By admin | January 6, 2010
By Richard Allen
NASCAR fans suffered a terrible loss on Tuesday. The vast majority of staff members from the publication NASCAR Scene and the website SceneDaily.com lost their jobs in a surprise cutback by the magazineâ€™s parent company.
Fans suffered because the people working for that publication focused their lives on the coverage of racing. Unlike this site which is maintained by a person with no journalistic training, NASCAR Sceneâ€™s reporters, commentators and photographers were trained professionals. Although some of these writers and photographers will no doubt remain in the sport in some fashion, others will not. That means there will be fewer qualified people covering NASCAR racing, its personalities and its inner workings.
The cutbacks were likely brought on by several factors.
First, print journalism of all types is facing a time in which it must reinvent itself or fade away. There is not much reason to wait three or four days to read about a race or any other story when it is available on the internet just minutes or hours after the fact.
Years ago there was little coverage of NASCAR and publications such as this filled a void. Now, there will be as many as 25-30 new articles and columns linked daily on sites such as Jayski.com during the off season and many more during the season itself.
Without some unique quality it would be difficult for any weekly print publication to endure these new and modern times.
A second factor to hurt NASCAR Scene has to have been the economy. Families looking to cut back on expenses may view such things as magazine subscriptions as unnecessary expenses. Also, and perhaps most importantly, companies who might have bought advertising space in a publication like NASCAR Scene may now find it more difficult to justify the expense in tough times.
But to me, a third and most important reason for this sweeping move by NASCAR Scene to layoff so many writers and photographers at once has to be the current direction of the sport they were dedicated to cover.
NASCAR is in a downward spiral. Apathy among a once intense and passionate fan base has set in.
In the last decade NASCAR has taken a direction not pleasing to many fans and they are showing that displeasure with their lack of attendance and by not tuning their televisions to NASCAR coverage.
Boring drivers who seem to be clones of one another, phony debris cautions used to contrive close finishes for highlight shows, the Car of Tomorrow and the Chase for the Championship have turned many away.
The apparent failing, or at least restructuring, of NASCAR Scene is indicative of this. As has been said on this site many times, if it were just the economy keeping fans out of the grandstands then television ratings, web hits and even magazine subscriptions would be on the rise or would at the worst remain the same.
If fans still had a passion for NASCAR racing they would stay in contact with the sport even if they were unable to go in person.
NASCARâ€™s leadership continues to appear oblivious to the fact that the sport has real problems that need to be addressed. It is one thing for their mismanagement and arrogance to cost them but now they are costing others as well. NASCAR Scene and Motorsports Authentics have already felt the sting of NASCARâ€™s poor judgment. Whoâ€™s next?
On a personal note, I have been reading that publication since it was called Grand National Scene many years ago. In recent years I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with several of the folks who lost their jobs. This was a sad turn of events for this sport, for the writers and photographers and for race fans.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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