Uh oh. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. But the heavens have opened in more ways than one…
MCN has a potentially significant role to play in the lives of UK motorcyclists. Not least because of the uncertain political context in which biking exists, always vulnerable to predation by keen legislators and lobbyists. Being a weekly publication, it is uniquely placed to break and disseminate harder news stories compared to monthly titles: equally its scope means it can evaluate product in a different way to other publications.
However, the recent makeover bestowed on itself by MCN amounted to a less focussed, more rambling incarnation. Judging by the most recent issue, a cynic might argue that this was merely preparation for massive advertorial in editorial guise. We feared that at some point the Panigale driven hype machine would be formally unleashed: that time, it seems, has come – if you take MCN.
The irony of course is that the Panigale – a sportsbike, lest anyone’s spent the last six months in a blissful trance – doesn’t yet quite cut it when it comes to sport, relatively speaking, as MCN’s own lap times confirm. In the hands of the quickest rider at the test, Pirelli’s Alfio, the Panigale registered the slowest lap times (bar the MV, who seem to have reverted to type recently in delivering machines which are simply not ready for public consumption). That’s right: on the same tyres, in the most capable hands, the Panigale was the slowest of the contenders, but still proclaimed as a winner of the test along with the BMW. Go figure – it didn’t over impress on the road segment of the testing either. MCN proclaimed this as a shock result, and yet the bike is a newcomer in a highly sophisticated market. Despite the 20 grand plus elephant in the room, the reader is still treated to page after page of what amounts to Ducati brand placement – which wouldn’t matter so much if it wasn’t fronted by the Panigale copy. This is not news. It is good, old fashioned advertorial masquerading as a feature, swallowing what is supposed to be a newspaper. While it’s amusing reading MCN’s respected senior tester Michael Neeves trying ever so hard to justify the Panigale relative to the competition, a more realistic set of expectations and less hype would have kept things honest.
Is it really worth engendering the suspicion that MCN’s playing field may not be a level one? Even if that is simply a perception, it is a damaging one, which the paper can ill afford to foster. Keeping Ducati or any other manufacturer happy at the expense of credibility is a desperately short sighted move, all the more so during times of great uncertainty for journalism in general -and print media in particular.