Editor's Blog: On Being Wrong

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After Casey Stoner announced his retirement on Thursday at Le Mans, it was obvious that I would choose that subject to write about for that day's round up of events. Stoner's retirement had befuddled me - I was not alone in my befuddlement, it was shared by almost everyone involved in MotoGP - and I discussed the source of the story published by the Spanish magazine Solo Moto in the week between the Jerez and Estoril rounds of MotoGP, which splashed news of Stoner's retirement on its front page, citing an anonymous source.

In my story on Stoner's retirement, I reported on the rumors I had heard at Estoril identifying Livio Suppo as the source of Solo Moto's story. On the Friday, I received two emails, one from Livio Suppo himself, and the other from Borja Gonzales, an editor at Solo Moto, the magazine that broke the story of Stoner's retirement. Neither was pleased, and rightly so. 

Suppo pointed out that he had done everything in his power to help Casey Stoner during the Australian's career, both at Ducati and at Honda. This is undeniable: from the very beginning, Suppo has pointed to Stoner as the decisive factor, both for Ducati and for Honda. In 2007, it was Suppo who persistently told the media and anyone who would listen that the reason for the success of the Ducati was not the bike, but Stoner, and his first order of business after leaving Ducati to join Honda was to lure the Australian to HRC alongside him. In several informal chats I have had with Suppo, the Italian has shown a sense of awe at Stoner's achievements, something you sensed he would have felt whether or not Stoner was riding for Suppo's employer.

Gonzalez made the point that I had named Suppo as the source of the leak based on rumors, and nothing more. In this, he is entirely correct. Attempts at verification were fruitless on my part, and I could have tried harder to talk to Suppo to enquire about this. I did speak to people close to Honda - they confirmed that they were hearing the same rumors as I was, which can hardly be regarded as verifying a source, it merely confirms that a motorcycle racing paddock is an endless source of gossip, unfounded or otherwise - but not to the parties involved. Gonzalez rightly pointed out that if not knowing the facts may be regarded as a sin, then boasting about such ignorance should be considered a worse one.

Should I have reported on the rumors identifying Suppo as the source of the leak? In hindsight, probably not. The MotoGP paddock is constantly awash with rumor and gossip, and though much of it is harmless, in this case I should have erred on the side of caution. The potential to cause damage - even for a relatively modest website like this one - was too great, and I made the wrong choice.

This is one of the things I personally find hardest about my newly chosen profession. Though this is my third full season in the MotoGP paddock, I am still very new to journalism. On occasion, you are faced with difficult decisions about whether or not to publish information you have learned, either directly or indirectly, sometimes referred to explicitly off the record, sometimes in what are ostensibly private conversations, at other times in clearly public discussions. I have tried to keep confidential information that has been shared with me on that basis, though sometimes I find out through other channels that I was actually supposed to leak the info, and not keep it to myself. Striking the right  balance is hard, and is something I get wrong all too often.

As it was in this case. Regardless of whether or not Livio Suppo was the source of the leak on Stoner's retirement - and I have since learned that he most probably was not the leak - these rumors should not have been published. My sincere apologies to Livio Suppo and to all at Solo Moto.

I will try not to make the same mistake again. Unfortunately, there are a million other new and different mistakes for me to make instead. Bear with me, I'm doing my best.

After Casey Stoner announced his retirement on Thursday at Le Mans, it was obvious that I would choose that subject to write about for that day's round up of events. Stoner's retirement had befuddled me - I was not alone in my befuddlement, it was shared by almost everyone involved in MotoGP - and I discussed the source of the story published by the Spanish magazine Solo Moto in the week between the Jerez and Estoril rounds of MotoGP, which splashed news of Stoner's retirement on its front page, citing an anonymous source.In my story on Stoner's retirement, I reported on the rumors I had heard at Estoril identifying Livio Suppo as the source of Solo Moto's story. On the Friday, I received two emails, one from Livio Suppo himself, and the other from Borja Gonzales, an editor at Solo Moto, the magazine that broke the story of Stoner's retirement. Neither was pleased, and rightly so. 

Comments

Chillax

You have more than enough credit to make up for it.
One of these I accidently sent A LOT of money to frozen offshore accounts, money which wasn't mine to begin with, but the goverment's, and that was a huge effing cock up.

Suppo should join the forums and our discussions as well, by the way.

