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 Columns & Editorials

November 21, 2000

Mullet Wrappers and TP Computer Reviews

The following turned up on the KARNAC.com Florida Stock Car Racing message board recently:

This was an interesting article written by John Barker of the Lakeland Ledger...maybe it will shine some light on what you read on this or any internet site.

[I'm all for free speech as long as it gives each party an
opportunity to have its say.

But this equation has been ignored by certain Internet
sites that have chosen to be subjective rather than

Having looked at 10 different web pages, I've found
some are lacking in an unbiased look at many aspects of
racing and are self-serving in their approach to
reporting. These sites are more interested in the number
of what are called hits (site visits by a reader), but are
lacking in the written word of what actually transpired
during a race. Most story content is editorial comment,
but not all information is complete facts. This is a column
and there is a difference.

I really think some answer their own e-mails in order to
show a high reader count. They can also choose not to
post your message on their board if it's contrary to their

Some race reports appear to have been written by a
former driver with an ax to grind or a race fan who is
unhappy with a particular promoter.

Race fans, please find out the whole story, not the
watered-down version of these cyberspace "Toilet
Paper Computer Reviews." Read if you must, but take
much with a grain of salt.]

Of course not knowing if the above is the entirety of Mr. Barker's piece on Internet sites, I may not not have the whole picture. Having said that, the battle of words and wits between 'traditional media' and 'Internet media' has been waged on many fronts for some time and certainly is not limited to racing news outlets.

Mr. Barker represents an old established medium of news distribution and it would be hard to say he is an unbiased observer. The content of his piece as reprinted above (assuming it is a reasonable facsimile) is severely lacking in specifics. That is a shame as it leaves the door open to wide interpretation.

'Toilet Paper Computer Reviews' is no different rhetoric than the 'mullet wrappers' phrase heard often as descriptive of certain newspapers. I wonder if Mr. Barker would apply the same critical eye to the Charlotte County Speedway story published by the Charlotte edition of the Sarasota Herald Tribune a few months ago.

The headline read: " RACE CAR DRIVER DIES IN ACCIDENT" with the subheadline "Ron Dushek is killed during a novice-division race at the Charlotte County Speedway". The story went on to describe the death of Mr. Dushek at the speedway as a racing incident, without of course checking any facts in the matter. It turned out that the story was nothing more than a reporter and his editor's attempt to meet a deadline, and that all of the pertinent facts as reported by the Hearld Tribune were completely false. They did not check with the Medical Examiner nor did they obtain a statement from the Sheriff's Department; other than that, they had no comment.

KARNAC.com, on the other hand, checked with both the Sherrif's Department and the Medical Examiner and ran the story correctly according to the facts presented by both of the official departments and the speedway's Public Relations Director. The paper's deadline was late Saturday night. Our story ran Sunday morning.

This is but one example of shoddy (and dangerous) reporting that can be routinely found in the 'traditional media'. Of sourse everyone will remember the infamous Mother's Day Editorial written by John Gearan of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Interestingly both of the examples above are from papers owned by the New York Times.

An Internet message board, on the other hand, is not a news source, and if a reader decides to use it as such then the reader will most certainly find his head full of misinformation, and worse. KARNAC.com's Florida Stock Car Racing Message Board is titled (look and see) "The online version of KARNAC.com's Racin' TAlK RADIO". It is modeled on WFLA Radio's Talk call-in shows of the 80's and 90's. WFLA just happens to be one the most listened to stations in the country. KARNAC.com message boards are among the most read on the Internet. If you want the news, read our news pages covering Florida Stock Car Racing, USAR Hooters ProCup, Southern Short Track, etc. If you simply want to be entertained read the message boards.

Now, another point that is extremely funny is this "bathroom wall" metaphor that is being bandied about recently. There is sure a lot of promotion being done these days on 'bathroom walls'. My oh my. If the 'bathroom walls' are that bad on KARNAC.com, why is there such an extraordinary demand to have events and such being promoted on them?

You'd think there would be better places to promote events, series, events and such. Maybe it's just because it's free. Or maybe, it's also a widely know fact that the message boards are read by so many people and it's easier than sending out a press release.

Whatever the case the may be, all the angst in the world will not change the fact that news and entertainment delivery, whether we like it or not, is no longer ruled by 'old school' print media, nor even television for that matter.

As that other long haired radical from Minnesota said, "The times, they are a changin'!"

-Jack Smith

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