As you may be aware from recent announcements, we have been working on a revamp of the process involved in rating news sources in order to put this system back on track. This revamp has been a time-consuming task in that it involves holistically re-reviewing every currently rated source in greater depth, and adding many new ones to the list, but we feel the effort is warranted in the interest of better ratings and increased transparency for all concerned.
While we’ve been working on the revamp, our subreddit has experienced a number of unfortunate run-ins with low-quality sources spreading rumours and false quotes that have created confusion and, ultimately, misled the wider community.
After consideration, we’ve taken the decision to accelerate one of the measures involved. We’re awarding a number of low-credibility sources a 0/3 rating, which under our rating system places these sources on probation from the sub. We will not be facilitating links to the following websites and feeds without sufficiently good reason:
Source ratings – 0/3
Global Motorsport Media
What does a 0/3 source rating/probation mean?
Sources with this status will be filtered for newsworthiness. We’ll be reviewing individual link posts leading to these sources case-by-case. If the submitter presents a strong enough argument to approve such posts (in the form of a comment or modmail), they may be allowed onto the sub. If the same news from a 0/3 source can also be found at a higher-rated source, submitters will be asked to track down links to one of those sources instead – preferably the original.
What are the criteria for a 0/3 source rating?
Although we remain flexible on the full scope of 0/3 ratings at this stage, a 0/3 source’s regular output should tend to be fundamentally unreliable in one sense or another, and tend to draw attention to itself for that reason.
0/3 sources may be fansites posing as professional news providers, scraping and repackaging any coverage of interest from higher-rated sources without the means to contribute stories of their own. They may be sensationalistic outlets whose editorial line hinders their capacity to report news to a reasonable standard. They may not even be discrete sources, but zombie news feeds serving as vectors for clickbait produced by external churnalists. They may tick more than one of these boxes, and engage in bad practice not covered here. They show a demonstrable inferiority to their peers.
With their lack of accreditation, professionalism, and/or scruples, these sources frequently misinform their readers, harvest clicks from r/formula1 and elsewhere, and move on to the next story in a parasitic game of cumulative error. In a nutshell, their approach to F1 news probably does more harm than good to the subreddit and the F1 community.
Why have you decided to take this step?
In recent times, we’ve heard an ever-growing demand from many members to take stricter preventative measures against low-quality news, and we agree with that demand ourselves.
Though the rating system has proven its worth in raising awareness of low- and high-quality sources, we’re still seeing confusion or recklessness around the worse examples, with some readers continuing to submit fake versions of stories despite the health warnings in place. These usually tend to frustrate users while we scramble to plaster them with explanatory comments or remove. Given that most F1 news feeds superficially resemble one other, it can be challenging for newcomers and casual browsers to work out the difference between sources without research. Whatever the reasons, we’d like to address the issue, but there’s only so much we can do without trialling some restrictions, so let’s try.
We’re also sensitive to the plight of professional F1 journalists who are disadvantaged when we circulate links to those essentially stealing their thunder (and their crust). Dieter Rencken’s longread for RaceFans, “Why original motor sport journalism is under pressure,” is the definitive piece on the subject. Grand Prix reporters shell out tens of thousands a year to travel to races and deliver the inside line from the sport. They’re bearing the brunt of those costs and keeping the paywalls to a minimum in good faith that the audience will acknowledge and support their efforts. These people getting up off their arses are generally the ones we need to signal boost and help make ends meet if we want to enjoy intelligible F1 coverage, not bottom-feeding punters leeching off of their original work, so it’s mutually beneficial.
Recent incidents such as the GPFans plagiarism controversy have only further served to bring this dichotomy to light. No-one’s out to save the world here; it just makes sense on so many levels to cull the most uninformed sources.
What’s the difference between a probation and a ban?
When we apply bans against websites at r/formula1, we do so for very specific, fundamental reasons, and they’re usually permanent. Probations are a matter of credibility, and would be better described as bullshit filters against sources which consistently supply bullshit. A 0/3 source rating does not, and never will, result in a complete blanket ban.
Can we do anything to influence these ratings? Is feedback accepted?
An important principle of the new source ratings is that we want and expect the wider userbase to get involved. We will announce a particular process for reevaluating sources when the revamp is fully rolled out, but will have a dedicated channel through which our members will be able to voice their opinion on any ratings.
