Spending 20 weeks of the year with the same people creates something of a bond between the folk of the F1 paddock, and particularly between colleagues in the same job role. Sure there are often tensions, but for the most part we tend to stick together.
So when you read one of your own kind being laid into, it takes you by surprise. And it saddens you.
An article was posted this morning on a Formula 1 website, which I found distasteful in the extreme. Not only did it attempt to pull apart the reputation and call into question the abilities of one of the most respected writers and newshounds in this paddock, but from a personal perspective, it also had a pop at me. Charming!
For this article to refer to the journalist in question as a “blogger” is to attempt to belittle him and his work as being of little import, and for him to be little more than one of a number of writers on the subject of this sport who pen their opinions without the access to provide informed insight.
To quote from the offending piece itself:
There is no doubt that the market is flooded with F1 blogs and the majority offer little real insight into what is really going on in the sport. A few of them do break early news, which later proves to be accurate, but these are in the minority.
There tend to be multiple problems with the bulk of the blogs: they are verbosely written by people with little or no training in print journalism and often slip into rambles about the personal experience of the blogger.
To refer to the journalist in question as having “little or no training in print journalism” is a scandal. He has worked for almost every major motorsport print publication in the British language and has been writing about this sport for decades.
The thing is, the people in this press room, if they have a problem with a colleague, would take it up with them in person. Not via a vitriolic post on a website.
You may well ask why, then, I am not doing the same. And the answer is simple.
Because the writer who claims the moral high ground and questions the integrity of a friend and colleague, has no accreditation. He does not attend Formula 1 races. In ten years of reporting on this sport I genuinely cannot recall seeing him at a single Grand Prix.
This is the man pontificating on journalistic standards?
Where does he get his quotes, his information, his stories? I can only assume it is from those on the ground. From those who spend every penny they have to fly to 20 races a year. Life as a freelancer has never been tougher. But we carry on, because we love this sport and because we want to bring you closer to it.
I don’t really care if the writer in question has a problem with me and calls me out in his articles. If he ever comes to a race he can bring it up with me in person. But what I do have an issue with is him pulling apart a journalist I greatly respect, in a public forum, in such unashamed fashion. And yes, I do see the irony.
A few days ago, a former journalist who was regarded as one of the finest newshounds in this sport, referred to the journalist at the centre of the writer’s odious post thus:
“I came into F1 with the mantra ‘believe nothing until you know it to be true’, and, through reading this journalist’s work, I quickly altered that mindset to: ‘believe everything until you know it to be false’ because my eyes were widened to the scope and breadth of Formula 1 by reading his investigative reports – something that he continues to do to this day….”
I, for one, could not agree more wholeheartedly with that statement. Sure, it means that sometimes his stories are close to the edge. Sometimes they’re spot on. Sometimes they’re there but not quite. And sometimes they’re a bit off centre. But they are written from the heart, and having come from a list of contacts and sources accrued over decades. People who work in this sport and in this paddock and trust in this journalist because he is one of the best.
How a writer can sit at home and attempt to rip apart a journalist at the track, especially this journalist, leaves me aghast.
As one final point, I was interested to read the writer in question’s biog on his website. In it, there is the claim that he “still gets that special tingle when he hears an F1 engine burst into life.”
Must be one hell of a sound system on that TV.