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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