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Road America Diary:
Day Three
Iíve Seen the Future and It Is Us

Elkhart Lake, Wisc., August 12 ó The rain that has been threatening all weekend finally arrived on Saturday evening during the ALMS race. Jeff and I missed it, because weíre covering Champ Car and Atlantic, and they are done by mid-afternoon. This leaves time for some fun and a lot of work.

I end up staying up until the witching hour finishing my Day Two Diary and Jeff is up nearly that late sorting pictures. We manage a nice dinner of cheeseburgers at the Horse & Plow Pub in Kohler, preceded by a ride through Kohler by horse drawn carriage. We do think of our friends out at the track, but only briefly as it is still a long night for us.

But, it was nice to get the rain out of the way, because Sunday is a day of awesome beauty with nary a storm cloud in sight. Itís going to be lovely, hot, and will go by very fast, but itís always tiring on Day 3 of a race weekend no matter how nicely packaged. We have two races today plus related press conferences, then we have to pack up and go back to our hotel and work until sleep claims us.

There are those in the world of motorsports journalism who view those of us with other jobs in a sneering manner as ďpart timers.Ē I think these people really need to try to produce quality work while keeping one of our schedules. I have been thinking about how journalists of all stripes will survive in this current era where it seems few of our readers support even the most basic of journalistic rights customary in a free society. It can really be quite chilling.

The same cannot be said for the weather which is hot and muggy in the extreme. The morning warm-ups go off without a hitch as Junior Strous is fast for the Atlantic and Alex Tagliani for Champ Car. Before we know it, the Atlantic race is starting, with Russell and me at the start/finish line and Jeff in Turn One. The Atlantic race itself is moderately interesting and won by polesitter Franck Perera. Series champion Raphael Matos makes a terrific start, vaulting from ninth place to fifth, eventually moving up for a second place finish, and our friend Shaneís driver goes from fourth to third. This latter move proves to be the undoing of the desired 10th place points finish for Justin Sofio discussed yesterday. And, we still donít know what caused Justinís problems and contributed to his 15th place finish. The press conference goes smoothly and after a very quick snack, itís time for the Champ Car race.

The crowd seems to be at least politely receptive to the drivers as they are introduced. The start is clean, with Bruno inexplicably leapfrogging to third. It later emerges that he jumped the start, so this does him little good in the race and he ends up finishing about midfield. As Jeff and I discussed the night before, itís difficult at best to beat Sebastien and today proves to be no exception. The racing gods, on the other hand, have abandoned Robert Doornbos for the moment, and he has a disappointing finish. This is one of those road races thatís fun to see in person, but rather boring on television. Given the future I can foresee for we journalists, that may cause one or two people some concern.

Mainline media outlets are sending fewer and fewer journalists to each Champ Car race. The series contracts with a photo service, LAT, which serves to limit the number of photos that can be sold, if not taken, at each race. Without a large Champ Car news and PR staff, local journalists who may only have one Champ Car race to cover each year must rely on the venues for support in covering their races, and we have seen the number of local press dwindle each year we cover the series.

In theory, this should create more opportunity for newer media outlets, such as Internet websites including www.DeepThrottle.com, to develop content. Unfortunately, there are big problems there. As yet, there is little or no money in it, and no one can afford to work for free indefinitely. Also, Champ Car itself limits the number of hard card credentials that each website can hold, which means that many of these sites are hence providing coverage by press release only.

Yes, I have seen the future of journalism in this series, and the future is us. Internet websites and content providers that we cannot imagine yet Ė all of these will eventually replace the newspaper and magazine reporters who are being edged out of the seriesí press rooms. There will undoubtedly be new challenges. I can remember when serious journalists would worry about the proliferation of television. They said if there were only attractive people on television, serious journalism would disappear. Well, I think that was rather overblown. There are many ordinary people in journalism today, and many are just as unattractive as journalists were in the pre-television era. Just as these concerns were handled, so will the concerns about part time and Internet journalists.

What does continue to concern me, though, is the lack of support I can detect for journalistic principles among the racing fans of this country. Based on what Iíve seen and read, if you say something that fans disagree with, many feel that you are no longer entitled to freely express your opinions, no matter how well informed. In other words, forget the 1st Amendment, if youíre even a little controversial.

I was told by a highly regarded journalist today that the new Champ Car PR management wants no pieces that require any thought to read Ė just keep it very short and highly fluffy. This, and fear of revocation of credentials, is how they are seeking to implement their plans. The fact that this team has no working relationships with the established press that has supported them for years is apparently of no concern to the current ownership. In effect, they have decapitated their own press corps and replaced us with ďChamp Car Charlie.Ē

The thing is, if weíre not employed by CCWS, and if they are canceling the credentials of journalists as prominent as Robin Miller, and no one is making any money, there is very little in the way of control or influence they can exercise.

Yes, the future is us. I have seen it. The question is, have they?

Copyright © 2007 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

 
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