I love reading the news. Real news - The New York Times, The Economist, BBC - not online compilations. For reasons best explained here by Malcolm Gladwell, opinion is cheap. In depth and resource heavy reporting on the other hand is difficult and expensive. The benefit of the reporting is that the information acts as a check and balance and provides a social good. But newspapers are failing everywhere, usurped by information that apparently wants to be free. A world without good newspapers makes me nervous.
My passion for actual published news doesn't carry over to the cycling world, however. I've long thought that there was very little actual journalism in the traditional cycling publications and I unless I'm stuck in an airport I rarely buy magazines anymore. I'm thinking of Velo News, Cycling News and Bicycling in particular.
Their bike reviews are formulaic and reveal nothing insightful. Just have Chris Boardman or Marco Velo ride around somewhere beautiful and say "the bike was vertically stiff while being laterally compliant." Or, "when you step on the pedals the bike just accelerates without any bottom bracket flex." The problem is that they say this for all bikes, and the truth is that the $6,000 bikes they review don't need reviews: they are all nice. They're all unaffordable too, and don't provide any insight to what the average person looking to buy a bike may want to consider. It's just ripe for satire.
Secondly, their race reporting is terrible. Whatever race is up this month is the biggest race of the year even it's the Tour of Qatar. They then go on to to pick favorites that are beyond predictable. How can you justify getting paid for picking Cavendish in a bunch sprint or Cancellara in a TT? That's like picking England to not win the World Cup; it's a foregone conclusion. The real fun of race reporting is to pick the up and comers or the wildcards: Fuglsang at the Vuelta, Boasson Hagen at the Worlds, Brent Bookwalter or Dominique Rollin in the Spring Classics next year.
These two things - bike reviews and race reporting - should be the bread and butter of the official cycling publications. But they aren't. I've also noticed errors in reporting coming up. Two in CyclingNews.com today alone. 1, "Sanchez...his home Tour is the focus of his season by putting in the best time trial performance of his career to take sixth on Saturday's rainy test." Surely his best TT would have been when he won the final TT in 07 to snatch 3rd on GC from Evans. 2, "Pozzato...third in Paris-Roubaix." He was 2nd.
To make matters worse the websites of the all these publications have gotten progressively worse and navigable.
Luckily, unlike news that actually matters there's a wealth of sites that have filled the void. Foremost among all cycling writing is Red Kite Prayer, put together by the man responsible for the great BKW. For race predictions there is Pave, and then there is the everything site of Pez (with the accompanying Daily Distraction). Different medium, but Cervelo is offering some amazing insight into their team at Bartape.net, from Hausler trying to explain what it's like to lose San Remo by an inch or Sastre explaining why he pulled Deignan back from a break he was sure to win.
It'll be interesting in the next year to see if the major publications make their read more interesting or if they begin to fade away. In the mean time, I'm going to keep trying to offer a different perspective on things. Acknowledging that this site is far from perfect, it's also completely flexible so let me know if there is anything anyone would like to see reported more.