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 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.