Sunday, January 20, 2013


Personal obligations limited my visit to the Barrett-Jackson collector car auction to just one afternoon/evening this year -- but what a time it was. I was there Saturday, traditionally the event's biggest day, and the crowds reminded me of what it used to be like around Gasoline Alley on Indianapolis 500 race morning. The longest sub-freezing stretch since 1988 in the Valley of the Sun happily ended and Scottsdale was back into the 70s for which it's popular this time of year.

I had the first-time experience of watching an auction take place from the stage. My main purpose in being on-site was to interview Jeff Gordon for pre-Subway Fresh Fit 500k at Phoenix International Raceway Arizona Republic stories. Jeff drove a real No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet onto the stage to auction, jointly, with a customed street version. I was standing behind and just off to the side of Jeff as he went to the auction block and got $350,000 to benefit Drive to End Hunger. Let me tell you, it's quite a sight looking out at the big crowd in the bidding area!

The original Batmobile was sold for $4.2 million -- Holy Bidding!

Barrett-Jackson is an amazing event and, to me, should be on the list with Indy, Daytona, Watkins Glen, Sebring and Pomona as "must" U.S. motorsports visits.

Computers weren't yet in the newsroom when I went to work for the Philadelphia Daily News in 1974. Other than typewriters (I still have one on my desk, unused, but a useful reminder of higher-standard if less technology advanced days), the machines we depended upon most were the wire service tickers. God help the clerk who let those machines run out of paper!

UPI was still a healthy competitor to AP back then. If four bells rang on a machine, you paid attention because that signaled "Urgent" news. Five bells meant a "Bulletin." It was end-of-the-world stuff if you heard 10 bells, a "Flash." I'm happy to say I never heard 10 bells.

Dispatches like that typically came in headline form, with details to follow. To me, Twitter -- used professionally and correctly -- is a modern-era version of a ringing wire machine, 140 characters to alert you to breaking important information, with more substance to come later and elsewhere. But Twitter, in too many wrong hands, has become a vast wasteland of garbage presented in word form. So-called journalists who need to be spending time actually REPORTING the FULL story instead divert too much time and attention to Tweeting for the sake of being "first." I've shouted out against that and will continue to do so.

Until now, I've refused to open a Twitter account, and still will steer far clear of Facebook. But, as of late last week, I'm at @SpinDoctor 500 . Whatever I put up will be breaking news I'm personally reporting or involved in, not nonsense. It will be only when there's something legitimate to let you know about. No personal messages, no crap, no non-stop T-ing just for the sake of the apparent ego satisfaction of T-ing. Messages will be occasional -- only when my news judgment tells me it's NECESSARY. Candidly, I'm not interested in receiving Tweets about somebody at the convenience store buying a soda and I absolutely, positively will not rely to such.

When I'm on-site at events, as I was last Saturday at Barrett-Jackson, I'll share breaking news. Ditto when I'm covering NHRA's Arizona Nationals and NASCAR at Phoenix International Raceway, for example. Interesting NEWS gained from my interviews and reporting will be headlined using Twitter, with details available later in the Arizona Republic,, this blog, or elsewhere which I'll specify and encourage you to read. If I determine it's taking away from my old-fashioned reporting and interviewing and writing, I'll stop cold.

So, for those so inclined, I'm at @SpinDoctor 500 . I'm still skeptical, but with the encouragement and urging of people I respect and trust, I'm going to give it a try. We'll see how it goes. Consider a Tweet from me to be bells ringing on one of those old wire service machines. Thanks.

Parnelli Jones is an American original and an American motorsports icon. I have his new biography, As a matter of fact, I am Parnelli Jones, sitting on my desk and only urgent personal demands have kept me from reading it by now. (Since Bones Bourcier wrote it, I know it's great.) Parnelli, the 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner, was given what is called the Baby Borg trophy last week, the mini version of the Borg-Warner Trophy famous in Indy's victory lane. The mini Borg only went to winning drivers starting in 1988, which is why PJ didn't have one. A great gesture. But the PROBLEM is: How do those involved explain to the other still-with-us winning drivers -- a list which includes three Unsers, an Andretti, a Mears and some guy named Foyt -- why they don't get their very own Baby Borg? Believe you me, there's been enough mistakes out of Indy in the last couple of decades to create plenty of hard feelings, they don't need to make more. Someone would have to actually understand Big Picture PR issues to realize the new set of problems this might produce. 

And just what was the NEWS value in publishing Danica Patrick's divorce papers? It was all pretty standard stuff -- no tantalizing financial numbers revealed, no out-of-the-ordinary details exposed. In short, it was a nothing story, done for no reason other than to draw attention to a business trying to cash-in on the business of prying into Danica's private business. Congratulations, ESPN, on lowering the bar of sports reporting as celebrity reporting once again.

Not everything is glamorous in the PR biz. There are things that equate to blocking and tackling in football -- the basics. One is the need to regularly update distribution lists for media releases, invitations to events, and even Christmas cards (and I immediately delete the E-mail ones.) Recently, I've been amazed at the lack of attention to this necessity. It's more than changing one name to another as assignments rotate in news organizations. That's the easy part. But needed just as much is going over the complete list and asking: "Why isn't so-and-so on this list?" Yes, it takes time and focus, but that is part of what separates the solid professionals from the mail-it-in crowd. A lot of people in some of the biggest organizations need to bother themselves to do such basics. It's part of the job -- if you care about doing the job the right way!

It never ends -- the Hollywood crowd being so caught-up in their own importance as to be woefully out-of-touch with reality. Latest example: Julianne Moore won the Best Actress award at the Golden Globes for her role as Sarah Palin in the HBO movie Game Change. The producer praised Moore for being "brave" to take the part. BRAVE? And then Moore praised anti-Palinites Tina Fey and Katie Couric for their "significant contribution to the 2008 election." Right. (And I'm a Fey fan.) Then Diane Sawyer took it a step further and named Fey ABC News' Co-Person of the Week! These self-absorbed people are not to be taken seriously. 

[ more next Monday . . . ]