Sunday, August 09, 2015


I find these to be very troubling times for the media. I mean beyond the obvious business challenges. I mean in the fundamental relationship between reporters and public relations representatives and the athletes they cover or represent.

I've written about this a lot. I do so because this blog is written primarily for those within the industry and I hope to point out to them legitimate issues. But I also write about it a lot because it's important. It's about reporting the news in the new age of "new" media and "social" media and how the standards of acceptability have changed in an increasingly negative way. I think those like me -- go ahead and call us old-timers with old-time values -- are having it even worse than those who have come along in more recent years. I guess we see what was and what now is not and that's frustrating, to put it mildly.

Take a look at this Tweet sent out last week by Viv Bernstein. More importantly, click the link to read what she says about the "new normal" journalists face. She includes a link about the Chicago Bears' more restrictive media regulations. Apparently those who cover the NFL team only learned of the new policy when they arrived at Bears' training camp. If there was no prior consultation with affected media people beforehand, well, that reminds me of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway moving its long-time media parking area to OUTSIDE the track. Something most journos only found out about in May. Good media relations -- no, COMMON COURTESY -- demanded better. (I mentioned this to Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, but he didn't seem too concerned.) As I wrote afterwards, and has been carried forward by AARWBA President Dusty Brandel in the organization's new newsletter, Indy was a less friendly, less welcoming place. That's exactly the wrong tone to set for the run-up to next year's 100th running of the 500. 


Bernstein mentions NASCAR and I completely agree. As I have previously stated, the Integrated Marketing Communications philosophy, as conjured-up and carried-out by the department's leadership, is anti-PR, anti-media friendly. At least to those of us who no doubt would be labeled "old school." That doesn't mean we're not right.

A few  years ago, in preparation for my NASCAR-at-Phoenix coverage in the Arizona Republic, I sent an E-mail to the PR rep for a team that was using multiple drivers. I asked to confirm who I believed was going to drive for the team at PIR. That's about as basic as it gets. NO ANSWER. And then there was when I was researching my comprehensive story on PIR's 50th anniversary. A NASCAR rep told me Chairman Brian France was not available to offer a comment. That was more than ridiculous. It was stupid. An easy chance for NASCAR's boss to praise the track (an ISC-owned track, I should add) in a major, demographically diverse market -- and it's fans -- became a not forgotten and a not healed burr under my saddle. 

All of which is not to say all is correct on the media side. The most recent and terrible example being last week's Republican presidential candidates debate on Fox News. At a time of terrorism at home and abroad, the rise of ISIS, Iran nukes, immigration issues, jobs, the economy, energy, race relations and the completely bogus "War on Women," Fox News turned what should have been a serious two hours into an entertainment spectacle. Three moderators weren't needed -- those choices were driven by ratings hype or contract obligation. And, as was at least partially admitted on other network shows, each question was predetermined right down to the exact wording, who would ask it, to whom it would be asked, and at what point in the debate. Even anchor Bret Baier admitted the opening 10 minutes -- spent revving-up the audience cheerleader-style while the candidates waited on stage -- "didn't work" and was "awkward." 

As I wrote on Twitter, I'm surprised Fox didn't have Darrell Waltrip open the debate with: "Boogity, boogity, boogity. Let's go debatin', boys."

Take this to the bank: No matter its public statements, Fox News management, and the anchor involved, are delighting in the controversy coming from Donald Trump's post-debate criticism. Good for ratings, you know . . .

But let's remember this: For all the hype from Fox about how 24 million viewers watched, the 2008 vice presidential debate featuring Sarah Palin drew a staggering audience of 70 million.

POWER PLAYERS for the week of August 9: This week's 10 most influential people in the Business and Politics of Motorsports, as selected by long-time journalist/publicist and industry insider Michael Knight. 

  1.  Donny Schatz -- He's sprint car racing's Main Man and winner of eight of the last nine Knoxville Nationals, the sport's most prestigious event. Schatz got some nice attention from Curt Cavin in the Indianapolis Star recently, but this Knoxville week is the time for national media to take notice of the World of Outlaws' dominant driver -- 22 wins already this season.

  2. Joey Logano -- NASCAR's new road course ace, the Daytona 500 winner sweeps the Xfinity-Cup series weekend races at Watkins Glen.

  3. George Bruggenthies -- Road America president bringing IndyCar back to the fantastic four-mile road course for the first time since 2007. The confirmed date is June 26, 2016.

 4. Shane Stewart -- Won both of the weekend's World of Outlaws' races, including the Ironman 55. Also won the Kings Royal earlier this season, so heading to Knoxville, he looms as the biggest challenger to Donny Schatz.

  5. Jimmy Prock -- Jack Beckman came up two rounds short of sweeping NHRA's Western Swing, but crew chief Prock has tuned Beckman's Dodge to a long string of three second passes and so is the Funny Car championship favorite.

   6. David MacNeil -- Founder and CEO of WeatherTech will take over from Tudor watches as IMSA's United SportsCar series sponsor next year.

  7. Steve O'Donnell -- NASCAR's racing development boss tries the high drag aero package again this weekend at Michigan. 

  8. Bob Baker -- Executive director of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame (I am a voting member) will be showcasing the sport's history all this week at Knoxville.

  9. Dave Argabright and Mike Kerchner -- Theirs will be the definitive words about the Knoxville Nationals this week. See . 

more next week . . . ]