Time to speak up

Two weeks ago, the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun posed a question in its Sound Off! column that caught the eye of owner/breeder Rick McCune. 

First, a little background information – Sound Off! is a part of the paper’s Opinions page where readers call or write in response to a question posed at an earlier date.

The question was something along the lines of “Should the State of Michigan continue to subsidize horse racing?”

As anyone familiar with with the state’s racing budget situation will attest, state funding for racing is generated by the tracks themselves and redistributed back to them. The money that goes toward racing is not a government handout.

Here is where the story gets interesting…

The next day, McCune called Morning Sun Executive Editor Rick Mills to inform him of the faulty wording of the question, note its potential damaging effect on the public image of the Michigan racing industry and fill him in about where the money really comes from. Mills was so interested in McCune’s side of the story that he sent a reporter and photographer to take record of it.

The story made the front page of last Sunday’s paper.

The readers of the Morning Sun, many of whom likely knew little of the perilous state of Michigan horse racing or had been misinformed by other sources, are now aware of what is going on and where the money to fund the racing industry really comes from – the racing industry. There is little doubt the cause for keeping the sport alive gained at least a few followers from the article.

We need more of this. 

We need more Michigan horsemen and women to reach out to the local media and tell them about the challenges they face in order to keep the lights on from day to day – that this is not a game and livelihoods are at stake. Also, they need to let the public know that the only way their money goes to fund horse racing is if they send it through the mutuel windows themselves.

The public’s interest in the plight of the racing industry is as high as it has been in years. Now is the time to speak up. Now is the time to give the public the information it is looking for and correct any misconceptions they may have about the state’s role in funding horse racing. An informed public will put in some extra thought before voting against any future racing-related ballot issues and perhaps may reach out to their people in Lansing in support of the industry. It is amazing how things can get done when a few of the right people read a newspaper article.

The more people that call in, the more editors will realize how important an issue this is. Even if only half the inquiries make it into print, that is a significant number of people exposed to this information. Perhaps one of the stories might be in a paper that lands on the Governor’s desk?

As a journalism student, I am willing to volunteer my services to anyone serious about contacting his or her local publication. Though no two papers or reporters will be the same, I have spent a good amount of time on the other side of the interview table and would be glad to assist in preparing for interviews, information gathering or any aspect that might be helpful in getting the key points across. I can’t make the call for you, but I can give advice on what to do after the call. Just send me an email and I’ll see how I can help.

Behind the jump is a list of Michigan newspapers from across the state, along with the contact information of an editor who might be in charge of a story like this or can direct inquiries to someone who can field the request.

Owners, trainers, breeders, jockeys, grooms, racetrack employees and anyone else who makes a living through horse racing in Michigan; I encourage you to look at the list, find the paper closest to you and give it a try. Your job could depend on it.

Detroit Free Press
City/Metro desk: dfpcity@freepress.com
Phone: 
313-222-6600; fax: 313-222-5981

Detroit News
Assistant Managing Editor: Walter Middlebrook
Email: wmiddlebrook@detnews.com
Phone: (313) 222-2429

Grand Rapids Press
Metro Editor: John Barnes
Email: jbarnes@grpress.com
Phone: (616) 222-5457 

Ann Arbor News
Managing Editor: Jim Knight
Email: jknight@annarbornews.com
Phone: (734) 994-6872

Bay City Times
News Editor: David Vizard
Phone: (989) 894-9656

Flint Journal
Editor: John Foren
Email: jforen@flintjournal.com
Phone:  (810) 766-6227

Holland Sentinel
Editor: Pamela Fisher
Email: pamela.fisher@hollandsentinel.com
Phone: (616) 546-4265 

Huron Daily Tribune
Editor: Kelly Jerome 
Email: kjerome@hearstnp.com
Phone: (989) 269-6461  ext. 106 

Jackson Citizen Patriot
Editor: Eileen Lehnert
Email : editor@citpat.com
Phone: (517) 768-4905

Kalamazoo Gazette
Local News Editor: Patric Zarkowski 
Email: pzarkowski@kalamazoogazette.com
Phone: (269) 388-8576

Lansing State Journal
Managing Editor: Stephanie Angel
Email: sangel@lsj.com
Phone: (517) 377-1017

Midland Daily News
Managing Editor: Ralph Wirtz
Email: ralphewirtz@mdn.net
Phone: (989) 839-4241

Muskegon Chronicle
Local News Editor: Cindy Fairfield
Email: cfairfield@muskegonchronicle.com
Phone: (231) 725-6370

Oakland Press
Local News Editor: Julie Jacobson-Hines
Email: julie.jacobson@oakpress.com
Phone: (248) 745-4632

Saginaw News
Metro Editor: Jodi McFarland
Email: jmcfarland@thesaginawnews.com
Phone: (989) 776-9678

Traverse City Record – Eagle
News Editor: Mike Tyree
Email: mtyree@record-eagle.com
Phone: (231) 933-1472   

This is just a sampling of some of the state’s larger publications. If you are looking for a more local flavor, here is a list of Michigan newspapers and their websites. In fact, the smaller local papers may be more likely to hear your story and put it in a prominent location. Just look for a “Contact Us” link and look for someone high enough on the totem pole that they have some say in what makes it to print.

