El País lets its readers and itself down over Abstracta Vinícola wine blog

Having celebrated the arrival of a new wine blog in El País just a few weeks ago, I was surprised to see just a week later that it had mysteriously vanished from the full list of El País blogs, both under author name (Joan C. Martín) and blog name.

I spoke to Joan C. Martín, who told me that he’d not been told anything about the removal of his blog, so I wrote to El País Customer Service,  and received the response:

“Buenas tardes,

El blog Abstracta Vinícola se ha retirado de la web de EL PAÍS por decisión de la delegación de Valencia, sección a la que pertenecía.

Un saludo,

El equipo de Participación de EL PAÍS”

[“Good afternoon,

The Abstracta Vinícola blog has been withdrawn from the EL País web by the Valencia delegation, to which it was attached.

Regards,

The participation team of El País”]

At least this was confirmation that this is a policy decision and not an oversight. Joan confirms that he had accepted the invitation to create a wine blog from the editor of the Valencia edition, Josep Torrent, on the condition that he should have a free rein to write what he chose, and was assured that was the purpose of the blogs.

The whole thing raises a series of questions:

1. What led to the withdrawal of Abstracta Vinícola? Was it Joan’s denunciation in his second post (“La Gloria de Francia”) of the project spearheaded by the regional ministry of agriculture for a single giant Denominación de Origen Valencia, removing at one fell swoop the historic Alicante wine identity, not to mention Utiel-Requena and Castellón (for Spanish readers there is a thread on the subject in Verema)?

2. What accounts for the behaviour of El País? This daily has seen itself as a bastion of progressive liberal values since its foundation during the transition to democracy. It is not just the possibility that the Valencia delegation may have bowed to external pressure, but also the lack of professional ethics and courtesy in simply neglecting to inform and explain to the author what they were doing.

3. It also undermines the notion of what the purpose of a blog is. I would expect it to be an opportunity to connect and interact more directly with readers, to act as a forum for the expression of opinions beyond those of the main newspaper edition. To act in this arbitrary fashion, with such a complete lack of openness displays a disregard for readers, let alone the author. Why bother to have blogs? Are they simply to represent more pages in which to have advertizing?

I should declare an interest here, as I translated and published over 60 articles by Joan C. Martín that originally appeared in El País that constitute the book Valencia Land of Wine (ironically with a foreword by Josep Torrent).

I have written to El País requesting further explanation and suggesting that this arbitrary action is not true to the spirit of the newspaper. I have left a comment in Josep Torrent’s own blog, in which he routinely and highmindedly denounces the corruption and ethical shortcomings of Valencia’s politicians and society in general, and I have sent a tweet to @JosepTorrentB, but no reply has been forthcoming. I also wrote about this on my Facebook wall.

I’ll finish by providing the English translation of my comment to Josep Torrent’s post “Es su vergüenza” [It's their shame], followed by Joan’s rather forlorn response to an admiring reader’s comment to his final post.

My comment:

“Speaking of ethics, shame and concepts of transparency and respect for the citizen/reader, I am struck by the disappearance of the El País blog Abstracta Vinícola without warning or explanation (I believe also without informing its author Joan C. Martín). My question to El País Customer Services received the following brief response: “Good afternoon,

The Abstracta Vinícola blog has been withdrawn from the EL País web by the Valencia delegation, to which it was attached.”

It is in details like this, as well as the larger instances of corruption and absence of civic solidarity, that the attitudes that have contributed so much to the current situation are revealed. It seems to me that there is a contradiction between El Pais’s willingness to denounce the situation that we are going through and its own behaviour which reflects the very attitudes that have brought us to this pass.”

Joan’s response to a reader’s comment to his final blogpost (the reader wrote “Superb article. Carry on like this sr. Martín. By the way, it is getting harder and harder to find this blog on the El País site, a shame…”):

“Thank you very much dear reader. As to the blog, though it is still there if you type in the exact address, the Valencia delegation of El País led by the editor Pet Torrent, has decided to remove it from the Valencia region blogs, we don’t know why. I’ve asked, but have not received any reply either prior to or subsequent to the blog’s removal. Strangely, it was Mr Torrent himself who suggested I write the blog, I asked if if I was free to write as I pleased and would have the backing of the newspaper, to which he replied enthusiastically that I could write whatever I liked, but as we see this hasn’t been the case. I don’t know the reason, but other readers are put out and indignant at the way this has been done and it all looks as if it was my criticism of the minister in “The Glory of France”, so I’m sorry but as things stand I can’t post any more.

Regards,

joan c martín”

All in all, this is a sorry and strangely revealing state of affairs.

  1. Jan Reinhart says:

    This is really disappointing. I hoping Joan would have a chance to expand from his short format reviews to something more comprehensive.