topics for fear of being insulted, censored or banned. It was, after all, Dan Posner being treated in a sarcastic way by Mark, who accused him (Posner) of bias, with an emoticon of eyes rolling in the thread on Australian wines (article by Steinberger) that was the spark that set off this whole mess. For better or worse, Dan is spirited about these issues, and he now is banned, which as others have said, just angers people more and actually makes a bad situation worse. Internet boards aren’t subject to freedom of speech laws, and it is certainly your choice to ban him, but there are consequences for this type of suppression. These attempts to stifle discussion and debate negate the transparency and democracy you state you want for TWA. If you want it, you might review the list of people who are banned or censored and ask why the list is so large, and why these people were banned. Seemingly small things like moving the threads that discuss CellarTracker to Social Hall bother people and create the impression that you and your independent contractors are either afraid of these issues or are thin skinned or petty. You are the leader—the moderation style of which I speak does not do your stature justice.
As I wrote you privately before, please accept these comments in the spirit they are written—as someone who will go out on a limb to constructively express honest concerns. It seems that this whole mess has touched upon larger issues, such as duplicity, ethics, trust, and respect. Given the complexity and depth of reactions and issues, repairing the damage won’t be easy or quick. True transparency and a move toward more democracy will greatly speed the process.