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January 24, 2012

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Patrick Head

Hell yes!!! Additionally, I could go for a bit more of knowing just who Chip and Roger and Randy are themselves, in "real" life. Might be both interesting and fun. Just how did these drivers/engineers/mechanics/gophers/and/owners get to where they are now? Stuff like that. I think a GREAT model for this type of show and coverage might be American Idol.

I do realize that AI isn't an open media situation, but still more stuff like that, or possibly produced by the series and just handed to media outlets for consumption. Something.

The bottom line to me ... it is ALWAYS about the people.

Bernadette Vielhaber

Yep... right on the money. I miss reading interesting stories and the opportunity to learn something new instead of having - in sports, for example - having the same 3 teams shoved down my throat. I get it, its a good team, but there is so much more out there!

I pride myself on having something between my ears and the ability to make up my own mind. And while I have (and hope to again) worked in PR, I realize you also have to keep the reader/audience in mind. You can't burn them out on the same stuff, just wrapped up in a different colored bow, everytime. Present your message, but be prepared with something else.

Russ Johnson

I had just responded to popoffvalve.com's article on media coverage and it seems a good response on here too. So excuse me for plagiarizing myself...

And yet...

I have to wonder if the reduced coverage of the drivers as personalities is a result of the media’s perceived (maybe rightfully so) short attention span of the public. I too miss the slower pace and more in depth pre-race coverage from years back, but would the newer generation of Indy fans really sit still for it? Personally, I think they should give a try and see. Any 20-somethings out there like to weigh in on that thought?

It’s not like there’s a lack of material to work with either. Will the veteran Paul Tracy be out there one more time? Will Pippa Mann get a ride at the last minute? Will Lotus put together a winning package in the short time they’ve had? There’s plenty of stories to be told!

redbull

Isn't asking for this like asking for more coverage of the O-linemen when Brady or Tebow is taking the snaps? Or asking for coverage of the practice squad (which is what some of the back of the field is like)?

pressdog

It's a fair question, redbull, but I see it as asking for more coverage on the quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs FROM DIFFERENT TEAMS than the ones they always cover.

Leigh O'Gorman

Surely a more balanced coverage is a better answer.
Talk to the top dogs, but also give *good* airtime to those who write the stories in the midpack and at the rear.

The fear of losing too much coverage of the frontrunners for the sake of everyone is that the general audience - that's the people who aren't us and aren't watching - will probably never care about the likes of Dragon Racing until they become relevant in the point battles.

Niche subjects are all well and good when you are already an IndyCar fan, but why would anyone else anywhere care about the guy who comes 16th week-in, week-out?

Zachary

I agree that surrounding the races themselves (YouTube, articles/features during the week, pre-race, etc.) could benefit greatly by letting the sort of thing we saw in the Newgarden/Hinch video really bloom. That said, I think the broadcast of the race itself needs to be merit-based on what’s happening on track. Nothing’s more irritating than watching a duel in the Top 5 only to have the broadcast cut away to a driver tooling around in P18 to explain that Driver X is really into hockey, or that your P23 driver just did this hilarious segment involving a hip-hop song and his pit crew. That’s what you do when there’s a yellow, or as a pre-race segment. You’ve gotta have timing, and you’ve gotta have balance (as p-dog says, it isn’t an either/or). So long as that’s good, I’m 100% on board.

Overall, though, I agree a more natural, organic focus and presentation can only help, although I think you do need at least some of the stats/points stuff just put the race in the proper reference of the overall season battle. Again, it’s all about striking the balance, but more fun stuff like we saw with Hinch yesterday is always welcomed.

redbull

I get that. But the hard part is that its one event and if the league's regular watchers are as small as some people project them to be its important to cover those at the front of the field. But Servia was in 3rd and 4th almost all year and barely got any coverage. The coverage they did at one race and his Salvador Dali helmet made me a fan. But how far do you go the field before you lose a chance at keeping new watchers informed (if there are any.) I watch most of the races in a bar since I don't have Versus and I end up explaining quite a bit of the sport to people who need a drink on Sunday around noon (I live on West coast).

Krystin

As always, spot on. Specific examples of lazy (or incredibly uncreative) coverage: story package from last summer on Will Power and his wife. There was nothing entertaining about this. They're great people, but Versus made them seem boring. Yes, husbands and wives joke around with each other...not entertaining!
Another example would be the numerous features about Will Power being a drummer on the weekends. Ok, maybe it's unique amongst Indycar drivers, but doesn't everyone have a boyfriend/brother/whoever that plays in a band as a hobby?
Why don't we hear about Will Power using his last bit of money to buy a bus ticket to get to the test that eventually landed him a serious ride? That is endearing and admirable.
I also used to be a newspaper reporter, and usually just a minute bit of digging is all it takes to find the story beneath the surface.

Leigh O'Gorman

@Krystin,

What we also didn't hear about Power was how Mark Webber funded his career and WP's promise to do the same for another young up-and-comer from Australia.