While this system is not yet ready, we’re open to constructive input from the community regarding the sources given a 0/3 rating already. Well-crafted and thought out contributions, presenting evidence of quality or lack thereof for any of these providers, will be taken into consideration towards a change of the rating in question.
Is this an exhaustive list of sources worthy of probation?
Not at all. This is a non-exhaustive, preliminary list we’re using on a stopgap and trial basis, which can and will be adjusted (especially once the full rollout occurs). We’re conscious there are glaring omissions. Even at this early stage, we’re soliciting debate and opinion as to what else may belong with those listed here.
We’ve selected a few of the sources we’re most confident applying this measure to. It bears repeating that we’re open to commentary regarding these ratings, and can adjust them in accordance with what we receive. If you have a strong, evidence-based opinion that we should include or exclude a given source, feel free to make your case.
What’s the appropriate place to discuss 0/3 ratings over time?
Until we have a more significant update to offer, we’ll be announcing and discussing any minor changes in the Daily Discussion threads as they happen. You can also check the edit log at the [source ratings page](https://www.reddit.com/r/formula1/wiki/source-ratings](https://www.reddit.com/r/formula1/wiki/source-ratings). Feel free to tag me with questions and feedback, send a modmail, use a State of the Subreddit thread, whatever’s your pleasure.
Won’t this cause the sub to miss out on valuable information?
The fact of the matter is that the sources on this list rarely generate any new information. Spend some time checking through their output for yourself to verify. It almost exclusively consists of stories broken by others higher up the food chain. They don’t have a journalistic presence at Grands Prix – relationships with the teams or drivers. They’re mostly amateurs, roughly as well-connected and -informed as those of us on Reddit (some have even cited Reddit posts as a news source). Not many have even carved out a unique niche within those parameters. The likelihood you’re going to miss out on anything valuable as a consequence of this move is very low, unless the sources change their nature.
Users are strongly encouraged to focus on the original source of any news. If an original story or interview ever does appear at one of these outlets, we will of course be fully inclined to approve it. In the event that this starts occurring more frequently where a given source is concerned, we’ll naturally find ourselves reconsidering its probationary status. It would delight us to no end to see that happen. But if we’re just being handed regurgitated news which has been ripped from better sources and massaged to farm clicks, let’s do ourselves a favour and cut out the unreliable middleman.
We’ll never vilify fansites following good practice to work their way up, lacking the realistic ways and means to attend all races, but won’t go out of our way to grant the usual suspects exposure if it’s to our collective detriment.
Why haven’t you placed [X high-quality source] on probation? They’ve also engaged in [Y practice], and are very biased in favour of [Z driver].
This is what we have four grades on the rating scale to answer. We’re reserving the 0/3 grade for news sources which are practically without merit compared to their higher-rated peers. Sources which have operated to a high, middling, or even mediocre standard for years on end will not be taken to task in a draconian manner for the occasional petty gaffe. Think in terms of consistently poor track records across the board, not isolated incidents or peripheral flaws.
We have no interest in censoring any source on the basis of its editorial opinions, unless those opinions interfere with its ability to report news. Publications are entitled to free commentary. Bear in mind that whenever we consider putting sources on probation, we’re contesting their journalistic reliability and competency on pretty basic levels.
Therefore, any contributions that attack the editorial line of any source will be disregarded unless it clearly interferes with their ability to report on the news objectively. In the same vein, personal attacks on individual reporters based on anything other than the credibility of their work will not be accounted for.
We’d rather see the back of some or all of these sites. Why not implement full bans?
As noted, we have specific criteria governing full bans (content misappropriation, spam, etc), and don’t feel comfortable extending those criteria to encompass a lack of quality. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
We believe it’s prudent not to totally close the book on these sources, instead leaving them open to future review with the involvement of the userbase. As such, the probationary measure is about as far as we’re prepared to go.
These probations are unnecessary censorship/paternalism/abuse of power/etc.
Provisions for 0/3 ratings were already fully in place when the source rating system came into being. Though we were reluctant to see 0/3 ratings actually exercised before now for philosophical reasons, the point comes where the less responsible course of action is to let that stand in the way of pragmatism and feedback.
