Since I’m pretty fired up and not in the mood to temper my thoughts at the moment, let me qualify what follows with some commentary that is in no way an attempt to soften the message I am trying to send, but rather an effort to make sure all that I am about to write is delivered in the proper context on what might be the most important day in the world of horse racing in a long time. After all, if my website stats are accurate, dozens of people may actually read this.
For starters, I wish I had Jay Privman’s job. I truly do. Literally every time I read an article of his, I think to myself “This dude is one of the most fortunate people on Earth.” I myself am lucky to have a good job, but I would quit in a heartbeat to do what he does for a living.
What is more, the man can clearly handicap a horse race. I think he hit like seven winners on Breeders’ Cup Saturday one year. And people I know who know him say he’s cool. I’m sure that’s true.
Finally, the essence of what I am about to write has nothing to do with Jay Privman. But for the purposes of this discussion, the example I am going to use below is the clearest example of the issue I feel like ranting about today. And as the national correspondent for Daily Racing Form, he’s figuratively (not literally, which is the word I started to type) the poster child for my complaint. Figuratively because, ya know, he’s not a child and there is no poster.
On May 7th, 2019, just days after Country House “won” the Kentucky Derby, Jay Privman tweeted this:
This was Privman doing his job and reporting some pretty big news. Maybe Bill Mott called Privman and gave him the scoop as the main reporter at DRF. Or maybe Privman called Mott first. Who knows? Who cares? The point is, it’s not surprising that Jay Privman would be the first to report this. Right? I mean, Daily Racing Form is the de facto source for horse racing news and information. It would be surprising if a publication other than DRF had reported this first.
Moments after Privman’s tweet, some insignificant gambling entity tweeted this:
Now, had I followed @GamingTodayNews on twitter (I don’t), I would have read this and in no way assumed this tweet was an attempt to break news or take credit for being the first to report the news that would have come out sooner or later anyway. I would have simply thought it was a tweet designed to inform followers. Which is exactly what it was.
I don’t think the Horse Racing Media took it the same way I did. More than one racing personality that I follow on Twitter took issue with Gaming Today’s characterization of the info as “breaking news”. Not the least of which was Privman himself:
Now, to me, this is absurd. The news that Country House was skipping the Preakness, while first reported by Daily Racing Form and Jay Privman, isn’t exactly news that wasn’t going to be widely known to Planet Earth later that same day anyway. At some point, it would be common knowledge that Country House was sick and was done with the Triple Crown. To me, Privman’s reporting doesn’t make it “his story”. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had a story. They broke news. Were it not for their investigative journalism, most Americans wouldn’t even know who Gerald Ford was. Were it not for Jay Privman’s daily phone call to the winning trainer to the Kentucky Derby, I assure you, the news that Country House was out of the Preakness would have somehow, some way, made it from Mott’s lips to the world’s ears, regardless of who “reported” it first. DRF didn’t break anything.
So yeah, this whole exchange above annoyed me at the time, and then I pretty much forgot about it. I had more important things to worry about, like losing money in handicapping contests.
And then today happened.
If you want to be seen as a journalist, go break some actual news. Dig deep. Ask tough questions. Bring your audience a story that they can’t get on their own. Be a watch dog. Tell us something that we wouldn’t learn anyway. Go catch someone doing something bad.
I get it. Daily Racing Form depends on people betting on a sport that they trust. Not only does DRF sell a product to gamblers, they take bets and keep their cut of the action. It’s hard to make a buck in this world. Props to DRF and Privman for getting that money. I am the first to say I’m jealous as hell of Jay Privman and all the rest of the men and women who put food on the table by talking and writing about this awesome sport. I wish I was one of them.
Two household names have been (allegedly) cheating their asses off for a long time, costing a lot of people a lot of money one way or another, and literally endangering the lives of human beings who sit atop animals traveling 40 MPH with injuries hidden by illegal drugs. It’s been an open secret that cheating is rampant in this sport for a long time. But people whose livelihoods depend on the public pumping money into a game they trust have failed to be the watchdog the Media is supposed to be. So let’s call the Horse Racing Media what it is: a profit generator masquerading as a news source.
Some reporters are journalists. Some are just employees. And that’s ok. Like I said, make that money! I’m not gonna hate. And this ain’t my story.