The media's role in the clean-up and reform of the UCI
A look at how the media coverage of the current crisis in cycling may intentionally or unintentionally be contributing to preserving a status quo, which will lead to the UCI organization failing to undergo needed reforms in the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal (4 pages)
fact checking and source criticism is obviously expected when journalists publish statements and information stemming from the UCI. These statements can be used to manipulate and shape public opinion for the UCI's own benefit. A sound skepticism or possibly a proper level of neutrality is obviously needed when journalists prepare articles on the UCI’s role in the Lance Armstrong affair to avoid assisting in the forming of a biased public opinion. Journalists continuously need to ask themselves, “Is this source reliable?”.
In its press releases and interviews with the press the UCI, headed by Pat McQuaid, is continuously referring to an independent commission investigating the organization’s role in the Armstrong doping affair. Media covering the situation might report that, “a commission, said to be independent has been formed”, “a commission, which the UCI says is independent”, or “a commission, claimed by the UCI as independent,” in order to avoid the public opinion that the commission is truly independent from the UCI.
However, a search on Google News for “independent commission” and UCI on Friday, December 14, 2012 returned 498 news articles which refer to an independent commission having been launched by the UCI.
Such uncritical repeated reproduction of the term “independent commission” in news articles is likely to nudge public opinion in the direction of believing that the commission launched to investigate the UCI’s role in the Armstrong doping affair is actually of an independent nature. Yet, as previously discussed, many critics, including WADA President Fahey, are questioning the commission’s level of independence.
In their quest aimed at being first to publish the latest news many media have also happily published quotes from UCI President McQuaid which were possibly designed for the purpose of framing public opinion. Influential media entity Cyclingnews published the following statement from McQuaid.
“I am grateful to John Coates, President of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport, for assembling such a high calibre and truly Independent Commission. The wide ranging terms of reference demonstrate the Commission’s determination to review fully the issues contained in the USADA report and I welcome that.”
“Some of our critics have suggested that this Commission would not be fully independent. They were wrong. The UCI had no influence on the selection of the Commission members."
Road.cc also published the same quotes and the following statement was added “The appointment of these three eminent figures [as members of the commission] demonstrates clearly that the UCI wants to get to the bottom of the Lance Armstrong affair and put cycling back on the right track.”
By implanting a belief in peoples’ minds of the commission being of independent nature ahead of the commission announcing the results of its investigation – and of the UCI wanting to get to the bottom of the Armstrong scandal, the media are contributing to the public being less skeptical of the commission’s findings when they are announced by the commission. The audience already knows the commission was independent. Or they think they know.