Let’s avoid being precious and stay realistic about the intentions and activities of many of these sources. The gamesmanship they’ve often played with information leaves readers on edge, has rarely fostered healthy discussion over the years, and is not something we’re prepared to indulge much further. We believe they’ve had a negative net effect on the quality of our sub, and, therefore, have revised our understanding of what’s appropriate and how liberal we should be.
Managing a platform with over 650,000 subscribers, the buck stops with us: we can continue to let all of the low-effort click farmers out there take advantage and amplify misinformation for the F1 community, but when this inevitably leads to the next comedy of errors, we’ll have no convincing answers to offer. Therefore, we’re stepping in now.
Again, what we are not doing and will not do, by any means, is take this measure against any source for reasons independent of journalistic practice, and/or personal views on any professional involved with those sources.
This source system is pretty self-important for a sports sub. Let’s have a free-for-all.
There are two opinions on this topic and everything in between, and that’s a valid perspective some will hold.
We’ve gone with the perspective, by popular demand, that it’s better to take the issue of news seriously, and intervene where necessary. Changing course would not be consistent with what our users have asked of us, nor with the overall positive feedback and clear results the system has seen since being implemented.
Most professions have standards to uphold, and F1 journalism is no exception. Even if those standards are not necessarily as high as you wish right now, they’re never likely to improve either unless we as the audience incentivise them to. That involves rewarding and showcasing high-quality stuff, and taking out some of the trash where appropriate as well. Our subreddit can play its small part in upholding higher standards, and reap the benefit of more reliable news.
At the end of the day, it makes no difference how small a corner of the internet we are, or what the subject matter is. The same general principles apply everywhere. If consumers of news put in no effort to filter and promote high-effort news sources following good practice, we’ll simply get back what we deserve – low-effort crap. And earnest, well-meaning journalists putting hard graft in will suffer – which is definitely not an outcome we want to endorse.
We also feel new fans from Drive to Survive, for instance, may appreciate received wisdom like this mapping out the F1 media landscape. It’s a growing community, and people coming aboard can do with a handy primer.
Has anybody applied pressure on you to take this measure?
We’ve heard everybody out, users and journalists alike, but have come up with and taken this measure on our own initiative. Nothing has pressured us whatsoever beyond the output of the low-quality sources itself, which consistently proves to be a distracting, troll-esque nuisance, creating bad discourse on false premises.
Is all of this in reaction to the fake news fiasco defaming Alain Prost from last week?
The Alain Prost incident should be viewed as a final straw in terms of accelerating this measure, but we had already laid out plans to bring it forward sooner rather than later. It would be irresponsible of us not to account for that debacle, but it is by no means the sole catalyst for any of the 0/3 ratings being applied.
Again, we’re studying track records when we consider resorting to probations, not overreacting to any one-off screw-ups – even those which so perfectly demonstrate the pitfalls of leaving less credible sources unchecked.
Why aren’t more of the sources involved in the Alain Prost incident receiving this rating?
A lot of those sources do qualify in our opinion, but are extremely obscure ones which have rarely (if ever) been encountered at the subreddit to begin with. We’re trying to cover the more prominent sources first, but have the rest of them on file for further review, and will act accordingly if and when the situation calls for it.
When will you roll out the full source system revamp?
When it’s ready. We’re still currently looking at a timeframe of months. We’re trying to lay a strong foundation for the long term, so you shouldn’t be surprised if we extend the work on it in advance of the 2020 season.
Don’t get too hyped up about this dull procedure or the results to follow, as we’re simply setting up a more robust framework for tackling bad practice than we’ve had to date, and ensuring that we’re as thorough as possible in doing so.
Can I become involved in the source rating process?
Absolutely – the door is open. Everyone is welcome to get in touch via modmail, but it’s important to emphasise that we’re looking for users with real dedication and a serious interest in this topic who are able to put in the work. Please do not spend time applying unless you can establish and maintain a willingness to help evaluate lots of F1 news sources.
We’d be particularly interested in people who’d like to rate non-English language sources, or non-traditional media (such as YouTube channels), as there are significant gaps in our knowledge base where these are concerned.
Want to write a longer, denser wall of tl;dr next time?
I’m putting myself on probation after this one, don’t you worry.