Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What's old is new?

Another nod to PubScout Kurt Epps, who points out the Star-Ledger is recycling features, only this time using a video camera to do it.

The Ledger descended upon The Brewer's Apprentice in Freehold to pick some low-hanging fruit. Kurt points out he did this story 11 years ago, and the Asbury Park Press (our alma mater) did it back in the 1990s, too.

What's different now? YouTube's ascension, from 2005 forward.

Some folks fancy calling this new media, which is accurate enough if you're in the industry or academics and need a term to wrap your mind around. But you can also take it as a euphemism for how the Internet has upended newspapers and eaten their lunch.

The Ledger and some others have inanely called it video journalism. Accurate again. But we can't help but remember that at the time of JFK's assassination 46 years ago, folks in television news were witnessing their slice of the broadcast journalism pie grow exponentially. (You can almost hear the broadcast veterans grinding their teeth at the phrase video journalism; what were they making from Dallas, slides? Animations? Cave paintings? Never mind the news reel footage shown in movie theaters back during World War II and before.)

Whatever. The nomenclature evolved because of short memories and tunnel vision. We're taking a swipe at the Ledger for a few other reasons, too.

One, Kurt's right. And two, the Ledger's production (and it must be stressed, we're not picking on Brewer's Apprentice) is just gathering apples from the ground, no ladder in the tree. All it does is talk about going to make beer outside the traditional brewery setting, i.e. homebrewing by proxy. There are plenty of homebrew clubs – folks who actually brew at home – in New Jersey with some seriously talented and innovative brewers, including one who was a national finalist in the 2007 Samuel Adams LongShot homebrew contest (something we pointed out, to no avail, to an editor at the Ledger back then).

Also, making beer – whether at home or in Butler, Roselle Park, Cherry Hill or Lambertville – is no mystery. There are boatloads of how-brewing-is-done videos on YouTube, and some are from New Jersey. If the Ledger were looking to do some real video journalism, it could have focused on the fact that New Jersey requires homebrewers to get an onerous annual permit, which practically no one does (except Brewer's Apprentice won't make your beer without it), and which practically no other state requires (according to the American Homebrewers Association in Boulder, Colorado). The permit is 15 bucks; it used to be 3, and requires your homebrew to not leave your home, something else that doesn't happen.


But we're not just griping for gripe's sake. We've shot plenty of newsy video about New Jersey beer. So here's where we blow our own horn:

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