The turf writing profession has been nearly neutered over the past five years as newspapers slash their turf writing staffs and industry publications continue to lay off writers and editors. We feel blessed in this time of great reduction in the Thoroughbred industry to have been able to carve out a niche on the web that allows the racing world to continue to enjoy fresh, independent journalism. But while the Paulick Report may be a bright spot, there are many shadows and extremely talented journalists who have been left on the sidelines fighting for work.
That's why we were excited to hear about a project being headed by Jessica Chapel (Railbird, Raceday 360, Breeders' Cup 360) and former Washington Post turf writer John Scheinman, who are teaming up together with some other enterprising writers and videographers to develop Kentucky Confidential. This new look at bringing new media to the racing industry is something we must all support and could very likely become the future of journalism on the web.
Kentucky Confidential is what you might call a boutique news endeavor. It aims to only exist two weeks out of the year and will be chock full of coverage that's all things and only things Kentucky Derby. The intention of Kentucky Confidential is to provide the essence of the Derby, not necessarily the hard-hitting news of the world's most famous horserace.
“The liberating thing about doing this site,” said Scheinman, “is that I feel no compelling reason to beat anyone for news. I just want to entertain and tell stories.” And entertain they will. He and Chapel have put together a staff of writers that would make anyone's up-and-coming list, the next generation of turf writers trying to take the profession into the 21st century. With contributors like Pete Denk, Brendan O'Meara and Claire Novak, Scott Serio as the staff photographer and documentarian Jeff Krulik, Kentucky Confidential could very likely bring us a new bent on an event already so well covered.
According to the initial press release, they will be featuring “true (and not-necessarily true) stories from the backstretch through their ghostwriter “Blinkers Off” and tall tales and little-known historical marvels from the Derby's rich past. Want a little kink in your Kentucky? Then you'll be satisfied with an array of kinky stats and contrarian handicapping. More of a purveyor of the Derby nightlife? Then the Bourbon Underground may end up being your favorite section of the site to sip on. And with a documentarian on staff, look forward to innovative, guerilla video from these folks.
So how did Kentucky Confidential come to be? The idea actually began while Chapel and Scheinman worked on Breeders' Cup 360, a site that Chapel created and which drew over 125,000 unique visitors last year. They enjoyed working together and started discussing how they could do so in the future. Chapel pitched the idea of a site sort of like BC 360 but with a Derby focus. “When she pitched it to me, I was right there,” said Scheinman.
To fund the site, Chapel and Schieneman are going several routes. First, they were able to secure a sponsorship with their old friends at the Breeders' Cup. But other advertiser support has been slow going so far. “Advertisers are skittish about supporting something new,” said Chapel, “but especially when you only are doing it for a couple weeks.”
They are also using a relatively new approach to fundraising called “crowd raising.” The idea here is to create content that people are willing to support with their pocketbooks…before the content is created. Through a site called Kickstarter, anyone can go online and pledge a particular dollar amount. Once the money is completely raised, all will be charged for their pledge. But if there's not enough support (in this case, they are looking to raise $13,000 online), the project won't go through. But don't get this confused with a subscription-based service. Once the money is raised, the site will be free to the public.
Chapel is a huge supporter of the principles behind Kickstarter. “You want to do a journalism project or publish a book? You get to go to your potential audience and see if they like it,” she said. It's a very direct democratization of content that is uniquely possible during the web age, but Chapel believes this is more the future than a blip on the radar. “We're kind of the first ones to do this. In the next couple of years, it will be common for racing publications to go directly to their audience like this.”
More than anything, it's refreshing to see those so passionate about our industry willing to find innovative ways to accomplish their career goals. They are not taking the easy road by using the challenging circumstances we all face to complain about the lack of opportunity. They are creating their future in the industry on their own terms and challenging the marketplace to step up.
“There's such a paradigm shift that we don't know the end result or where it's leading,” said Scheinman. “But the opportunity is there to create something new…People who think race writing is a dying art, this is your opportunity to support it.”
The Paulick Report has stepped up with a $100 pledge on top of the money already being donated by Three Chimneys and our anonymous donor. We challenge you to do the same.
Thanks to the generosity of Three Chimneys Farm, the sponsor of Good News Friday, a donation of $100 will be sent in support of Kentucky Confidential. Three Chimneys will be donating that amount each and every week we bring you a story of people or organizations making a positive difference in our world.
Another $100 is being donated to these organizations each week by a Paulick Report reader who wishes to remain anonymous but who encourages all of our readers to open their hearts and pocketbooks for this good cause.
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