The United States of Omerta but what about CN during the Armstrong years?

May 3, 2010
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The right wing columnist Woodrow Wyatt self-styled himself 'the voice of reason'. Private Eye styled him as the 'voice of Alzheimer's' owing to his ability to forget the things he had previous said and done.

We have this piece by Benson with no sign of a mea culpa.

http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/the-united-states-of-omerta

It is all well and good for Benson to criticise others, but he should really be a bit more up front and self-critical here and CN itself ought to think about a mea culpa. CN's coverage of Armstrong over the years has been hagiographic for the most part. Uncritically reporting on his every move and thought and dismissing any critics.

At no point does Benson hold his hands up and say 'we got it wrong' or even reflect on how CN played its part in building up and maintaining the Armstrong myth. Remember those articles about Armstrong and Sheryl Crow, Armstrong doing some running, if Armstrong had opened an envelope CN would have sent someone along to report on it.

Benson talks about how whistleblowers should have been supported but he seems to forget how CN facilitated the personal attacks on Landis and others by David Millar. CN gleefully repeated all of these attacks uncritically.

Benson talks about how the media has been complicit in omerta. Who can forget the irony of this when Laura Weislo went onto twitter to cry about how journalists were being blamed for maintaining omerta.

Benson talks about how journalists 'are now asking tough questions' is this going to extend to CN? Are they going to start grilling Sky and Wiggins on their lack of transparency and hiring dopers? Or asking David Millar about the contradictions in his comments and actions? Or is it going to be more of the same - hagiography until the balloon goes up and then hand wringing and saying we knew all along? Is it going to be more fawning puff pieces from Westemeyer, Friebe?

Is new 'tough' journalism merely going what its been in the past - namely piling onto the whipping boys like Ricco and now Armstrong, or is it actually going to put its head above the parapet and go for Brailsford, Cavendish, Wiggins, Phinney and all the latest golden boys of cycling?

Will Benson's new 'tough' journalism survive when Sky or Saxo threaten to cut access to Wiggins or Contador? When the invites to those training camps in Spain in February dry up, when the invites to the new team kit launch or bike launch stop coming, or when its a slow news day and they need something to pass off on the newsfeed?

It's hard to take Benson's article serious given CN attitude and coverage over the years and the lack of self-reflection or criticism suggests that Benson and the other CN journalists don't think that they've got anything wrong, all which doesn't really bode well for the future.
 
Aug 31, 2012
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I think this is very harsh on cycling news. I have been a long time reader and they have always played it straight. They're not really an opinion outfit, although there is the odd blog or piece like this. They just interview people and report what they have to say.

And when they interviewed people like Jonathan Vaughters, this is what they said....

http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/no-evidence-of-epo-during-vaughters-time-at-postal
 
Apr 13, 2010
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Wow Mrs Murphy... I normally don't like or agree with much of what or how you write... Probably I'd have taken a slightly less confrontational tone, but that's just me...

I think you've got some really great points and it's actually both surprising and disappointing that none of us here in the clinic have made this a thread before now.

For a while now the media tide has turned. I remember opening Procycling shortly after the Landis accusations to find that - finally - someone who wasn't a labelled "hater" actually wrote and printed articles that, while still repeating the good old "LA has always maintained his innocence", were openly putting out the question "is this the end of Armstrong?".

I was relieved to read Benson's piece openly admitting that the media had been and to a degree still is part of creating and maintaining the myth. But you're absolutely right...

- Is there going to be a personal insight into where they could themselves have acted/written differently? How they could have done it? Were we part of covering up the truth? Willingly/unwillingly? Where should we have asked more questions and where is it right we didn't (choosing the battles)?

We know the why's - money and fear of retaliation, it's a business after all.
But could we have some thoughts of how internally a media like cyclingnews/procycling could potentially make sure they're at least not actively perpetuating a grand scale lie? To what level can a media like this work to reveal stuff like this while not endangering access to even basic information? How and where does a reporting media draw the line?

It's always easy looking back and saying "boy, that LA thing sure was a dud! We better not do that again!". But what's really important now - for the future of cycling - is how the media can make sure it's part of cleaning up the sport by sifting through the mud that sticks and should be followed up on and what is just mud that doesn't deserve any attention. We - the outside fans with nothing to go on other that the great stuff and utter garbage that we can find in places like the clinic - have no other way of educating ourselves. We are the people who have to make up our minds as to whether the sport is worth following.

