Editor's Blog: On Being Wrong
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.