Monday, March 29, 2010

A Letter to Velonews


In your web article about the final stage at Redlands, the first mention of Phil Zajicek in paragraph eight is really confusing: 

"A break went on the next lap and included Andy Jacques-Maynes (Bissell), Davide Frattini (Team Type 1), Pat McCarty (Yahoo!), Tyler Wren (Jamis-Sutter Home), Lachlan Morton (Holowesko Partners), Dan Bowman (Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Corey Collier and Jason Donald (Bahati Foundation). They built a maximum lead of about three minutes.

Collier, McCarty and Pinfold worked the front of the group over the next two laps and the gap went to 50 seconds after Zajicek dropped back to the field to help protect his GC leader."
Paragraph seven lists the participants in the day's breakaway yet fails to indicate Zajicek's presence. Paragraph eight fails to include Zajicek's first name, a violation of one of journalism's most basic rules. The combination of the two paragraphs creates a tremendous amount of confusion for the reader: who is this Zajicek person, and how can he drop out of a break he's not even in to defend his team leader? 
Wait, who's his team leader? We have no idea, because the paragraph also fails to indicate for which team Zajicek races! We finally learn all of this factual data in paragraph 16, but by that point in the story, the reader has most likely lost the plot.

I really, really like Velonews as both a website and print publication, but these types of errors are cropping up more and more often in your stories. I normally overlook minor stylistic and mechanical snafus in the cycling press, because I know that my eye is has been affected by years of grading undergraduate essays.  But this example about Zajicek really ruins your reporting and takes the reader completely out of the flow of the race. If you're trying to build readership by making the sport of cycling more exciting and accessible, such errors create ambiguities that interfere with that objective.

I know that web-based and technology culture necessitates haste and creates impossible deadlines, but some improved copy-editing would make your stories about bike racing much more exciting.  And believe me, that’s all your readers want. 

See the complete piece here

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