If the media cannot convey the confidence that we can get the lowdown from them, then we'll be stuck in insane rumour land for the next 10-20 years easily...
 
May 3, 2010
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TheSecretForum said:
I think this is very harsh on cycling news. I have been a long time reader and they have always played it straight. They're not really an opinion outfit, although there is the odd blog or piece like this. They just interview people and report what they have to say.

And when they interviewed people like Jonathan Vaughters, this is what they said....

http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/no-evidence-of-epo-during-vaughters-time-at-postal
All of which they let go unchallenged.

While an apology from CN for their coverage would be nice I'm not expecting it.

I find it incredible that Benson feels able to have a go at others for their actions and not once does he reflect on his own actions or his staff. Not once does he talk about the things CN got wrong over the last 14-15 years since Festina. Not one note of regret or self-reflection from Benson about the way CN covered Armstrong and the doping issue in general.

And this is part of the problem - no one in cycling will ever admit to getting anything wrong themselves. The UCI won't, the media certainly won't, the riders won't, the team management and race organizers won't. It will always be someone else's fault. And yet, some how we think this will usher in a new era of critical coverage which won't allow this to happen again - anyone who has seen the coverage of Sky in the UK media gets a sense of deja vu as any concerns about the team and its practices get swept under the carpet and we are told that the team is totally clean and only the French are making these accusations against them.

Cycling was supposed to turn the corner after Festina, it was supposed to turn the corner after Pantani, it was supposed to turn the corner after Puerto and its supposed to turn the corner now. Well if you've turned four corners, all you've done is walk around the block and ended up where you started from.
 
easy target

easy to find fault but i must ask................what stance did you take?
were you 'on to' cn pointing out fault and requesting the truth to be told?

easy in retrospect when so much more is known

let's look to the future ..........i am presently disappointed at the lack of awkward questions being posed of team armstrong in interviews

are reporters really still concerned that access will be denied in future?

either be pro-active or accept the news available
 
May 26, 2010
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There are few exceptions out there in the real world that will openly criticise someone like Armstrong. There is a thread here of all the companies that have links with Armstrong or he has a % in. It would take a media organisation big balls to threaten that advertising revenue.

This is the reason why blogs are popular. People write without the worry of threatening advertising.

But a big organisation should be above it. Future are a big organisation.

My big problem is the verbatim reporting, without any kind of suggestion that of what may be in fact the truth. The copy paste syndrome and lazy omerta journalism is part of the problem.

You just have to look athe so called big names in UK cyclign journalism, the Fotheringhams and others have they have disappeared from the cycling columns with nothing to say on the biggest story in the history of the sport.

Journalism is down there with the doping and there are only a few that can hold there heads high in terms of what it means to be a journalist.
 
May 26, 2010
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ebandit said:
easy to find fault but i must ask................what stance did you take?
were you 'on to' cn pointing out fault and requesting the truth to be told?

easy in retrospect when so much more is known

let's look to the future ..........i am presently disappointed at the lack of awkward questions being posed of team armstrong in interviews

are reporters really still concerned that access will be denied in future?

either be pro-active or accept the news available
Go search MJM and you'll see one of the toughest stances taken on here.
 
Aug 31, 2012
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Mrs John Murphy said:
All of which they let go unchallenged.

While an apology from CN for their coverage would be nice I'm not expecting it.

I find it incredible that Benson feels able to have a go at others for their actions and not once does he reflect on his own actions or his staff. Not once does he talk about the things CN got wrong over the last 14-15 years since Festina. Not one note of regret or self-reflection from Benson about the way CN covered Armstrong and the doping issue in general.

And this is part of the problem - no one in cycling will ever admit to getting anything wrong themselves. The UCI won't, the media certainly won't, the riders won't, the team management and race organizers won't. It will always be someone else's fault. And yet, some how we think this will usher in a new era of critical coverage which won't allow this to happen again - anyone who has seen the coverage of Sky in the UK media gets a sense of deja vu as any concerns about the team and its practices get swept under the carpet and we are told that the team is totally clean and only the French are making these accusations against them.

