A question of integrity

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.

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23 thoughts on “A question of integrity

  1. What’s quite odd is that the writer of the article seems to be Bernie’s mouthpiece (or at least used by Bernie to get his stories out).
    Anyway, not sure anyone reads that website – the columns are always seem to be written in quite a bitter fashion.
    And it seemingly has the most ironic of names…

  2. Bang on Will. I have seen “that site” on a number occasions and find much of their nonsense to be just that… nonsense.

    One hopes yourself, Mr S and co are enjoying the Korean sunshine. :)

  3. Superb Will, good on you for speaking up. Shocked by the arrogance of the sofa-pundit in question. He’s really overstepped the mark this time. Zero integrity versus years of respect, no contest.

  4. Agree 100%, Will. I’ve personally been reading the journalist in question (the one you’re defending, not the other guy) for somewhere between 10-15 years, and I find that his “scoop” work can be broken down thusly: 85% spot on, 12% just about right, missing only a couple of minor details, 3% not quite right, 0% just completely wrong (the bit that the disreputable guy is apparently claiming is more like 50%). It’s disgusting to hear this journo’s work taken apart like this, especially by a site that, on the few occasions I’ve read it, has appeared to be completely full of it (I wish I could remember the specific instances, but they were enough to make me know that I didn’t need to rely on that website for anything, ever). To have the journo in question repeatedly dismissed as “a blogger” (and if there was any kind of font that could make the “b” in “blogger” even more lowercase yet, I’m sure he’d have used it), is an insult in the highest degree.

    Keep up the great work, here and everywhere else, Will.

  5. Wow, I had to search for that article and I couldn’t even find the name of the author. Not a web site I normally read. Brush it off. He/she/it is not worth the bother.

    Nice to see you take a stand for integrity and to support your co-worker!!
    But I would expect nothing less than that from you.
    Continue to do what you do, in the manner that is has been in the past!!
    I as one will stand next to you.

  7. Well done, Will. I have followed Joe’s work for a number of years now and dined with him at a GP a couple of years back: man with exceptionally high integrity and adheres to the best journalistic principles. A rare combination and commodity these days, particularly in sport. It is despicable that Bernie’s unofficial mouthpiece feels the need to stoop so low. To put some perspective on the situation, I have purchased and analyzed Formula Money and many associated articles on F1 business that Joe’s assailant has written: the Formula Money publication is based largely on guesses and assumptions that really don’t stack up and the business analysis is more often than not a rewrite of press releases, therefore hardly objective. As an academic, I understand the need to be objective in such analyses. So, again, well done for defending the work of someone who actually goes to the races and knows what he is talking about (sure, sometimes speculation is awry, but it is informed opinion). You have a new subscriber to your blog and follower on Speed (though I wish the coverage were better here in Canada).

  8. Well said Will. The irony of a glorified blogger themselves with little presence at the races themselves attacking a proper journalist, (as a ‘blogger’ himself) is crushing. But such a personal article just shows how small the ‘Pit’ Pass really is. Depressing, but stuff like this needs highlighting, so good on you.

  9. I think the post in question was at best unprofessional and petty but equally the ‘blogger’ it was condemning has also been unprofessional and petty in his coverage of the Force India story which kicked off the whole debate. Not saying he deserved someone else to attack him so blatently, but perhaps he needs to acknowledge that he’s not always right and that not everyone should automatically submit to his opinion.

  10. You’re spot on Will.

    To refer to the journalist as having “little or no training in print journalism” indeed makes no sense at all.

    In fact, I think the offending writer might desperately need a new media training or something: the difference in the number of Twitter followers of him, the journalist and you says it all!

  11. Great that you are sticking up for him Will. He’s been getting a lot of flak lately in his comments section and even a few people have been willing to take a pop at him on Twitter for reasons that I don’t understand or agree with.

    The offending site in question is a load of rubbish and is only heard of when they write these types of articles. I barely ever go there any more and it is sad to see it on such a death spiral…

  12. Good on you. The semantics played on the PP article are incredible. To say that some one has payed $100 million for 42.5% of a company but the owners have not sold is just logical gymnastics. I have been reading Joe’s columns and articles for close to 20 years and enjoyed them immensely. I haven’t always agreed with him but his experience has earned him the right to express them.
    All I have read from the other writer has seemed to be the Bernie line on whatever news story that might have a negative impact on Bernie. He seems to claim that writing for a British newspaper makes him in someway superior to Joe. Given the revalations about British newspapers this year this would seem to be a strange point of view.
    As others have noted PP allows for no comments to posted on thier website. I am deleting them from my list of F1 sites to visit.
    I hope others do the same.