Now that's interesting.

pressdog

I pretty strongly disagree with you Leigh. I see your point, and keep in mind balance is key, and this isn't an either-or deal, but ... I would argue that fans get more hooked by INTERESTING stories of the drivers, more so than on their point standings. As others have commented, it needs to be driven by reader's interest. The hard part and the art of this is knowing what interests your audience. People care about the person under the helmet, and I think there's vast, unmined potential there. As for the race itself, Zachary, I agree with you in principle, but it also goes the other way ... if P1-6 are LOCK STEP, go back in the pack and find a battle. And, no, the race itself is no place for featurettes on a driver's fondness for cats.

Zachary

Yeah, I think we both agree on that. If Power has run away up front or it's a parade, find that next battle in the pack and cover that for a bit. I did appreciate the "through the field" rundowns VERSUS did last year when thing were snoozing up front.

Leigh O'Gorman

@Pressdog,

I should have added that the stories with the drivers also need to be interesting and this is where I find ABC / Versus at fault.

I'll put my hands up here. If you were to offer me the ABC / Versus presenting teams, I'd only consider taking Kevin Lee and LindyCar.
In terms of scripting, etc, both ABC and Versus fail badly. It's hard to be natural, irreverent and interesting when the script kills all those things.
Sadly, the approach utilised in the broadcast has become nominal one in television. Safe and dull.

Want good pieces for the broadcast? The biggest things that needs to be overhauled is the approach to making the show.
Putting interesting midfield drivers in the broadcast won't work, because the production suffocates the people behind the firesuits.

pressdog

Zachary .. agreed, and VS especially did a better job of finding the battle, especially on twisties as the year went on. F1 coverage rocks for this very reason. They find the battle. Leigh. We are swigging from the same kool-aide jug.

Leigh O'Gorman

@Pressdog,
Hope you don't mind if I post this, but this is an example of what the BBC did with Karun Chandhok (former HRT, F1) on the approach to the Indian Grand Prix.

Different budgets obviously, but it shows what can be done with scripting.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaDJKaX5luI

pressdog

Don't mind at all. Even with a lot less money, the idea behind the feature you link to is awesome. Great example.

Patrick Head

I don't have links, but another good example, in my opinion, is the feature story about Oriol Servia, either last season or the season before. I, as a fan, was able to learn about Oriol, and a true appreciation and respect grew from that. Before that piece, I just didn't care that much for Oriol, good or bad.

Front runner, back marker, or between, sociable, witty and engaging or not, feature pieces do go a long way to help us get to know and get a feel for our stars. The one covering Oriol not only took a snapshot of a day or two in the life of Oriol, but also a bit if insight into his philosophies, his motivations, etc.

I am also in the camp that really doesn't care if a driver has a cat or not, but I do want to know something of their motivations, path to how they got here, etc. I also want to know these things about some of the behind the scenes folks too.

redcar

Good topic P-Dog and good arguments, people.

Entertainment is personality-driven and sports is big time entertainment. If the casual sports fan doesn't know these drivers, they don't care about them and if they don't care, they don't watch. The Olympics is a good example of setting up the background of a participant to increase our interest.

All the other pro sports manage to promote/publicize players--and how many players are in the NFL/NBA/MLB? There's only about 30 in the entire Indycar series--how about some stories on all of them? You don't get to be a professional race car driver without having something interesting about your journey. Nobody wants to see a story about Mike conway's herb garden or Scott Dixon's kitten ranch, but we do want to know these people.

Zachary

Actually, I think the phrase "Mike Conway's herb garden" could very possibly serve as an explanation for his continually relaxed demeanor. :)

Jp

After reading that PD...
I sense you are channeling Dan Wheldon the broadcaster.

@KJones480

Good topic and you're right on the money. Lot of good stories throughout the grid, so find them and tell them. As a former reporter now in PR I too can appreciate what's involved on both sides in telling a story. But my biggest PR successes come from helping reporters get good stories that aren't being told by the guys mailing it in just following a formula.

Mike (15daysinmay)

Good writing, PD, and lots of great conversation.

Since I am still in the print industry, this is the kind of topic I struggle with often. I love to scope out a good story, and given my time and experience with the paper I freelance for I am given a lot of latitude, for which I am grateful. During the summer I am the beat writer for a minor league baseball team, and the stories I have fun with are where I get away from the game itself and talk about the inner workings. Once I did an in-depth piece on what pitchers do between starts (they are busier than you might think!) or I stood next to the cage during batting practice and wrote about the work the coaches do with the players in the hours before the ballpark even opens. I get lots of great feedback on those stories, people enjoy reading them.

That stuff is fun, and again, I am lucky that my editor allows me to do those sorts of things. Not many people get those opportunities. Since advertising and getting clicks to appease said advertisers is becoming emphasized more and more in the print/internet media, staying tried and true is the way a lot of people feel they need to go.

I think one problem in the IndyCar world is just in sheer numbers. I believe the Indy Star is the only paper that covers the series on a full-time basis, and while John Oreovicz does great work on ESPN, he is the only one unless someone wants to write some sort of hit piece like we saw a lot of three months ago. Jenna Fryer of the AP has done some great work this off-season but is returning to her day job soon.

I think if the series had more media resources we would see stories and people could take chances. It's just a question of where those resources can come from, and that is the most difficult part of the equation. More and more people just don't want to do the work, or are too scared to branch out beyond the status quo.

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