With a lot of rumours in the Formula 1 paddock at this time of the year, inevitably when things are concerned we get to see which journalists are right, which ones were wrong and who broke what exclusives, and crucially got the details correct. Now, you may be wondering “does it matter”? To the fans, who are reading the news, probably not. But to the journalists themselves, I would say that it does matter. Journalists, in their nature, exist to get a big story, to get that story that the rest of the fleet have been looking for. After all, getting exclusives drives internet traffic, it drives social media, it can, if you are a relatively small company drive the entire business.
Those that can remember back to Monaco will remember both Jonathan Noble and Andrew Benson, for AUTOSPORT and BBC respectively breaking the Mercedes “tyre gate” exclusive. It means a lot to journalists to get the story. So, imagine if you had a reporter or a journalist who has broken that exclusive, to look and find another website actually claiming to have an exclusive that is not theirs. In the case of Sky Sports F1, they have done that twice in the recent weeks. I know that I have been critical of them in the past, but unfortunately this past week, it is evident that they have been shouting from the rooftops about their own team bringing viewers ‘exclusives’ that were broken by another paddock journalist beforehand.
The first is Natalie Pinkham claiming David Croft “got the scoop” on Rob Smedley, Felipe Massa and Ross Brawn going to Williams. 96 people retweeted that, possibly for the detail, it is just a pity the bit about getting the scoop is far from the mark. If that actually turns out to be true then Ted Kravitz and also Autosprint deserve the credit. Kravitz noted Brawn going to Williams as early as last Sunday, whilst Autosprint on Thursday put the linked article online. So again, I am unsure Sky got the exclusive. It is not just Sky who do this though. Not necessarily with exclusives but ripping off other website’s articles. On the morning of September 5th, AUTOSPORT published a 2014 draft calendar. This then appeared on just about every other Formula 1 website imaginable. Many credited or linked the original source which is fine, but there are websites which just took the calendar and passed it off as their own, original journalism.
Finally, Kimi Raikkonen’s return to Ferrari. On August 1st, Pekka Franck (a Finnish journalist) broke the story on the SuomiF1 website. So Franck had the scoop, many weeks before the British journalists who swarm the paddock. This did not stop Johnny Herbert, David Croft and Pete Gill in this article claiming that their own Mark Hughes that the exclusive! Hughes, as well as his Sky duties works for AUTOSPORT, but thankfully AUTOSPORT employees on Twitter did not post about Hughes supposedly getting an exclusive. You could claim that Sky did not know about Franck breaking the story given that he is not a British based journalist. By that measure, I’m still not sure Hughes was the first.
I go back to the question I posed at the start of this post: “does it matter”? It is all about journalistic standards. If you are getting news from another website and basically doing a Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V job then in the very least you should be accrediting them and saying “yeah, I took X from Y, but am adding my Z bit of analysis and thoughts to it”. In Sky’s case, it is ripping off another journalists work and claiming it as their own – albeit not as an article, but in tweet form. Bad standards, in my view. And in the first attempt, it feels like an attempt to fuel someone’s ego. Deliberately? Who knows. But I don’t think, in the past year and a half I have seen Sky genuinely get an earth shattering Formula 1 exclusive on the scale of the Mercedes tyre fiasco or the Raikkonen contract or do an Eddie Jordan. In the words of Marc Priestley: “Finding it hilarious how many people seem to claim to have ‘broken’ the news first. It’s brilliant.”
Maybe “Sky sources” just don’t exist in the Formula 1 paddock meaning that they have to take other journalists exclusives and claim them as their own…
Update on April 5th, 2014 – It looks like I have a good reason to update this today. Sky Sports during their practice coverage AND also The F1 Show last night were hyping a ‘Mercedes exclusive’ with Martin Brundle and Mark Hughes. The feature played out during the Bahrain Grand Prix Qualifying show. Whilst there was no problem with the feature itself, in fact it was informative, and definitely did a great job at explaining the advantages of the split turbo, it actually wasn’t an exclusive!
Craig Scarborough did a feature on it with Peter Windsor for The Racer’s Edge before Melbourne, whilst Racecar Engineering mentioned it after the first test in Jerez! So, in other words, Sky’s exclusive has already been in the public domain for two months (worryingly, Scarborough says its not even accurate). As we can see from the original article before the update, Sky have history in claiming exclusives that are not always there. If Sky want an exclusive early, why don’t they actually get Scarborough, or someone from Racecar Engineering onto their coverage to explain it? Hopefully I’m not adding to this before the end of 2014…