Thursday, December 11, 2008

NASCAR Press Corps Starts To Dwindle


This column is updated at the bottom of the story.

The talk has been about the TV coverage of NASCAR and cost-cutting here at TDP for the last couple of days. Now, the reality of the economy has been extended to the NASCAR press corps.

There are several high-profile reporters who will not be returning to the Sprint Cup Series beat next season. Mentioned in this article (click here) in the Winston-Salem Journal is a name that is also familiar to NASCAR TV viewers.

Mike Mulhern was great on TV. He brought an attitude and a demeanor that was able to draw the best out in others because they were often suddenly on the defensive. Love him or hate him, Mulhern was a presence on SPEED both during his Tradin' Paint appearances this season and his semi-regular presence on the earlier Pit Bull program.

It was back in 1974 when Mulhern first began to patrol the NASCAR garage and eat the Infield Media Center food. His distinctive voice could often be heard by fans watching the post-race press conferences live on ESPNEWS.

His questions were sometimes hilarious and often outrageous. Mulhern is one of those independent-spirited reporters who is fun to read and even better to listen to when he is talking NASCAR.

Click here for his goodbye video. After reviewing the Homestead race, Mulhern does a great goodbye about two minutes in with some tips for fans. While this may be his final season at the Winston-Salem Journal, it appears Mulhern may be joining the Internet gang with his own website in 2009.

Over on Jon Lowder's blog (click here), he wonders why this had to happen.

"Although any cuts by the paper come as no surprise, I'm wondering why they'd cut the one guy covering a professional sport that actually makes sense here in Winston-Salem? Obviously there's no need for pro basketball or football coverage here, but NASCAR's an institution and Mulhern is one of the old hands covering it."

"Maybe the folks at the paper figure Mulhern will have as easy a time finding a job as anyone given his knowledge of, and connections to, the racing industry. Maybe, but I think they missed one of their best multimedia opportunities by letting him go. I suspect they could have made a pretty penny finding ways to get his expertise syndicated to other outlets as those folks cut back their non-core assets."


I completely agree with Mr. Lowder. Rather than saving money on one reporter's salary, the Journal is losing an asset that it cannot replace. Mulhern was great on paper, fun on the radio and just getting good at his video skills. This combination is exactly what the reporters of the future must possess.

In a couple of weeks, when the 2008 budget year is officially over, we will recap the changes in the NASCAR media landscape. Some of the names who will be either leaving the NASCAR scene completely or trying to venture out into the Internet-only world in which we live are very interesting.

But, for right now we are just sorry to see Mulhern move away from a newspaper that was as deeply intertwined with NASCAR as the Charlotte Observer or the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Keep an eye on MikeMulhern.net during the off-season. While it is under construction now, there is little doubt Mulhern will make himself heard one way or another before the engines start for Speedweeks.

Update #1 - Click here for the link to the final blog post for Yahoo! Sports Jerry Bonkowski. Yahoo! is downsizing the NASCAR presence and Bonkowski is moving on.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the opportunity to stop by.

25 comments:

Dot said...

JD,

I had no idea that you were going to write about Mike. Sadly, I have a feeling you'll be writing more columns like this.

Anonymous said...

I have some real issues with Mulhern's objectivity in the last several years, but nevertheless I have enjoyed reading his articles and I am shocked that the Journal has let him go. However, a few years ago the former sports editor told me that he spent more money covering NASCAR than any other sport - so this should be a sizeable cost reduction. In the last few years the paper has eliminated its beat coverage of the Charlotte NBA team and the Carolina Panthers - and its parent company's stock is down from about $50 in Feb, 2006 to $1.51 today.

I suspect the somewhat new management of the Journal might perceive fans of ACC football and, in particular, basketball to be of more "value" than NASCAR fans. I also suspect - and hope - that Mike might qualify for early retirement under the paper's pension plan (30+ years of service), so he might have a source of income substantially, already paid for by the paper.

Vince said...

As a former resident of Winston-Salem and a subscriber to the W-S Journal, I've enjoyed Mike's articles for years. I didn't always agree with him, but I respected his knowledge and passion for the sport. I'm not sure what the powers that be at the Journal were thinking. Winston-Salem IS Nascar country. Their loss is our gain. I look forward to Mike's new web site.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE Mulhern!! WSJ's loss will be our gain...no more "suits" to answer to. If we thought Mulhern was "outspoken" before, LOOK OUT!!!

Anonymous said...

Are you guys watching the news at all? The Senate refused to bail out the US automakers tonight. If GM and Ford go under, do you think they will continue to run in Sprint Cup next year? I don't. There is no way they can spend millions on racing under bankruptcy. None.

I am seriously beginning to wonder if we are going to hear that the 2009 season has been cancelled and will return in 2010. I know it seems unthinkable, but not to me. Not any more. What are they gonna do, run Toyotas only at the Brickyard in front of a 20% capacity crowd (because who can afford a ticket in this economy with no job, let alone a ticket to a tire test they call a race like the Brickyard was last year).

Seriously, I wonder if we will have a season next year. I wouldn't be surprised if they only have an 8-race season and a 5-race Chase, running at say Daytona, Texas, Bristol, Lowe's and the few other tracks that have a chance of selling out or coming close. I have a feeling the Michigan Speedway stands will be empty this year... if there is a year.

Anonymous said...

I didn't always agree with Mulhern,but he always spoke his mind and wasn't politically correct. That was refreshing compared to so many in the media that are reluctant to criticize Nascar,Goodyear,COT,etc. It sounds like it was a financial decision on the part of the newspaper. 2009 will be a tough year,but I believe there will be racing as usual,albeit with smaller fields.