Cycling was supposed to turn the corner after Festina, it was supposed to turn the corner after Pantani, it was supposed to turn the corner after Puerto and its supposed to turn the corner now. Well if you've turned four corners, all you've done is walk around the block and ended up where you started from.
I think your criticism is confused. You attack journalists for writing puff pieces on successful riders, but what is sport supposed to be about if it's not about appreciating excellence? It's not like politics where journalists are supposed to view politicians with scepticism and have a certain amount of disdain for them because they are running the country and our lives. Sport is there to be enjoyed and sportsmen and women are to be admired. That is the whole point of it. If journalists started treating sports people like politicians then we may as well pack up and go home. Sure they can ask difficult questions is evidence emerges of cheating, but they are always going to be see athletes as people doing exceptional things that we like to see and enjoy.
 
Oct 16, 2010
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Great OP, Mrs. Murphy.

Mrs John Murphy said:
(...) And yet, some how we think this will usher in a new era of critical coverage which won't allow this to happen again - anyone who has seen the coverage of Sky in the UK media gets a sense of deja vu as any concerns about the team and its practices get swept under the carpet and we are told that the team is totally clean and only the French are making these accusations against them. (...)
you're pretty much describing JV's recent statements here ("Sky is clean, marginal gains, winning a GT clean is finally possible", etc.)

It'S striking how much of JV's philosophy is based on Sky being clean. Yet we can question Sky, but questioning Garmin is like cursing in the church.
 
I think CN's coverage of the Armstrong saga has been fair overall. They published Millar's attacks on Landis, yes, and they've also published stuff by and about LeMond, or Kimmage. They offered good coverage of the Landis allegations when they first surfaced. I don't know what else they could have done without dropping the -News in their name and replacing it with -OpinionBlogs.
 
May 3, 2010
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gooner said:
Just look at this tweet from a few days ago:
To which my response would be 'Publish and be damned'. I work in an environment where I have to deal with omerta and vested interests. There is material that I'd like to see and to be able to write about. When I can't write about something because of omerta, I write what I have to write, I write about what I have and then I explain to the reader what I don't have and why I don't have it.

In this new 'tougher' era it is up the media to refuse to be cowed by omerta. Name those who won't talk.

TheSecretForum said:
I think your criticism is confused. You attack journalists for writing puff pieces on successful riders, but what is sport supposed to be about if it's not about appreciating excellence? It's not like politics where journalists are supposed to view politicians with scepticism and have a certain amount of disdain for them because they are running the country and our lives. Sport is there to be enjoyed and sportsmen and women are to be admired. That is the whole point of it. If journalists started treating sports people like politicians then we may as well pack up and go home. Sure they can ask difficult questions is evidence emerges of cheating, but they are always going to be see athletes as people doing exceptional things that we like to see and enjoy.
I think that the sport at the present moment needs to be treated with scepticism because of the history of doping and because of the history of corruption and the absence of over-sight from either the media.

To be able to appreciate sporting excellence you need to be sure that it is achieved clean. The only way you can do that is by being critical and sceptical.
 
Oct 30, 2011
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You have to remember that the guy who founded CN had to sell it to Future after LA tried to ruin him in the wake of a critical article. That must surely have weighed quite heavily on the new owners' minds. It isn't right, but it is understandable, so I agree with MJM that a bit of contrition and explanation from Daniel Benson would be good.
 

the big ring

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Jul 28, 2009
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I'd rather Daniel Benson said what he has vs remaining entirely silent. It's a step in the right direction at least.

And he's the editor, not the owner. We're not told where the omerta originated.
 
May 3, 2010
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Caruut said:
You have to remember that the guy who founded CN had to sell it to Future after LA tried to ruin him in the wake of a critical article. That must surely have weighed quite heavily on the new owners' minds. It isn't right, but it is understandable, so I agree with MJM that a bit of contrition and explanation from Daniel Benson would be good.
Maybe Daniel Benson ought to write an article about writing on cycling in the Armstrong years.

There is certainly a context - the threat of access being cut, lawsuits and so on, however, CN did chase hits and page views as well with some very uncritical/puff pieces.

There is the comment in the Kimmage/Landis discussion (I think) where someone comments that CN and Velonews are often in a race to be the 'first to report' something, the journalistic model being about volume of coverage rather than quality of coverage - business model journalism.

The point is this - what happens next. What happens if Sky, or Garmin or Greenedge stories drive up the page views, will we get news reports about Wiggins and Lily Allen shacking up together in order to garner more hits? What happens if Brailsford or Cavendish starts threatening to sue anyone who accuses them of doping?

The big test is really the next big scandal - what happens if someone blows the whistle on Garmin, or BMC? Will the whistleblower be taken seriously by CN or will David Millar be allowed to call him an alcoholic loser again?