Total votes: 72

I think my journalism

I think my journalism students think I'm joking when I say that I've made every mistake in the book - twice - and I'm still finding new ones. Sometimes it's even hard to determine whether something is a mistake. It's not a task like accounting. Every situation is different, and all you can do is try to apply journalistic principles to an ever-shifting environment. I think MotoMatters does an excellent job of it.

Total votes: 78

The overcompensation effect

Prima facie, Suppo would have been the least likely person to have leaked this information, based on all of his relationship with Stoner. However, if the rumours keep ricocheting around, someone who is trying very hard to remain impartial is more likely to think- 'well, despite my own feelings, here seems to be a lot of finger-pointing, and I should not discount it just because my own predilections are the opposite.' So, in the interests of fairness, one actually devalues one's own judgement in the face of what appears to be stronger evidence. It's an extremely familiar reaction from those who try to remain impartial.

TBH, the only 'logical' likely source is Puig, trying to cement Pedrosa's position for the next two years in the face of what would be a fairly obvious concerted campaign to replace Stoner with Lorenzo and the apparent HRC dictum of not having two Spanish riders in the team. However, that supposition (NO pun intended!) is probably as wrong as any other, and it will turn out to be some faceless would-be-wizard from HRC who tried to make a name for him/herself by capturing Stoner back...

Total votes: 71

Agree completely. Whenever

Agree completely. Whenever there's evidence of back-alley skulduggery and people staggering around trying to pull butter knives out of their back, I'd just naturally suspect the Evil One as the most likely instigator. Alberto is bright enough to realize that dragging the issue to the fore, and making a big, ugly, public spectacle of it is exactly the sort of thing that just might push Stoner to the "Well fuck this!" inflection point. Puig would be playing for either a zero loss (Stoner stays anyway) or a positive gain (See-Ya!). It's a no brainer.

Total votes: 56

David, I think your articles

David, I think your articles are by far the best to be found about MotoGP and I can only imagine the difficult decisions you must have to make at times regarding content and source. Please keep up the great work and be assured that all your writings are most highly regarded.
Maybe the best boss I ever worked for told me once after I had screwed up, "He who never made a mistake never made anything". So true.
Best regards,

Total votes: 69

Few Journo's

David, Few Journo's would have gone to the trouble you just did to clarify the situation and apologise - for that you are to be congratulated.

And please don't let a minor mistake like that affect your thoughts on the future of MM.

And note personally I didn't take the story as gospel truth, you made it clear they were rumors only in the original article, and knowing what I do of the history of Casey & Suppo, I found it hard to believe.

Total votes: 72

Bit harsh on yourself.

When i read that article i only took it as you trying to identify a possible source based on what you heard. You never clearly pointed the finger square at Suppo. This is a blog after all, editors put their thoughts on their blog, this is no different - apart from the large following it receives compared to other blogs.

I guess the lesson is some people are sensitive to media, overly sensitive. Suppo and Stoner truly are made for each other.

Total votes: 64

Let's get some perspective here

Lurker here.

There is too much hero worship going on here. Yes, I understand this is a fan forum for people (like myself) who enjoy motorcycle racing. However, that is not a license to lose perspective of the big picture. At the end of the day it is all about entertainment...we, the fans, need to be entertained. They (the riders) entertain us with the spectacle of motorcycle racing. You (the journalist) entertain us by discussing the latest goings-on and throw in some gossip for added spice. That's all. It's really not very important beyond that. Honest.

Please continue to report on the little nuggets of gossip. Why the hell not? That's entertainment and it's fun to read about! If someone (team manager and/or rider-jock) gets in a huff, please remind them they are in the entertainment business and are not to take themselves so seriously. It's not like they're doing something highly important like looking for the cure for cancer or designing new antibiotics. They're racing motorcycles for gosh sakes.

Your approach to your career is spot on and you are doing a great job.Keep it up!

Total votes: 86

Bravo David. With this post

Bravo David. With this post you have shown not only are you an excellent journalist but also one with integrity and honesty and that you are unafraid of admitting to mistakes, something that we all make at sometime or the other. My respect for you which was already very high has gone up even higher. MotoGP needs journalist like you.

Total votes: 71

They'll all get over it

It's not a f^*k up if you fix it.

Best motorcycle racing site on the web. Put it in gear and move on.

Total votes: 63

You continue to amaze David

When I think you can't get any better you prove me wrong! But at the same time I think you are being a bit hard on yourself because part of the job in this age of the internet, twitter, facebook, blogs, etc, etc the rumor mill is constantly churning. If it wasn't you breaking the story and putting it out there with names it would be someone else either journo or anonymous paddock worker posing as a forum poster. You have done the right thing and admitted your wrong which takes a big man. But you set it straight so hat tip to you Sir!

