Three Chimneys Presents Good News Friday: Kentucky Confidential

by | 04.01.2011 | 8:19am

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.

  • SixteenK Claimer

    Eight racing days in a row a horse has been injured and/or vanned off at Santa Anita…and nobody is covering that. Congrats to all the racing publications and bloggers for missing that.

  • caroline

    I really like this idea. Community funded journalism is growing, and largely because advertising dollars are drying up for even online news. I saw a horrifying statistic this past week about the volume of news stories that are not being written as a result of the decline in advertising revenues. This is like taking the concept of community, spatially, and applying it to the audience for a specific sport. It seems to me that here the difference is that potential readers are being asked to support an entire/two week project, including a diverse set of non-specified pieces of writing, rather than specific stories – which is more common in local community funding of journalism. Asking for funding of specific pieces allows potential readers/users to more exactly express their preferences, tells you what is most valued that is missing, and also may guarantee larger average reading audiences. Maybe specific potential story ideas could be promoted on the website over the next month? That narrows down what the audience wants (most), and also could allow parts of the project to go ahead even if the entire project weren’t fully funded.

  • PLEASE DON’T BEE SO RUFF HEAR #1…BLOG N IS PART TIME WORK…I AM SURE RAY WILL CHECK IT OUT???…WE ALL NEW THEY WERE HAVE N A PROBLEM WITH “THE NEW” SURFACE…OUR PEOPLE ARE LEAN N TOWARDS TEPETA FOOTINGS…ITS ALL ABOUT THE HORSE BABY!!!…ty…

  • John S.

    First, I want to thank the Paulick Report so much for spotlighting our Kentucky Confidential project. Exposure from such an exceptional and respected racing news and information source is invaluable.

    Second, I want to briefly address the comment from Caroline (before I head up to opening day at Pimlico!): I would love to openly talk about our story ideas and plans, but you must recognize that from a competitive perspective that would be suicide. I promise you the stories in development are going to be unique and fascinating, but to tip our hand would give other editors the opportunity to steal them. Not to advertise (too much) here, but at our $250 pledge level, we offer backers the chance to submit questions to Derby connections (when available) as well as the team at Kentucky Confidential.

    Best,
    John Scheinman

  • John S.

    First, I want to thank the Paulick Report so much for spotlighting our Kentucky Confidential project. Exposure from such an exceptional and respected racing news and information source is invaluable.

    Second, I want to briefly address the comment from Caroline (before I head up to opening day at Pimlico!): I would love to openly talk about our story ideas and plans, but you must recognize that from a competitive perspective that would be suicide. I promise you the stories in development are going to be unique and fascinating, but to tip our hand would give other editors the opportunity to steal them. Not to advertise (too much) here, but at our $250 pledge level, we offer backers the chance to submit questions to Derby connections (when available) as well as the team at Kentucky Confidential.

    Best,
    John Scheinman

  • caroline

    John, so how do other online publications do this? It’s very common in community funded journalism, for local story production, and doesn’t seem to be shied from. (I’m kind of opposed to intellectual property right protection in any case, but I understand the rationale for that in journalism). Is there a specific online mechanism that they are using to do that? It sounds as though in some sense you’re already doing it.

  • Caroline, you’re right that in community funded journalism (I’m thinking here of sites like spot.us), backers are usually asked to fund a specific story. That’s kind of what I think we’re doing with Kentucky Confidential — we want to tell the story of the 2011 Kentucky Derby, as it unfolds, from every angle. Each story that will be published is part of the larger story we want to bring readers.

  • caroline

    Yes, Jessica sites like that are exactly what I had in mind. Anyway, I love the idea of implementing community funding for sports writing. Just a thought really – I guess I’m curious as to exactly what people feel is missing from coverage, or what they would specifically like you to write about and (for an economist) seeing how much people are willing to pay is the most effective way to elicit that information :)

  • I agree, Caroline, and you’ve given me an idea for after the Derby. It would very interesting to find out what people think is missing and are willing to pay for via crowd-funding in racing coverage.

  • Nancy W

    Really excited to get involved with community funded journalism through Kentucky Confidential. As a racing fan, I am thrilled at the opportunity to support racing news and get an inside view of the race. I hope more people help fund this endeavor and others like it!

  • larryk

    sixteenkclaimer and bellweather, you could see there was a real problem with the SA track early on and now Baffert and others are sending there horses to Hollywood to work out

Twitter Twitter
Paulick Report on Instagram