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Interesting take on SJ media coverage.

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  • Interesting take on SJ media coverage.

    Mercury News crosses the yellow line promoting downtown race its parent company helped sponsor
    Brickbat to the San Jose Mercury News for nearly abandoning other news on its front page for four straight days by displacing it with promotional coverage of auto racing downtown.






    From Friday, July 29, to Monday, Aug. 1, the Mercury News ran a big yellow stripe down most of the front page to highlight its coverage of the Taylor Woodrow Grand Prix. Yellow is a significant color in racing -- it's the flag used to signal a crash. Yellow is also symbolic in journalism. It represents unbridled hype.

    The Mercury News assigned more reporters than there were race cars -- 22 staff writers covering an event with only18 autos. The paper published 42 stories in just four days about a "race" that even its promoters conceded was boring and dangerous because the track -- downtown city streets -- was too narrow and bumpy for cars to pass each other.

    After the Mercury News' corporate parent, Knight Ridder, donated $100,000 to the event, the paper made it the biggest news event of the year. The coverage included an editorial exhorting readers to “Get your motor running, and head out to the Grand Prix,” partial sponsorship of ads for the race and a complimentary ad for a remote control car “Mini Grand Prix” in which three Mercury News staffers participated -- an event the paper also covered.

    The newspaper even took the highly unusual step of soliciting favorable letters to the editor about the event after readers sent volleys of angry letters complaining about a boring race, over-priced parking and concessions, and obstructed views of the action.

    Journalism’s codes of ethics require impartiality. The Mercury News instead became a cheerleader:

    “HIGH OCTANE WEEKEND AHEAD,” a giant front-page headline promised on Friday. “RACERS, FANS GET REVVED UP,” Saturday’s front page enthused. “GRAND SPECTACLE,” crowed Sunday’s page 1. “FINAL CHEERS,” applauded Monday’s cover. On the last two days, no other story shared the top half of the front page.

    You might have thought the event a great success -- “full-throttle fun” or “a blast” as another Mercury News editorial proclaimed it when it was over.

    But race drivers complained that the course was slippery, uneven and too narrow to pass. Half the cars that started crashed or were otherwise disabled. Many downtown businesses complained of lost customers. Banks and law firms decried an inability to do business as streets and streetcars were re-routed. One group , the San Jose's Children's Musical Theater, is considering pulling out of downtown during the summer, because of the disruption.

    More than a week after the event traffic downtown was still disrupted, as crews removed the heavy concrete barriers with their curving chain-link panels designed to keep a careening race car from striking race fans. As the Mercury News' editors conceded in a note pleading for positive letters: "The letters we initially received about the recent inaugural Champ Car Taylor Woodrow Grand Prix of San Jose were predominantly negative.”

    Given that most of these problems were reported by the Mercury News, was it really a “grand spectacle?” Worthy of more concentrated attention than any other event or issue in 2005 thus far?

    Certainly the first sports car race through downtown San Jose merited coverage. Over three days the event drew more than 100,000 spectators. It was billed as a fund-raiser for the Canary Fund to improve cancer detection techniques. (But no one quoted by the Mercury News seemed hopeful that the event's estimated $10 million cost would be recouped by ticket sales and corporate promotions. Even with the event operating at a loss, its promoters were taken at their word when they said their intent was to generate funds for and spur interest in a cancer charity.)

    When newspapers partner with promoters to hawk an event, particularly one where the benefits to the community are so speculative and uncertain, they open themselves to charges of bias and favoritism -- why not devote saturation coverage to the equally popular Gilroy Garlic Festival? By displacing so much other news from prominent display, they also frustrate readers who depend on the Mercury to makes sense of the world.

    Mercury News Managing Editor David Satterfield responds: “As you note, the Champ Car race was the first road race in downtown San Jose. It attracted an estimated 100,000 people. It resulted in the closing of a number of city streets. We thought it merited big coverage.

    "As usual, your review is selective. We wrote stories about delays, about poor racing conditions and about the perception by some that the race was as exciting as a parade. And if you go back a few months, we raised serious questions about whether the city should be contributing money to the event (which the city ultimately did not do).”

    Posted Aug. 9, 2005


    http://www.gradethenews.org/feat/bouquets.htm

  • #2
    Hmmmm. Somebody forward this to Robin, Oreo and David Phillips..........Kirby quit caring years ago.

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    • #3
      Mercury News Managing Editor David Satterfield responds: “As you note, the Champ Car race was the first road race in downtown San Jose. It attracted an estimated 100,000 people. It resulted in the closing of a number of city streets. We thought it merited big coverage.

      "As usual, your review is selective. We wrote stories about delays, about poor racing conditions and about the perception by some that the race was as exciting as a parade. And if you go back a few months, we raised serious questions about whether the city should be contributing money to the event (which the city ultimately did not do).”
      Ooops.

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      • #4
        One thing about living in the Bay Area, you get all kinds of watchdog groups from all spectrums.

        The only thing I would've loved is having this group around in the 49er's heydey. Winning the Super Bowl, dominating the headlines and newscasts, they would've complained how could a sports event garner any coverage over real life events. Why bother sending a reporter to a tavern interviewing a bunch of drunk people.

        Go to their archives, I think they had one on Bond's 700th home run. Something about Kerry-Bush getting demoted to the back of the paper or maybe it was Iraq. Guess what, some of the TV news led with Bonds that night, not news from D.C.

        These guys are entitled to their opinions, but I don't get the feeling their sports fans very much.

        Basically, write a hard hitting story, you get points. Anything that smells a fluff piece, you're patronizing.

