The journalist’s job has changed beyond recognition. In some ways it’s easier now, in others far harder and a lot less fun.The big change is the number of people doing the job. It’s almost impossible to have the relationships the likes of Jenks enjoyed, when hacks and racers were pals who partied together.
There are now hundreds of journalists chasing drivers for a quote. Everyone is looking for that special story, but it has become almost impossible to do something different. More than ever the press relies on bland conferences, or sanitised quotes on press releases. It’s easy to understand why. A driver now has far more demands on his time and can’t satisfy everybody. When he does talk, he has to be careful. A seemingly harmless quote will be taken out of context, published and used elsewhere pretty quickly. Upset your sponsor or team boss, and you face a grilling.
The way we report races has also changed. Jenks would stand trackside making his lap chart, then rush around to find out what happened. In an hour he’d have a better picture of the race than anybody else. Today we watch the race on TV in press rooms, with the same scoring system the teams use. Why go all that way to watch on TV? Well, if you miss something seen at home, you look pretty silly. An hour after the end of the race, all the press releases will have arrived. You can ferret around the paddock, but rarely do you learn something new. Meanwhile, everyone else is putting press quotes into their stories. Jenks used a typewriter, and, in the case of his famed Mille Miglia report, posted it. I press a button on my laptop and a story appears on the computers of the publication concerned. But even that’s not fast enough. Before they get the morning paper, punters can read about the race on the intemet.