In a sad week for journalism in Australia, AAP announced it would cease operations this year. One of the agency’s long-term sports writers, Roger Vaughan, has long been a voice for the Australian cycling community. His contributions to cycling are significant even if he was rarely in the by-line.
It’s not easy getting media coverage in Australia for a sport like cycling. This is a comment made out of personal experience, while also acknowledging that there are a stoic few who have made significant contributions to the reporting of our sport. They do this despite often having to battle with editors to ensure space is allocated for commentary on something that is not only beautiful to watch, but fantastic to do, something that is practical for our community, something that offers many benefits other than the joy of cheering someone across a finish line.
Roger Vaughan has been a stalwart of the Australian cycling scene since 1994. He has written more about our sport than he has ever received full credit for. He has covered the racing scene through thick and thin, elation and scandal, from anonymous roadsides in god-knows-where to the cauldrons of excitement at Olympic Games. He has attended the world’s biggest bike races and spoken to umpteen cyclists, good and bad, stars or unknowns, and relayed stories of conquests as well as controversy, sporting politics, and all the ugly stuff others would rather simply opt to ignore.
Roger has covered so many doping scandals that he is probably as good a haematologist as he is a writer.
Above all, Roger gets it.
He ‘does’ all sports, as a journalist. And he lives in Melbourne so you know he knows his AFL. That’s the day job, but he has other passions and, thanks to his enthusiasm and professionalism, he has done more for cycling in Australia than we will ever fully understand.
He is a bike rider. He loves his triathlon. He commits to events others have ignored. He has ‘been there, done that’ at more sporting events than anyone dare imagine. He has seen all that sport has to offer.
And he comes back for more, no matter how grubby the conditions.
When it’s too difficult to find the right information, others often concede and set off for the bar instead of filing but Roger Vaughan has been there, on the frontline for Australian cycling, for over 25 years. He reports the facts and does so in a way that has helped thousands understand what it is to race a bike better than they did before he was offered a position as ‘Sports Journalist’ with AAP.
Late last year, he was elevated to a different role. ‘Sports Editor’.* (See below for postscript clarification.)
“It’s different,” he told me in January. “Difficult, but only because I’m so used to writing, not asking others to do it for me.”
He smiled in the telling. Of course he did. That is his way. If you know him, tell me this: ever seen Roger Vaughan look grumpy? (Somehow, I already know the answer.)
He has been stressed while on a deadline and is often distracted but, as I later explain, that is all part of the job.
* * * * *
In June, the doors shut and the job(s) Roger has done at AAP will cease to exist.
He’s a journalist’s journalist. Someone who loved colourful tales and told them well, but his first calling was to explain his topics to a wide audience who may ordinarily not have given a damn about the things he wrote about.
To do all this takes talent as well as persuasiveness, persistence, personal sacrifice, and great support. He got that at AAP, and he will find it elsewhere but for now, at the end of week when cycling should have been in the headlines but it was largely ignored, let’s take a moment to tip our collective hats and say, ‘Thanks mate, great job!’
Roger, you may not know it, but what you do is more than just a job.
* * * * *
I’m confident in saying that, even after AAP files its last report, Rogers Vaughan will find a way to put his many talents to use. But right now, it’s a good time to consider some of the work he’s done for RIDE Media – when he was actually named as a contributor, rather than just an anonymous initial at the end of the ‘AAP’ byline.
In the coming days, I’ll be posting some flashbacks to articles written by Roger Vaughan that helped explain some of Australian cycling’s biggest moments: the victory of Cadel Evans in the 2011 Tour de France was one report he wrote for RIDE Media. I trusted him to that commission more than I did myself; it was a story that had to be told by someone who understood the achievement, but wasn’t as closely linked as I was to the subject.
I may have written Cadel’s biography and many other articles about a fine ambassador for cycling who gave me and Roger and many others the chance to explain the brilliance of bike racing. When an Australian won the Tour de France, however, I turned to Roger Vaughan to sum up the situation as he saw it.
Of course he did a great job. (I’ll dig through the production archives of #RIDE53 and post the story online, in a digital format rather than the old-school print of RIDE Cycling Review the magazine Roger Vaughan often wrote for.)
In 2004, when the lead-up to what would be the best Olympic Games that Australian cycling has ever had was plagued by scandal, it was Roger Vaughan who stepped up and ensured that the facts surrounding the use of equine growth hormone by the national team. It was front page news for months, but for all the wrong reasons. It was ugly and brutal and threatened the very future of a program that has consistently delivered impressive results.
The facts would eventually surface about what was found in the Del Monte where elite Australian cyclists stayed in South Australia. And it was the man from Adelaide who reported the details, from beginning to end. It wasn’t fun but Roger Vaughan had a job to do and, as he’s always done, he filed the information that explained a sordid chapter in our sport. And did so with accuracy, speed, and even his usual wit.
Thankfully, things move on. And racing would eventually become the topic again.
When the Australian team won six gold medals in Athens in 2004 and the nation loved cycling, the AAP by-line sat alongside these tales of accomplishment and world records and gold medals.
He left Adelaide long ago and lives in Melbourne now but everywhere he goes, he sees sport. And although you may not know it, many of the stories you have read about cycling have been written by him.
Look back through the archives of stories on cycling, not just what you find online with a quick Google search, but also in the libraries of Australia – there, in black and white in newspapers from over the last 25 years, that’s where you will find his work.
You will be reminded of amazing events, horrible accidents, stunning attacks on steep inclines, daring sprints amidst utter chaos, incredible achievement and fabulous, celebrated victories.
And at the end of all those articles, deep beneath those millions of words that someone had to actually create, you may see ‘RV’. That means more to me than what anyone will ever understand.
* * * * *
I’ve grown up with Roger Vaughan. I’ve worked alongside him and commissioned his work. I know that he has explained things I’d never dare take on, and he has always done so with smile… and in a distracted manner. And this final point is key to what makes him special.
Ordinarily, if someone is paying attention to something else while you are having a discussion, it’s easy to get annoyed. If Roger did this, it was only because he was still paying attention to everything else that was going on around the room.
He’d never forgive himself if a story unfolded and he wasn’t reporting on it.
Roger, I salute you and your contributions to cycling in Australia. You’re welcome to have a beer with me any time and talk about The Glory Days. But what you did was more than win a gold medal and it’s important to recognise what you have done.
Maybe, just maybe, you’ll now finish dinner without being distracted by the lure of another story that no one else understood – or explained – properly.
– By Rob Arnold
PS. He doesn’t rest. He is pedantic. He appreciates the sentiment… and duly corrects the errors. #GottaLoveRoger
Oh. My. God. I am gobsmacked @ridemediaHQ – thank you so much. One small, small detail if I may (always the pedant …) – I’m now Melbourne bureau chief at AAP, not sports editor. An even BIGGER change. But getting back to my original point – thank you most sincerely.
— Roger Vaughan (@rogvaughan) March 6, 2020