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7 Comments

Filed under Commentary, Politics

7 responses to “Time to speak up

  1. It has to be obvious to the people in Lansing that horse racing, Thoroughbred or Harness could funnell alot of cash into the state. I dont understand the approach taken by our politicians to basically let the industry die. I feel the representatives and senators from the regions that have tracks need to make getting slots at the tracks there number one priority. Slots equal bigger purses which equal better fields which equals more money put threw the windows. Indiana and Pennslyvania are nice examples of how to fix the problem

  2. mibredclaimer

    Bill,
    From the impressions I get, the “Indiana and Pennsylvania” argument isn’t holding much weight with Lansing. When the horsemen brought up the success those states are having during May’s House Ag Appropriations meeting, one of the Reps came back with something along the lines of “well, I’m sure there are plenty of things where those states are saying ‘look at what Michigan is doing.'”

    I think this is an incredibly weak argument (I could use the “two wrongs don’t make a right” case or comment snidely that they are looking at what Michigan is doing, but they’re also pointing and laughing), but that’s where he stood. As long as this mindset is being adopted in Lansing, everything the industry tries will be an uphill battle.

    That’s why the horsemen need to talk to the papers and drum up public support. It seems speaking to Lansing with words and figures isn’t going to get us very far, so we’re going to have to speak with votes.

  3. ragman

    Do any of these papers even carry the entries and results?

  4. Dean Fileccia

    Having seen the deterioration of Michigan horseracing from its highs in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s nothing surprises me much anymore. When the state decides that it needs a true CEO in place as the racing commissioner instead of appointees who happens to be in someones good graces at the moment, the racing industry may have a chance. Since the vote on casinos shut the door for newcomers to the state other than Indian casinos, I have wondered how a law could be passed that provides essentially protectionism for the casinos in the City of Detroit and unstoppable growth for the Indian casinos who contract out to whomever

  5. mibredclaimer

    Ragman,
    I’m not a regular reader of the Detroit papers or any of the other publications near racetracks, so I can’t speak for them, but the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun does print the results from Mount Pleasant Meadows the Monday following the races.

    Dean,
    I’ve always had a bit of a problem with the racing commissioner being a Governor-appointed position. I don’t think enough people are informed about racing to make it an elected gig, but there has to be a happy medium out there somewhere. Maybe give the Thoroughbred, Standardbred and Quarter Horse groups some kind of yea/nay veto to potential appointees, two out of three nays gives them the axe? Perhaps something like this is already in place and I’m just not aware.

  6. ragman

    Mi-bred
    Like you said the money being sent through the windows funds horseracing in Michigan. Horse players money. How about a vote for us. I vote for taking a majority of the stakes money for Mi-breds and using it to boost everyday purses so as too maybe get some horses shipping in so that they can card something other than 5 1/2 f races. I vote for dropping that 5 pound allowance for Mi-breds in open races. That has rubbed some trainers the wrong way and just shouts out that we are inferior.
    You people have no vision at all. You’re still asking for slots at the trackS. Don’t you understand that wanting to put slots at MPM brought in huge sums of money from the Indian Casinos. Northville, Hazel Park and Romulus brought in the Detroit Casino money and bam you guys were done before you even started. The only POSSIBLE plan that has a chance would be ONE casino located???? that would use SOME of the money to fund horse racing. All horse racing. Mi-breds alone can’t support a decent meet. Get some competitive racing. Get something like that on the ballot and you MIGHT stand a chance.

  7. Otis

    Somewhat “pro” article hit the Livingstondaily.com

    http://www.livingstondaily.com/article/20090626/NEWS01/906260315/Lawmakers+look+to+save+horse+racing

    I’m with Ragman, we need to stop putting our focus on getting slots. It’s just not going to happen. With all the tracks located in the lower half of our State and ADW’s forbidden, what avenue does someone living in the U.P. have? My suggestion would be to tie the ORC in with the Lottery. Then use the Lotto network to broadcast live racing to venues out state. Why not have an in-state ADW similar to NJ?

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