Is Velocity Nation The Future Of News?

Sep 16 2009

totoboyIn terms of covering hard news in the cycling world, “real” media outlets are the undisputed kings. They have reporters on the ground at major races, are fluent in all sorts of languages, have an armada of contacts, receive invites to events, and get bucketloads of free crap in the mail from manufacturers.

Don’t get me wrong: bloggers and smaller sites can do fantastic things in terms of commentary, discussion, and generally awesome content, but for the most part, they, like everyone else interested in competitive cycling, are dependent on places like Velonews and Cycle Sport to churn out news.

But in the “Lance is doping” tiff that erupted following the publication of the Texans TdF blood tests, I think Velocity has done a bang-up job actually tracking down and publishing real information on the topic. Their Twitter feed was the first place I saw the Google Translated article from Denmark (later pointed out to me by reader emails), and they actually got out and interviewed the guy making the allegations.

It’s not that news wasn’t covered by real sources, but Velonews’ take understandably strove for journalistic balance—which basically made it the same allegation/canned response teeter-totter we’ve all been riding since about 1999 or so. By going to the source, Velocity spared us the misery of autotranslator ambiguity, and supplied in some great new information on Moerkeberg’s background and methods besides.

Taken with their interview of Michael Ashenden, which delved in great detail into the retrodoping scandal of 2005, the site has simply had some of the most impressive material on Armstrong’s alleged doping since the comeback began.

armstrong_bWhat’s makes Velocity’s effort even more noteworthy is that now all data since April 30th has been hidden (poorly) from the Livestrong page where it had been posted [direct link|cached]. Both in light of the Danish allegations, and the fact that that Brad Wiggins’ also-criticized numbers remain proudly displayed at the Slipstream site, this is especially poor PR for the Livestrong brand.

It’s only been down for a few hours as of now, but something like that ought to elicit a response from the mainstream media—after all, “tense” moments at an Armstrong press conference, and the eventual scrapping of Astana’s in-house antidoping program easily made the cut. But once again, we heard it first—and with greater speculative depth—from Velocity.

While I wouldn’t cite them as an objective source quite yet (footnote), in a mythical future populated by rational adults who can think for themselves, Velocity and mid-sized sites like it may be a valuable source of information that doesn’t meet the publication standards of the established media.

Or, even more usefully, they may draw enough attention to otherwise unpublishable stories (remember Rasmussen’s artificial hemoglobin?) that publications with real investigatory resources take notice.

(In the interests of complete disclosure, I briefly worked with NY Velocity back in 2006. They didn’t pay me so I stopped.)

(Also, I don’t like New York City very much. Sorry.)

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2 Responses to “Is Velocity Nation The Future Of News?”

  1. cosmo 16 September 2009 at 7:04 pm #

    The caveats:

    Facts can always be slanted, and some info can be bad. The “rational adults” part comes into play in determining what information you can safely take away from an otherwise slanted article.

    Let’s examine the Ashenden interview. Andy Shen claims to know “from speaking to teammates” that Armstrong is ” 5′ 5″, 5′ 6″ “.

    I think this is pretty verifiably false given the size of Armstrong’s frames, stem and cranks (58cm, 120mm 175mm).

    While these could be garbage PR numbers from decoy bikes, and Armstrong could have a secret fleet of otherwise-identical minibikes that he actually uses in races, I think in proportion to the UCI-mandatory 700c wheels—as well as to other competitors—5′ 10″ seems far likelier than 5′ 5”.

    Ashenden, for reasons that are clear in his interview, is not an Armstrong fan. I trust him on methods and data, but his inferences are way off: Example:

    It is incomprehensible that someone would get himself into such perfect condition and then essentially eat like a horse so that his body weight ballooned up to 79 kilos, and then somehow intend to go back through that hell to lose 7 kilos again for the next race. That’s just not true, it doesn’t happen.

    I’ve done this. Repeatedly. “Perfect condition” hasn’t won me any Tours de France, but it’s no great feat to regain and re-drop that amount of weight at my (5′ 9″) size.

  2. rob 25 September 2009 at 2:12 pm #

    Don’t know why I missed this post earlier, but I agree. The Toto worshipers add to a well-informed discussion. No matter whether you are red, blue, or purple regarding LA, slippystream or Columbia/HighHorse, this only increases the transparency. Intelligent discourse, rebuttal, counter-rebuttal, etc., creates a better educated fan. I’d rather not have my head in the sand like so many baseball fans. I’d sure like to see this discouse in more places, too.

    I especially wanted to note that in view of this post, I have now moved Velocity Nation in my tabbed RSS reader from “my blogs” to “my news.” BTW, Pez went the other direction (But I haven’t seriously read anything from Pez in a couple of years anyway.)

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