The Bubba Wallace Story at Talladega Was Not a "Hoax" it Just Didn't End the Way You Wanted it to...
If you want to capture in a single topic the division currently sowed by leaders in America, look no further than the events surrounding this past weekends NASCAR race in Talladega, Alabama.
Depending on your point of view or your lack of empathy for anyone who doesn't agree with what you are told should be the right perspective, you either viewed the investigation of a garage pull-rope tied off as a noose as either (a) Racial Injustice or (b) The "Liberal" media botching an investigation to fit a narrative.
While my opinion as a journalist for some 32-years is not going to change your mind, please indulge me while I explain how both sides are wrong here.
None of you who have a rational thought or belief pattern were or should be shocked at an allegation of racial injustice at a NASCAR event. The history and extent of racial issues within the fanbase and the sport are long documented. In this current day and age, yes, some if it may be a bit of a stereotype by people who've never actually attended a race, but the stereotype has been very well earned.
As for the other half--unless you are or were one of the 4 assigned reporters allowed enough access to cover the Talladega race from the press box atop the stands, you have no room to complain about the reporting.
Was the hyperbole coming from the News people who swarmed on the periphery of the track warranted or the endless speculation by Cable News/Sports and talk radio justified? With hindsight, no, it wasn't. But hindsight is a wonderful thing...after the fact.
Based on pretty much every statement put out, NASCAR and the Richard Petty Race Team believed at first the "Pull Rope" tied into a noose was something that potentially could have been directed at 26-year old Black Driver Bubba Wallace. Wallace had not made it to the garage when his team member noticed the rope and had to be told about it after the fact.
(Look up the statements from NASCAR, Petty Racing and Wallace if you don't believe me)
There are tons of "Critics" slamming reporters for saying there was a "Noose" placed in the garage which yes, made little sense based on a list of access issues. One: There were no fans in the Garage/Pit area. Two: The only people with access were drivers, crews and race track personnel. Which by no means says one of these groups could have done something nefarious, only that it would have been difficult at best.
The Reporters "On" the track could not have witnessed the rope themselves or taken photos of it as they likely weren't even at the track when this all broke loose. None of them in the COVID world in which we currently live, have access to the pits or the Infield Media Center. Therefore, as lame as it sounds---you have to live on the statements provided to you.
Should or could they have contacted people on race teams via phone calls etc? Maybe....Would it have changed the facts provided? Maybe not...
I'm not in any way, shape or form sitting here and telling you reporters in the current world are perfect and that this story was covered perfectly. Quite honestly, I'm not sure there is a way to cover a topic or story perfectly anymore despite the best of intentions.
Under the current leadership, anything that doesn't agree with the narrative you are told is "Fake". Facts or evidence don't really matter to many of you as you've been told those reporting them have "Agendas" though nobody really has ever been able to prove or provide evidence of that.
The "Fact" is, NASCAR has had a racism problem before Bubba Wallace arrived and its a problem they are painfully aware of and after decades and generations, they are trying to fix. Which they should be applauded for.
Were they over-reacting in this particular incident? Probably. But unless someone can prove otherwise, you have to take them at their word. And for all the bluster and inferences made by one group of a racist attack, the vitriol now being spewed by the other group about it all being made up is even worse.
Unless you've walked a mile in Bubba Wallace...or any other NASCAR driver of Color's shoes, you are not qualified to judge or criticize. Unless you've been a reporter and have discovered a way to find out the truth behind allegations before they are released....you are not in a position to accuse said reporters of making something up.
Am I trying to defend the honor of Journalism here? Yes, I sure the hell am. It's not a perfect business and reporting--despite what many now think is not 100% right 100% of the time. It never has been.
Developing stories are just that--developing. Which means they change as information is gathered. There are and have always been times where the initial information gathered changes over the course of the story. It sometimes reinforces the original information and sometimes it evolves differently. Without complete and total access to the investigators during the course of their investigation, there's no way to find out until someone provides the information.
Yes, reporters should not always rely on "Official" sources to provide all the details of their investigations. Ideally, there should be people/witnesses who can supplement or sometimes contradict that narrative. But that does not happen in every single investigation. It never has.
As much as you'd like to believe it happens like the movies show you, it doesn't. There isn't always a "Deep Throat" or shadowy character who leave clues or extra bits of information for you to dig into. I know that fits a lot of narratives on how reporting works--but Movies are presented in a way that fits entertainment, not necessarily reality.
Right, wrong or otherwise, I don't expect you to believe or care about any of this as over the past 4-years we've been manipulated into believing anything that you don't agree with is fake or wrong. I can't change that. It kills me that I'm even having to defend Journalists for trying their best to report on, well, anything. But in a Social Media era and an era where everyone is an expert and politicians tell you anything that reflects bad on them is made up, it's the way things are going to be. In a world where I, as a Journalist am being called an "Enemy of the State" for trying to do my job as fairly as I possibly can and to the best of my ability....there's not much else I can do....