  13. I have been involved in writing about F1, in Danish, for many years, and as the mayority today, as a hobby, a passion. I then decided some years back to try a blog on that interweb thing, and I changed my language to English, to get more customers basically.
    I came across JS´ blog three years ago and have never, ever seen such remarkable penmanship from any journalist before or since. His integrity, his true passion, his entire person oozes professionalism. In the same span, I came across Pitpass and have read it a lot, mainly to make sure that they stopped stealing my stories, which they did in 09 on several occasions.
    To target, what is easily the hardest working journalist in the business and try to dis-credit his work and integrity, unfortunately shows more about them as it does on him. JS will forever stand as a beacon of professionalism, sadly the other site surely must have lost all justification.

  14. I have to laugh at the hypocrisy of the guy in question. He drones on and on in his ‘article’ about Joe’s predictions about Force India and tries to discredit him with the blogger tag. Joe IS a blogger AND a journalist and he’s damn good at both!

    Sure, Joe doesn’t pull any punches, doesn’t dress his blog up with fancy BS and gets straight to the point with his analyses. That’s what makes his blog great. Some eejits seem to take offense to it for reasons that are beyond me.

    He also mentions the fact that Joe never contacted Vijay Mallya directly.

    Yes, because Joe is going to spend the crumbs of time he has spare phoning a guy who doesn’t want anyone to know he is selling his team and is willing to break contractual agreements and then ask him if he is selling his team. Genius! Why didn’t anyone else think of doing that?

    Isn’t this the same guy who also predicted the majority of the Formula 1 circuits would switch to IndyCar in 2014 over the new engine regs?

    Whatever happened to that little nugget?

  15. I agree with most of it. Pitpiss is a joke, and they do this only to look like they are the “independent” source of F1 reporting. The reality is that they just post crap, and that should be the end of it.

    Also, as they say, you shouldn’t feed the trolls. Pitpiss is best ignored.

    What I don’t agree with, however, is the part where you suggest (well, state) that real journalists have to be at the track to be real journalists.

    No, that’s not true, and the opposite can be said about people that go to every race. They are not journalists just because they are on track, and F1 ‘journos’ like to glorify the idea that just because I’m on track and you are not, you are insignificant.

    The truth is that there is little journalism involved in F1, an environment designed to work as a PR machine. An environment designed to offer the people who cover it all the elements to write what they have to write.

    Creditable journalists don’t hang out with the people they have to write about, or play baseball with them. I’m sure you can see the implications of that.

    How can people expect you to report impartially about a guy you spent the night partying with?

    Imagine a political journalist hanging out and having a beer with the leaders of a party and then writing news about them. In F1, nobody is surprised about that.

    Formula 1 is a mix of PR and journalism, with a bigger percentage of the former, and just because people go to a race track doesn’t make him a journalist.

  16. I agree. I notice that the offending site offers no real opportunity for people to comment on the stories. Also they failed to mention the thousand plus comments of support for the “blogger”. Shocking “journalism” from PP.

  17. For what its worth I think Joe Saward’s blog is a shining example of what a ‘blog’ should be – it isn’t print journalism and that’s half the point. Joe’s print writing is different. A blog is a place where people can write their own views and perspectives, as away from any vested interests as you can get in any medium, where personal views can be expressed. I love the fact Joe isn’t afraid to speak his mind, especially to commenters (I’ve been on the receiving end myself!). The writing on Joe’s blog is insightful, and brings me so much extra analysis on F1. I often disagree with the bits that are personal opinion – but again, that’s half the point. But I always come away a bit more informed.

    Conversly I’ve never read a single piece on Pitpass I’ve given a tosh about. It’s written in a faux authoritive style, that attempts to sound knowledgable to the point of being holier-than-thou, but instead reads as what it is – re-heated press-releases and leaked info written up with obvious ignorance.

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