        KGO, KRON, and KPIX(ABC, NBC, and CBS) all had the race story within the first five minutes of their news broadcasts. Should it have been stuck in the back with all the other sports and like every other auto race this year? Obviously, some felt it merited coverage. Then again why cover sports at all or even the weather? Certainly that time and money could be better spent sending reporters uncovering corruption in our government instead of informing us when the sun rises tomorrow.

        I wonder if they'll issue a bouquet or brick for some local press covering Bill O'Reilly's call for our destruction under attack

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        • #5
          I'm waiting for them to pull out the quote re Monza:
          "superfluous, dangerous and socially useless activity."

          "Being second is to be the first of the ones who lose." --- Ayrton Senna

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          • #6
            So, the stance on TF is that there was too much local media attention?

            Isn't this the kind of treatment we've been begging for from "partners" for years?

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Jim Wilke
              Hmmmm. Somebody forward this to Robin, Oreo and David Phillips..........Kirby quit caring years ago.
              Be my guest.

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              • #8
                You should see how the Washington Post (and the local news stations) treats the Redskins. They all turn into the biggest cheerleaders and all news is pushed back on Mondays during the NFL season. Its really disgusting if/when they get into the playoffs. Its absolutely unbelievable when they went to the Super Bowl.

                The point is, that the local papers tend to put "events" on the front page. They also put supplements. If the event has created a buzz in the community, the newspapers would be fools to not cover it and hype it up; it helps sell more newspapers.

                By the way, that link was only for the Bay-area papers, and they had some other interesting "conclusions" in their other reviews.
                If you break a vase and then glue it back together and the vase loses it's value, you do not get credit for fixing it. You get the blame for damaging it....

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                • #9
                  That's not the point - what the writer was saying was that once the SJ Merc decided to sponsor the event, they gave the race more attention than it otherwise deserved.

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                  • #10
                    What the artical said was not so much that the paper hyped it, but that they had a financial stake in the event, hyped the good, ignored the bad, and even went so far as soliciting "good" letters about the event because the ones they had recieved were overwhelmingly bad.

                    Hey, that's cool. CC was able to wrangle a little positive press on a bit of a stinker of an event. Whether it'll be enough to keep the event from going into the all too common 2nd, 3rd, 4th year decline until the event is finally cancelled (like so many others have been before it) we'll have to wait & see. The people that attended last year & couldn't see the race or were not impressed by the parade won't be fooled by a line of BS in the local paper.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by downtowndeco
                      What the artical said was not so much that the paper hyped it, but that they had a financial stake in the event, hyped the good, ignored the bad, and even went so far as soliciting "good" letters about the event because the ones they had recieved were overwhelmingly bad.

                      Hey, that's cool. CC was able to wrangle a little positive press on a bit of a stinker of an event. Whether it'll be enough to keep the event from going into the all too common 2nd, 3rd, 4th year decline until the event is finally cancelled (like so many others have been before it) we'll have to wait & see. The people that attended last year & couldn't see the race or were not impressed by the parade won't be fooled by a line of BS in the local paper.
                      What you say makes a lot of sense. This was the one race that IMO fans of the CC series (of which I'm one) could not defend. It was a horrible race and I said that in a post at that time. I only hope they can change the course and make it a bit more palatable.

                      Definitely not their finest hour.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Kurt Cobain
                        What you say makes a lot of sense. This was the one race that IMO fans of the CC series (of which I'm one) could not defend. It was a horrible race and I said that in a post at that time. I only hope they can change the course and make it a bit more palatable.

                        Definitely not their finest hour.
                        Mr. Cobain,
                        The race was set-up by KK, for KK and about KK and his cronies. If KK has his way, this race will be on somebodies schedule until the end of time
                        ...Always follow the money

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Jim Wilke
                          That's not the point - what the writer was saying was that once the SJ Merc decided to sponsor the event, they gave the race more attention than it otherwise deserved.
                          In their opinion and most certainly I'd guess yours.

                          soliciting "good" letters about the event because the ones they had recieved were overwhelmingly bad
                          Yet, they still posted some of those "overwhelming bad" letters. The paper also published Morning Buzz's recant of the race. The one many here recounted on finding 60,000 people. Doesn't sound like a one-sided affair.

                          So where was the solicitation?. The only thing I remember reading the paper, was no different than other times, calls to write in tell us how it went. I don't recall any solicitation but only if you have a good story. I'd say in my experiences "letters to the editor/paper" in being a subscriber for over 15 years, the Mercury News has been very well balanced for/against each time.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Jim Wilke
                            That's not the point - what the writer was saying was that once the SJ Merc decided to sponsor the event, they gave the race more attention than it otherwise deserved.
                            Its more like the writer added 1 + 1 and got 3.

                            The SJ Merc didn't give money to the event, Knight Ridder did.
                            The 4 front pages they showed were from the Fri, Sat, Sun, and Mon of the event weekend.
                            It was a big event that affected people in that streets were closed and it was an inagural event.
                            They made the assumption that since the parent company gave money to the event, that the resulting coverage was now different than it would have been, had KR not given money. Baloney! IMO the coverage would have been similar as it was newsworthy. As i said earlier, the local papers always put similar events (i.e. sports) on the front page and pushes the "real" news back.

                            BTW, have you seen the LB Press Telegram just before the LBGP? or the Indystar in May? No diference. I haven't looked, but is the Iditorod covered up there, Jim?
                            If you break a vase and then glue it back together and the vase loses it's value, you do not get credit for fixing it. You get the blame for damaging it....

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Jim Wilke
                              That's not the point - what the writer was saying was that once the SJ Merc decided to sponsor the event, they gave the race more attention than it otherwise deserved.
                              USA Today presents the Indy 500.

                              Hmmmmmm would people complain about the coverage?
                              Man to Man is so unjust... there's no Man you can Trust.

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