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June 7, 2017 1:29 pm Published by

Founded over twenty years ago, Bear Republic is an independent and family-owned brewery located in the heart of Northern California’s Sonoma County. We pride ourselves on heritage and our love for quality craft beers.

 

On a daily basis, we strive to educate and inspire the consumption of great beer. We support publications and forums that we feel are share our enthusiasm for the craft brewing industry.

 

Bear Republic has been part of the RateBeer.com network for many years now. RateBeer, along with BeerAdvocate, All About Beer, Draft Magazine, Celebrator, Ale Street News, Brewing News, and numerous others have advocated for the craft beer community in ways that are accordant with journalistic principles.

 

With the announcement that ZX Ventures, which is owned by the global conglomerate Anheuser-Busch InBev, has purchased a portion of RateBeer, we feel that we can no longer endorse the publication.

 

We believe this is a direct violation of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics and, as Independent Family Brewers, an unquestionable conflict of interest. The SPJ’s Code of Ethics includes a section called “Act Independently” that includes:

 

• Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
• Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.
• Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; do not pay for access to news. Identify content provided by outside sources, whether paid or not.
• Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage.
• Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two. Prominently label sponsored content.

 

We have concluded that ABI’s partnership with RateBeer conflicts with those guidelines.

 

Along with other independently owned breweries, we have respectfully asked RateBeer to remove anything pertaining to Bear Republic from their website effective immediately.

 

We don’t want our consumers to feel like they are being deceived or misinformed in any way and do not want to be a part of something that allows us as a brewery to manipulate what is being said about our company and our beers, when it’s supposed to be a 100% consumer based and user-generated platform.

 

We fully support our fellow independently-owned craft brewers and invite you all to join us in this venture to ensure consumers continue to get first-rate information about their brewery’s beers.

 

For everyone who shares our belief, we hope that you will consider utilizing another platform to share your beer opinions and reviews.

 

Cheers,
The Bear Republic Team

 

For more information on the Society of Professional Journalism, please visit their website:
https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp.


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This post was written by Bear Republic

4 Comments

  • David Lindner says:

    Hell yea! You guys are awesome.

  • James Hutchens says:

    Bravo. Way to stand up for whats right. Keep up the good fight guys! Bear Gang for life!

  • Kevin says:

    I’m a journalist and craft-beer devotee. I’m no AB InBev shill (despite my recent exception to try an actually quite-tasty unfiltered Sculpin), and the RateBeer festival I recently attended in NorCal was the worst-run festival I’ve ever attended. I will not be attending another, a decision I made before learning of the partnership. I don’t even contribute to the RateBeer website, but I acknowledge it has been a power player in helping gain awareness of craft breweries, including yours, so I find this witch hunt rather shameful.

    RATEBEER IS NOT JOURNALISM. It’s the beer equivalent of Yelp, and unlike all the “publications” you compared it to, RateBeer produces no staff-written editorial content. While I appreciate you, DFH and others enlightening people about the SPJ code of ethics, my dog in this hunt is the fact that this is a dramatic and terribly poor misapplication of those guidelines and perpetuates a misunderstanding of the media itself and its role in our lives. Otherwise, it’s just bad critical thinking that does a disservice to journalistic reporting processes in its attempt to “protect” journalistic integrity and “protect” your consumers by further deceiving and misinforming them, which you claim you don’t want to do.

    First, RateBeer is unlike BeerAdvocate, Draft, Celebrator, etc because it does not write its own articles, reviews, editorial perspectives, etc. Second, I will spend the rest of my life drinking Bud Light if the staff at BA, Draft, Celebrator, etc can tell me without cracking up that they have never once received free beer or other gifts from brewers they have written articles about. So you’re not even consistent in your own call for integrity. The rest:

    • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
    — There is no real conflict, as RateBeer does not influence reviews, because reviews are user-generated. RateBeer does not create its own editorial content. The only perceived conflicts are those of people who are deliberately trying to find a reason to make any stand possible against AB InBev or others’ involvement with them.

    • Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.
    — User-generated reviews are already susceptible to this problem. Brewers, the friends of brewers, the people who got free stuff from brewers — do you think they don’t jump on RateBeer and pump the stats? I can guarantee you the RateBeer guys get free stuff ALL THE TIME. Any evidence it has ever influenced the site? RateBeer doesn’t write its own reviews or articles or influence content, so these guidelines don’t apply.

    • Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; do not pay for access to news. Identify content provided by outside sources, whether paid or not.
    — This listing itself is evidence that you don’t understand the terms being used or the code of ethics. If the RateBeer staff paid the janitor for an exclusive story on the unsanitary conditions of a small brewery, that would be paying for access to news. The complaint here is that RateBeer is accepting money from AB InBev, not that RateBeer is paying for access to information.

    • Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage.
    — Again, RateBeer doesn’t produce its own content, so there’s no evidence it can give favored treatment to its owners; however, no one has ever previously raised the issue of whether RateBeer influences reviews based on donations or the operators’ personal favorite brews/breweries. This is a baseless concern.

    • Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two. Prominently label sponsored content.
    — Again it’s clear you don’t understand the terms being used or the code of ethics. RateBeer is not writing its own articles; it certainly is not allowing AB InBev’s marketing department to write “advertorials” that are deceptively presented to the public as journalistic pieces of writing.

    Not mentioned: If RateBeer really is journalism, then it should be clear that ethical journalists do not change their behavior one iota based on changes in their ownership. If you found RateBeer to operate ethically for the past 17 years, then there is zero reason to believe those ethics will change.

    Not one of your concerns holds water. Yelp was discovered strongarming its community by members of the community — businesses and users noticing positive reviews were disappearing as Yelp asked businesses to advertise. If this happens at RateBeer, the community itself will know about it, and then it will be time to react. If RateBeer begins writing editorial content about AB InBev products without disclosing the connection or making it clear the content is sponsored, then it will be time to react. If RateBeer runs advertisements on its website for AB InBev products? It’s still NOT time to react, because there would still be no evidence that RateBeer is trying to influence reviews or perform deceptive journalism.

    You claim you don’t want your consumers to feel like they are being deceived or misinformed in any way, but you chose to perpetuate that deception and misinformation.

  • Russell Peterson says:

    Kevin makes a lot of great points. As an active Ratebeer user for the past eight years, the way this whole thing went down disgusts me and I’ve decided to stop using the site. I don’t support ABI in anyway. But this whole journalistic integrity angle that Sam Calagione has started is baffling to say the least. Let me echo what Kevin said: RATEBEER IS NOT JOURNALISM. Isn’t this obvious to anyone who knows anything about Ratebeer?

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