Total votes: 67

you would be amazed

at what passes as journalism in the States. Using reporters of any segment here as a barometer you routinely surpass their low watermarks.

It would appear that being an 'Accidental Journalist' has made you great one because you care about both your subject and your new craft; you're methodical, extremely detailed and, most importantly, original. I hope an unfortunate experience changes nothing about your approach, writing style and judgement.

"carry on" as they say across the pond.

Total votes: 63

Errors and the making of

David. I've been doing this (and not always in this field) for 20 years and I'm not yet 40. Mistakes are part of the scenery and we all make them - me more than most. The balance between what you talk to people about and what you can use is usually 80/20.

Of that 20, 5 is going to upset someone. It happened to me on Friday but good relationships will remain solid as those with any sense know that speculation and rumour are a part of paddock life. Riders and especially team managers are the worst for it and love it unless it is about them - but they can't have it all ends up. What you do is great work and the above wasn't necessary but well thought out and honest. But, as Lord Rothermere once said, it is good to throw a rock in a pond every once in a while...

Total votes: 61

Some good will ...

... come out of this episode.

A mistake has been made and recognised - everyone makes mistakes, and acknowledging this particular mistake will only lead to improvement.

'Good on you, David' - for your honest self-appraisal of this error, and for your continued hardwork.

Total votes: 64

The truth, the whole truth....

David, I missed your report but having had a quick read I cannot see the problem. It is a well-considered, informative, insightful,very carefully phrased and diplomatic (I presume) report on a matter which interests many people. As stated above, this is sport, it's entertainment; let's not take it TOO seriously.If this is poor journalism, bring it on.The sport needs this quality of journalism and I wholeheartedly agree with those who say this is the best site available. Almost Rossi-esque (you need some awards).
As for Stoner, (and Suppo etc) hasn't he reaped what he sowed?It has been written many times what a 'straighforward' guy he is. It must be difficult to stay publically honest in the rariefied air of a world champion and I totally respect his ability to do what he does with a motorcycle. I wish I had 50% of his ability and money.However, he clearly was not being totally straighforward in his dealings with the media. If he had said "The rumours are just that. My wish to retire before I totally lose my passion for what I do is not latest news.I am in negotiations with HRC over my future contracts" it might not have made much difference and no one could accuse him of not being a straightforward person.
As for Suppo and that other guy being upset with you - perhaps Suppo is more upset about having to find another class act after such a brief relationship; and the other - professional jealousy I would say.
Hindsight - like mirrors on a MotoGP bike.Don't worry about it, keep moving on.
So, what's next?

Total votes: 75

What?

But the leak was part of a 'genius' plan. That plan was Nakamotos and Suppos last effort to keep Casey on the bike.
The leak was deliberate (obviously by Suppo) so every one could have done the same as you did.
There is a big part of the blame on us as well because we are thirsty for 'bomb' news, we want them fast and we don't really care about small -but critical- details.
The story
If Casey wanted to leave in the first place there would be no negotiations with Honda at all.
But... the two parties did negotiate...
Obviously that means that Casey wanted to stay a few more years despite his true words about the nearly ridiculous show that mgp tern to.
He only needed one thing. Αppreciation to his efforts.
The best way to demonstrate their appreciation to a rider is a bigger contract.
And it tern to be that Honda had only one chance 2 do it.
Instead they gave him what?
Again half of Vale contract and even less than Jorge with no main sponsor. Hahahaha if that's not a joke.
Livio should have known that his favorite boy would not be satisfied with something less that the biggest contract among the riders.
Shuhei should have known too.
Stingy-Honda once again showed that they do not appreciate the riders us much us they deserve.
Honda-sans let Casey go on the first place by offering him peanuts, they played games afterwards and you have regrets on an insignificant leak???
Well ok fair enough...

Total votes: 68

Hmmmmmm, money and intentions

It seems that money is not an issue. Dennis Noyes wrote an excellent article, here's an important part:

With all the big guns in MotoGP running out of contract at the end of this season, Honda needed to get Stoner under contract. The question was not whether it would be a one or a two-year deal. Honda ran Doohan under a series of single-year contracts and was prepared to do the same with Stoner. Money does not seem to have been a problem either, from what insiders tell me about Stoner’s previous deals. Stoner in 2007 was probably the poorest paid World Champion of modern times (relative to inflation), but he had been Ducati’s third choice when they signed him at the end of his 2006 rookie year. Unlike other forms of professional sport, we are not told the true salaries of riders, so I prefer not to quote rumors, but Stoner has repeatedly said that money was not a factor in his decision to quit.