It is all well and good to say the media should be tougher, but when push comes to shove, will it? Or will we be back here in 15 years time with another lament that the media should have been tougher on Sky/BMC/Greenedge (delete as applicable).
 
Jun 12, 2010
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Many, ( most) journalists are a disgrace to the meaning of that word. most are little more than advertorial hacks.
This situation is very much a result of the dependence on advertisers rather than copies sold , a situation made worse by the Internet causing very big declines in hard copy sales.
Journalistic independence and integrity is now a very rare thing.
IF they want that integrity they need to stand together and refuse to attend press conferences when there aware some of there number are blacklisted.

They have been totally part of the problem in creating cycling's doping culture and omarta...and have been , for the most part as fully aware as the bitterest Clinic cynics ...anyone who,s ever sat in the hotel bar of a major stage race of an evening will know its like an open secret that they've been pulling the wool over the public and cycling fans eyes for decades.
 
Oct 30, 2011
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Mrs John Murphy said:
Maybe Daniel Benson ought to write an article about writing on cycling in the Armstrong years.
I would certainly like to read that. A kind of journalistic answer to the "Who watches the watchers" question.
 

Daniel Benson

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Mar 2, 2009
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Quickly on this because I've just been pointed to it, and I'm in the middle of live coverage...

That tweet related to the omerta story. I took some quotes out because a source backed down. I then went and talked to a few more people, who would be quoted, and ran the story. I wasn't going to run the original story with the quotes from the first story. That's poor form, and shows a lack of trust that I dont expect everyone to understand, but that's just how I feel.

On my coverage.... I was in school in 1999 and didnt take up a job on CN until 2008 so I can't really be blamed directly or even indirectly for work I had nothing to do with. The coverage CN and I have been providing has been balanced and fair. You called me an Armstrong apologist before but I dont know where that's come from. If you've read any of my work on the subject .....

As for reporters before I started, and Armstrong coverage... I make a general reference to that in the story with regards to the media as a whole. The piece isn't about CN or any one publication. That could possibly be a future piece sure.


Dan
 
Aug 27, 2012
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As many of you journo guys know best, traditional media and journalism is far less relevant now with social media, poster anonimity, and peer to peer opinion influencing. Forums (fora) like this are far more powerful in shaping opinion. Anyone who wants some detail can access it via the web and start putting the pieces together. So Omerta as it has been practiced in the past has much less likelyhood of success in future. The larger the mob, the higher the likelyhood of a snitch via social media. And ultimately that is what will undo future dope cheaters and crooked admins. Look at the pressure on Wiggins to "please explain", would have never been possible before. Certainly wasn't the case with Lance in '99 even though the stories were already there.
 
Oct 16, 2010
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I'm nodding in agreement with basically everything you've said in this thread, MJM. I'm obviously pleased you also include Garmin in your analysis. At every opportunity he gets JV is telling us we should stop being cynics and start believing in the new era. And the press are buying it.
While such statements are understandable from JV's perspective as a DS, it is guys like him and statements like these that really frustrate the revolution cycling so desperately needs.

To be sure, if ever the time was right for cycling to reform and clean house, the time is now. The circumstances are as good as never before, the evidence is on the table, the media no longer afraid to tackle the UCI. And then along come guys like JV telling us not to worry, that everything is good and getting better, and that we should just sit back and relax and trust in wiggins, trust that cycling is cleaning itself up, bladibla. :mad::rolleyes:
 

Daniel Benson

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Mar 2, 2009
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"The big test is really the next big scandal - what happens if someone blows the whistle on Garmin, or BMC? Will the whistleblower be taken seriously by CN or will David Millar be allowed to call him an alcoholic loser again?"

Just on this...but we were at the Tour and we did ask questions of Sky and we reported the fact that they blocked journalists from asking questions about doping at the their press con. We reported Cav's missed test while a reporter from another publication turned around and said 'well it's just a CN type story'... and we reported Landis/UCI/Hamilton/Betsy/ .... . Ask Betsy or Floyd what they think of our coverage now.. please...

with BMC we reported the Ballan/BMC issues to the point of me being blacklisted (and carried on beyond that) and we've done the same with numerous other doping/related stories. I'm not apologising for previous CN treatment of LA, I actually wasnt' around then and haven't read every article.... I'll read up some more.

and on Future, there's never been a time when someone has said to me, or even implied 'you cant print that because of ad $$$' Never.

Sorry not able to reply to everything at once, will reply more after today's vuelta stage.
 
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