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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Who Are You Writing For?

People complain about the lack of harness racing news in the media.  True, many newspapers have severely cut back on their coverage of the sport (thoroughbred racing too), reducing the entries and results to the most local of tracks, if not completely eliminating them as well as limiting stories to the most important races of the year nationally and perhaps one or two races at the local track.  We bemoan the lack of media attention, but do we ever wonder why it has happened?

Yes, interest in racing is down.  Many newspapers are running bare bones and don't have the resources to dedicate to sitting in the press box every night.  It's true those tracks with a publicity department (amazingly, there are tracks without a publicity department, typically having someone else do those duties along with their many other responsibilities) send out those stories, many of which you see in the trade journals or probably more accurate trade websites, but seldom do they get into the mainstream media.

Is there any surprise most of these stories get no attention from the mainstream media?  A typical story talks about a blow by blow description of a race and maybe quotes from a driver and/or trainer.  How a horse sets a new lifetime mark and has earned so much this year.  Or, if a big race is coming up, a press release talks about the race and who is being entered into the race.  Being interest in racing is low is there any surprise these articles don't get printed or reported on television?  Even a racing fan looking at websites would likely gloss over these articles.

Yet these stories get reported daily.  I am not saying these stories should not be reported; there are industry connected people who want these stories, but as often said, we are preaching to the choir.  These articles do nothing to gain the interest of the general public.

Once in a while, we get a story which is worthy of consideration by a mainstream newspaper.  Take this story from Cal Expo regarding an owner who won the two races she had horses in, how she treats her horses like her own kids and how one of her winners came from a broodmare she had which passed away two weeks ago.  It is called a human interest story; a story any person can relate to.  Recovering from a personal tragedy to an evening of triumph.  Not a story about the millionaire with their top stakes horses.

Tracks need to report more stories like this, human interest stories and get away from writing stories that only horse people can relate to.  Stories about Riina Rekila two years ago, Julie Miller last year were able to get seen in non-racing publications.  Stop writing for the racing fans and start writing for the general public.  Maybe then we can get more attention from the non-racing media.

Pocono Downs is Open: And you can tell by looking at Friday's entries at the Meadowlands.  Now, Pocono Downs alone is not the cause of the problem, but with horses already being diverted to race at Chester Downs (soon to be Philadelphia Downs as Harrah's is rebranding their racino), the last thing the Meadowlands needed was another local track opening.  We have a non-winners of one extended pari-mutuel race on the card along with a non-winners of $4,000 in last five starts on the card.  Only half of the twelve races have full fields.  Saturday night has a $10,000 claimer, $15,000 claimer, and a non-winners of  $4,000 in the last five races.  However, at least they got twelve races each night without extremely short fields so that is a credit to the race office. For those bemoaning the fact there are only two race nights a week, could you imagine what the Meadowlands race card would look like if they tried racing three nights a week?

But it goes to point out there is too many tracks racing in the area.  Chester Downs, Dover Downs, Freehold, Meadowlands, Pocono Downs, and Yonkers Raceway all drawing from the same horses population.  Handles are anemic the way it is already, do we need to make them even smaller by having tracks forced to put on less than stellar racing cards? 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your assessment of what tracks could do to increase publicity is absolutely on target. As a racing fan and a journalist for many years, I guarantee the double payoff, fastest race of the night and driver X winning his 30th of the meet is not news to non-racing media.

Sometimes a horse is the story (Peelers win streak) and how about three times over millionaire Vivid Photo still racing at ten?

Most of the time it will be people stories. Why would a kid want a career as a driver these days? Profile Joe Bongiorno or whoever is the youngest at the local track. Every track has families where one spouse is a driver, the other is a trainer or groom and children muck stalls. How do drivers choose the colors they wear and who makes sure they're unique? What's it like sitting in the starting car for a race? Reporters could call a qualifying race and show how they did.

It's up to the track employees to change their ways if they really want a story in print or on the evening news.