In the UK racing scene (hat tip to Scott), a senior writer at the Racing Post recently blasted the paper in his resignation letter for being beholden to its advertisers, which in his opinion is not healthy; "Almost all the racing media is now under the effective editorial control of the bookmakers either because bookmaker advertising is essential to their survival, or because other racing correspondents have been made aware of, er, the side on which their bread is buttered."
"The agenda of Britain's only racing/sports newspaper is now being dictated entirely by its main advertisers," he said.
I often feel the same way over here, across the pond. I read some articles, on both websites and in print, where the racing writers appear to be reticent to be critical. It seems to me, at times, it is an old boys club, where advertisers rule the editorial roost. After all, can we blame them? If you anger a breeder, or an ADW who advertises with you, you are not going to replace that advertiser with Target, or Wal-Mart. You are pretty much toast.
There are independent voices. Often times Ray Paulick is one (although some have said he shows some bias towards horseman and against some tracks). Andrew Beyer, despite the DRF having mucho-advertising from tracks and ADW's, looks to me to be one who would tell someone to go take a hike if they tried to silence his opinion. Here in Canada, Darryl Kaplan of Trot writes hard-hitting opinion from time to time that flies directly in the face of the "protect my slice at all costs" thinking that affects this business like an infected boil. Harold Howe of the Harness Edge is not averse to running critical pieces and letters. But overall, the business itself seems to have very few voices who challenge the status-quo with the verve it may need.
On television as we have touched below, it is a different story, as most simulcast shows have staff that are employed by the track. It is simply not realistic to demand that Mike Hamilton or Greg Blanchard at Woodbine ask a tough question of their track on the air. If they think the detention barn does no good they clearly can not slag their boss.
But I do wonder if we have lost some independence in print, and on the web in racing because of these close-knit ties. Perhaps it is further evidence of the power of the status quo in racing, and that it will take much, much more than handle losses and a few closed tracks to unhinge it.