JUNE 7, 2002
Formula 1 and the management of the media
THE rise of the Internet has created a rather unusual effect in Formula 1 circles as a new type of "journalism" has been created. This features people with no contacts and no access in F1 copying stories written elsewhere (often with a little bit of "spin") but without ever being checked to see if there is any foundation at all to them. Thus completely fictitious stories can do the rounds because some journalists (or people claiming to be journalists) place no emphasis at all on whether or not the stories are true.
This has not been helped by the rise in the attitude in the mainstream press that a story is a story even if it is not true. There is pressure on journalists (because of the Internet) to come up with stories and on occasion we have seen utterly fictitious stories circulating and becoming self-perpetuating because of these two phenomena.
Things have been confused because some of the more cynical teams have begun trying to use the media much more than was the case before in order to create the right impressions about themselves or as an attempt to alter existing perceptions. This has been particularly noticeable in recent months as the pressures from the recession mount on the teams which have not managed their resources as successfully as others. They argue that the media is damaging their chances.
The overall effect of this is that it is now very hard to separate the truth from the fiction, particularly as access to the major players is increasingly restricted and the majority of the press officers have no credibility at all as spokesmen and women because they do only what they are told to do.
The overall effect of this is that the credibility of the F1 media is being undermined more and more both within the F1 circus and to the world in general. The relationship between the sport and the media is an important one because without the media the sport would not attract the money it currently does. Thus it is actually in the interest of the teams to support good journalism lest the credibility and the access in F1 become so bad that no-one bothers any more.
One needs only to look at the credibility of a sport like boxing to see that the reputation of a sport is defined by the behavior of those involved. The sport may still make a great deal of money for those involved but too often there are question marks about what is real and what is not real.
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