Mr. Shuhei Nakamoto said that Casey Stoner had pretty much made his decision to retire before the start of the season. Here's an interesting part from Honda's MotoGP Track Report:

Casey Stoner just announced that he will retire at the end of this season. Did you notice any change in his riding this race?

He had pretty much made his decision to retire before the start of the season. I think it was good for him to get out there in front of everyone and make it official – he can put it behind him now, relax and get on with trying to win. That's how I feel about it. I also think it will give him fresh motivation – I'm sure he really wants to win his final season and end his career still champion. So I think he'll be pushing himself even harder than before. And of course, that spurs us to give him the very best support we can.

http://moto-racing.speedtv.com/article/motogp-noyes-notebook-irreplaceab...

http://world.honda.com/MotoGPreport/2012/round4/

Total votes: 69

YOUR EXTENDED MEA CULPA, D E ...

Is very much appreciated. In my extensive experience in media matters I have found "journalists" as a breed apart reluctant in the extreme to admit error or come-clean on pretty-much anything. Perchance, this is a side-effect or symptom of "fame & gravitas" that some see as automatic or rightfully going with their territory - i.e. always having the last word & right of reply in response to any valid critique of their work.While they will accept a professional chewing-out from their Editor or Publisher - any criticism from a member of the public is considered a serious & ego-damaging assault on their self-image.

Truth & accuracy is paramount in all things - especially when this impacts on a person or persons that are impugned & not expected to either fight-back or go to the enormous trouble & expense of litigation to correct the public record and/or uphold individual rights & reputations. In that precise context, I have personally successfully sued a News Ltd newspaper to their very great cost - and forced a grovelling written apology from a certain big-name motorcycle publication that shall remain nameless here.It is very unwise to "assume" when considering the possible ramifications & consequences of refusing to apologise & make-good - instead of picking a serious argument with the "wrong" adversary.

You have to maintain a mutually productive two-way working relationship with HRC & Livio Suppo et al in the future, so - your "apology" is both wise & necessary. However, methinks you would very probably have made this matter right & exculpated yourself in any event. This is a great credit to you and I salute & thank you for it.

It is a very great shame that so many others in this MotoGP game have either moved-on & forgotten - or "weaseled-out" of the numerous personal slights & diminutions of Casey Stoner that they themselves have written, added to, propogated or allowed to be published. Good luck to you, D E. Cheers

Total votes: 72

Facts, Rumours etc

David,

Compared to some other supposed motor racing sites, you are a paragon of virtue. I've come to consider your reporting some of the most thoughtful, interesting and accurate on the web today.

When you also consider that most of our daily papers in the UK actively print rumour and lies as facts, you don't need to put on your hair shirt !

You only have to peruse the pages of Private Eye to gauge the accuracy of the phrase "Street of Shame" when applied to the newspapers.

Although you may have been inaccurate about the sources of the rumour about Stoner, the facts were true and nobody was harmed. I think both Suppo and Sol Moto are being somewhat disingenuous in their protestations. Both the individual and the magazine have used rumour to their own advantage many times in the past. The Shakespearean phrase "The lady doth protest too much methinks", springs to mind.

Total votes: 62

This Mea Culpa...

... plus 20 Hail Mary's should do the trick.

10 lashes if you must.

Total votes: 54

Well done David

To my eyes, this apology shows a lot of class and respect for the journalistic profession. I wish many of your colleagues would learn from it.

I am proud to be a supporter of your endeavour and l am looking forward to your next piece.

Total votes: 58

You are a true journalist, David.

Standing up and saying "Sorry, I was wrong" is the mark of a true journalist. I just wish the political journalists here in the states had the same moral fiber as you.

I rely on this website for the most reliable discussions about the MotoGP world. Carry on with the good work!

Total votes: 66

I've said it before and I'll say it again

There simply isn't another source (English Language Source) on the web that offers insight, intelligent writing, and a truly insiders view of life in the MotoGP paddock, and for that I am eternally grateful for your efforts and contributions David.

Reading sanitized Press releases that give little to no immersion of what really is going on is analogous to reading the ingredients on the side of a box of cereal, mildly interesting but ultimately unfulfilling.

So you made a slight boo boo, who hasn't. You recognized and corrected your misstep which is all that anyone can ask.

