What is objectivity? What is bias? Is one more important than the other? These are questions being asked by people everywhere today, and of course not just in the racing world. Racing being the emphasis of this blog, however, I shall concentrate on information and misinformation in racing.
Is it possible for a journalist or TV analyst to be totally objective? Lately, a lot of fans have been complaining about Fox commentator Darrell Waltrip's seeming 'love affair' with Kyle Busch. Darrell has even joked about it. To those of us who are not Kyle Busch fans, it can be quite annoying. I think one thing we are forgetting here is that Darrell Waltrip was hired by Fox Sports because he is a former driver and past champion in Nascar. He was hired because he is not afraid to open his mouth and give his opinion. And that's the word: "Opinion". We don't really expect Darrell to be objective, but we at least hope he'll talk about more than one driver.
The same goes with the other former racing professionals, drivers, crew chiefs, or whatever. Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds are former crew chiefs, and all probably have soft spots in their hearts for certain teams, especially the ones they used to work for. The same goes for Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett, Ray Evernham and pretty much anyone else that I left out. I never really expect to hear an unbiased opinion from any of them, because they are not journalists by trade. The are racers, with all the passion that racers have to bring to the track to be winners in this sport. All have been winners too.
When it comes to the journalists, or in other words, the people that went to college and majored in journalism, or media, or broadcasting, I do have a problem with quite a few of them. It's not my intention to name any names here, but I have seen quite a few instances of bias over the years by the "professionals".
I have seen pit reporters on TV who continually harped on a particular driver's "failure" to win or to qualify well, or to sometimes just be uncooperative. Do the journalists that cover this sport have favorites and non-favorites? Of course they do, but they should be professional enough to not allow their personal biases to cloud their judgment on how to report on a certain driver or team or even an event.
For instance: A few years ago, a certain pit reporter made a very big deal about how a certain driver's team set up their tires, and caused quite a stir in the rest of the media. If the pit reporter had actually caught the team cheating, this would have been news, but at that time, what the team was doing was perfectly legal. Furthermore, they were probably not the only team doing this. What happened was the predictable outrage and led to Nascar banning the practice that the team was using. This is where the pit reporter was making news, not reporting it. I feel that Nascar has the right, under their own rules to police the sport, but should not be taking the word of a TV pit reporter as gospel truth. Had I been in the pits that day and had observed the supposed wrongdoing, Nascar wouldn't have listened to me had I complained about it. The pit reporter was using his status and celebrity to make a scene. The reporter was manufacturing the news, not reporting it.
For instance: A certain Associated Press reporter seems to have a bias against a driver that I truly admire. This person has repeatedly reported basically only the negative aspects of this driver's career. A few years ago, this reporter openly questioned the validity of this driver even having a career. The driver in question has won races, and has actually raced in the now defunct IROC series, which gives an indication of the driver's true credentials. Personal bias in a news story? Isn't that best saved for commentary? That isn't what this reporter has done, however. The reporter has presented the news as objective, and as fact. It is in fact personal opinion, and to me that is not acceptable.
Certain Internet sources are very unreliable as well. A couple of years ago, I was working in a classroom full of sixth graders who were asked to write a report about their favorite sport, and who they admired and didn't admire within that sport. I was in the classroom doing my other job, which means I was repairing equipment, as quietly as possible in the back of the room. I was pleased to hear that several of the students chose Nascar as their favorite sport, but was dismayed to hear some of the "facts" that they found on the Internet. For instance, I learned that Jeff Gordon was gay, that Tony Stewart was an alcoholic, that Jimmie Johnson was gay, that Dale Earnhardt once shot a man, that Dale Earnhardt Jr. was gay, etc. The teacher was not knowledgeable about Nascar in the least, and after class, I asked the teacher if I could see some of the Nascar reports that the students had written. She complied, and I noticed that the students were required to cite sources for the facts in their reports. Most of the "gay" sources cited Wikipedia. The source for Dale Earnhardt's "shooting" was a blogger. The source for Tony being an alcoholic was a site called "IhateStewart.com".
Wikipedia is a great idea that never really worked. Anyone can sign on and edit just about anything. Most of the unsubstantiated stuff is removed, eventually. But I have looked up a lot of drivers on Wiki, and have found comments such as "Dale Jr. is over rated, because he can't drive, has never won a race that he hasn't cheated in, and his daddy paid off Nascar to let him win." I once read a year or so ago that Jeff Gordon once had a homosexual relationship with Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush. I once read that Kevin Harvick beat his wife Delana so badly that she had to be taken to the emergency room. In other words, your child can click on a Wikipedia article and read just about anything as outrageous. If I had kids, I would discourage them from using Wikipedia as a resource for school work.
If you want cold, hard statistics on Nascar, I would recommend Racing Reference Info.
You will find complete stats here, with no opinion at all, unless you read the comments on the individual races themselves. Remember, blogs, such as this, and message boards are pretty much totally opinionated. I'm certainly guilty of that, but I'm not here to report the news. You can get that elsewhere, and I'm not at the track every Sunday, and I'm not in the shops during the week. I've only had in depth conversations with one current Cup driver, and I'm a fan of his. My opinion of him will be clouded because of the personal nature of our conversations, so I'm not qualified to write objectively about him, and on this particular forum, I don't. I do write elsewhere about him, but that's where my bias is welcomed, because I'm writing to fans of this driver. I make no bones about being a Dale Jr. fan on this blog, and that is NOT with whom I have had conversations. (Just wanted to head that off at the pass!)
If you've taken the time to read all of the above outpourings of drivel, I hope you will come away with one conclusion. Be careful what you read, recognize opinion as what it is, and let the statistics speak for themselves.
And I unabashedly say, in a totally objective way, Go Dale Jr! Heh heh heh.