Whatever the fallout, keep writing David. Keep writing and providing and invaluable service for the benefit of those of us who do not have the time, privilege, or means to attend every event weekend.

Cheers.

Total votes: 67

Keep on keeping on

You are an unusual journalist David in that you make apologies. I take it you won't be taking a job at News International in the near future, where maybe you'd have to develop convenient memory losses.

We appreciate this might spoil the pitch with your contacts short term, but you're a well informed and excellent writer and we all learn from that. Keep doing what you're doing pal and move on, you're a vital source of info to us that want more signal than noise!

Total votes: 62

This is my first post on this site

I have to say David I enjoy what you write. I've seen some of the flak you've faced too and to some degree it's a bi-product of having the balls to write it in the first place.
I love the insight and content to your pieces and the ability to engage the subject in a way that makes sense and is easily palatable for the dunces amongst us.
Keep up the good stuff!!

Total votes: 79

Don't fret

Appreciate your honesty and hard work, as always, David.

Total votes: 60

thanks

Rub some dirt on it David and get back in there!

BTW- My work is sucking up all my time so this is the only site where I actually read articles, and read the comments anymore. There are some intuitive responses in the comments that make me question who the user really is, and it wouldn't surprise me for a second to find out Livio is posting here under an anonymous name.

Total votes: 66

Stop patting David on the back...

...for doing only what was proper.

David, you were not being too hard on yourself. This strange moment in which blogs are beginning to usurp the role of 'real' journalistic outlets has bred a certain amount of neglect - or even contempt - for the ethics of proper journalism. Many bloggers attempt to dress their work up as a legitimate 'news' source while blatantly ignoring even a semblance of journalistic integrity, fact checking or impartiality. Others in the motorsport world even go so far as to use their access and the sheen of 'journalism' to specifically promote their own preferences and agendas in the paddock, and punish personal enemies (I'm looking squarley at YOU, Superbikeplanet, aka Dean Adams).

This site has always positioned itself as a blog and a column, not a full-fledged news source, which has helped it avoid these pitfalls. But because it's so damned GOOD, naturally your access and readership have increased, David. We understand that you're fairly recent in coming to this and may not have formal training in the best practices of a real newsman (and hanging around the sensationalist and rumor-mongering Spanish and Italian Press cannot be helping), but there's no longer any denying that increasingly we are turning to you and this site for truly fair and considered news and analysis. You're a journalist now, whether you like it or not, and it's only fitting that you learn and accept the responsibilities that position demands.

Speaking as a loyal reader, apology accepted. Keep up the good work.

Total votes: 63

It is rare to see a

It is rare to see a journalist with the integrity to publicly apologise for making a mistake. Don't beat yourself up about it, just keep writing your great articles. I suspect the majority of your audience is intelligent enough to know that your original piece was based on rumours that could not/had not been confirmed and took it at face value. I certainly did.

Total votes: 67

David, it takes a lot to

David, it takes a lot to admit when you're wrong. In my opinion your honesty does nothing but bolster this website. Keep up the great work!

Total votes: 53

Too much ado about nothing

First of all, as I recall it, you never mentioned Livio Supo as the leaking source; you only reported that the paddocks echoed with rumors of him being probably the culprit.
I really believe that article did nothing to tarnish the truthfulness of your writings --on the contrary it did a lot to boost it. Your apologetic response is for me only a clear, smart and reassuring signal to the powers that be, that you can "play ball" --while You still do an excellent job of serving food for thought to your readers. A rare combination my friend.
As for me, I only wish this incident leaves no dent on your ability to get close to the important people in-and-around the paddock. In my humble opinion it is to this mostly that you must attend --and therefore this is for me the only 'real' reason for such an overblown apology, as you just offered in writing.
The welcome side effect to which, is that it also enlarged the trust of your readers. Smart move, but we already expect that from you.
I've been myself in the business for quite a long time now to know that showing and expressing regret is probably more important than the apology offered per se. If for no other reason, than just to make sure the doors to the hotshots' bureaus remain open.
I don't feel this minor hiccup is anything remotely approaching a 'mishandling' of facts, neither do I believe you should in any way alter your chosen path of judging and clarifying and reporting whatever is going on in the fore- or background of our beloved racing.
Also, your power is your readers, and I must say their level impresses me. They often humble me with their perspective and their well informed, well judged opinions --which for no perverse reason is what attracts me also to motomatters.
Keep on writing and -I hope- riding.

Total votes: 58

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