101 said...

Mulhern will rise from the ashes, his contribution to the sport is electrifying!

Anonymous said...

I am seriously beginning to wonder if we are going to hear that the 2009 season has been cancelled and will return in 2010. I know it seems unthinkable, but not to me. Not any more.

Racing does not require manufacturer participation. Racers will still run even without it.

majorshouse said...

I remember the tough times in the middle 60's when there was not much factory support and racing continued and much of the same thing happened in the middle 70's and later on we saw the demise of Dodge in the sport, but racing continued and thinkt hat it will continue, teams may have to scale thigns back and then maybe we can get back to real racing instead of what we know now. I also am going to miss Mike's articles from the Winston-Salem Journal, but look out, I think he will definitely be more outspoken with his own web site and I am personally looking forward to that as well.

jamie said...

mulhern was used ofr all media general newspapers. if the wsj was footing the entire bill for his travels, no wonder they had to make that cut.

Anonymous said...

I was concerned last year when Ed Hinton got canned by The Tribune Co., but he landed on his feet at ESPN.com.

I expect Mike Mulhern will be in demand from those media outlets that still focus on NASCAR.

Anonymous said...

Racing does not require manufacturer participation. Racers will still run even without it.

I disagree. Maybe in general you are right, but not in 2008 with current economic conditions. Most teams are struggling to even get corporate sponsorship on the cars. Throw on top of that Chevrolet providing any support at all and I think this could even affect a mega-team like Hendrick. And if they can maybe weather it, there is no way DEI or GEM can.

I hope I am dead wrong, but I am very very very worried about next year's season given the state of the auto industry.

cvt said...

Glad to read that Mike will be online. I was gobsmacked when he told me about the paper's decision back in October. Keep the attitude and opinions flowing, Mike, that's what sets you apart.

I did notice the website is registered to Roush!

Ritchie said...

I grew up reading Mike Mulhern's articles in the W-S Journal. I always looked forward to the Sunday paper because he would always have a long-form article about a NASCAR topic.

As writers like Mulhern, Dutton, and Poole are eliminated, I fear that we will be left with the less than objective voices covering the sport. TV is great because it makes following the sport economical for the fan. However, TV is not the home of the critical observer. Most of the people involved with TV coverage are not journalist (as I was informed of in an e-mail by one of Mr. Daly's bff's in the TV industry). Therefore, as the journalist are dismissed, so too are their critical opinions.

NASCAR is too much of a fraternity as it is. As much as I appriciate the TV broadcast, few in TV dare to be critical of NASCAR. Without the writers, a serious void will be left unfilled.

alex said...

Anon 3:38,

I doubt that would happen. The money and factory support helps the teams greatly, but it isn't necessary to run.

Each team chooses what manufacturer to use, and race that type of car. If the manufacturers weren't involved, the racing will still go on without them, albeit on a lesser scale moneywise.

GinaV24 said...

I was startled to see this news yesterday and I sure hope that Mike does land somewhere that we can all still enjoy (or not) his point of view on things. I'll bookmark his site and hope for the best for him.

I was a little surprised to see that the auto mfg bailout failed. Ironic that our gov't will hand over a huge sum of money to the financial markets with no strings attached but won't act to help industries that provide lots of mainstream American jobs.

I saw today too that GM is apparently undecided on whether or not to continue their association with the Daytona 500. I'm sure that Toyota will be glad to step in if they don't, but it will be strange not to see Chevy trucks out there if GM does decide not to renew.

Richard in N.C. said...

Mulhern was entertaining, but not objective. He displayed a distinct anti-NASCAR bias after his run-in some years ago with Tony Stewart which he never admitted in writing- which says much more about the state of journalistic integrity at the W-S Journal than Mulhern since the paper tolerated such. Nevertheless, I will miss being able to read his commentaries on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

Each team chooses what manufacturer to use, and race that type of car. If the manufacturers weren't involved, the racing will still go on without them, albeit on a lesser scale moneywise.

Again, I think you are right in a general sense, but you have to also factor in the once-in-a-generation economic conditions we are facing. If you are not one of the big three mega-teams, how can you run with no support from the autos, no corporate sponsor on your car, and the bleachers half empty because employment soars to double-digits?

Again, I hope I am dead wrong, but in my opinion the only way next season goes on just like any other is if there is a massive economic turnaround in the next quarter. At current, conditions are so bad that I wonder if even a strategy of start-and-park will be profitable?

majorshouse said...

Personally I would love to see the kind of racing we saw in the 1970's and early 1980's because money was not nearly as big of a deal as it is now, and frankly I wish that the sport would get back to its roots instead of always worrying about the big teams and all of the money that they are missing out on.

Anonymous said...

There are some teams that should not be in Cup. Just because someone has a dream, doesn't mean someone else has to support that team. If you are a racer, then race something else--go short track, trucks, etc. No one owes you a Cup career. Some of these bad drivers have made millions. More than I will in my lifetime. I have no appetite to bail them out.

I graduated from a Jesuit college many years ago. My kids wanted to go there too. Well, the tuition had skyrocketed to more than $35,000 per year. We have 4 kids and could not afford the tuition for all of them. So, they all went to state universities. No prestige, but they all got their education--2 nurses, one dentist, and one teacher. And the best part, we don't owe for any college loans. In the end, they all got to do what they wanted to, even though they did not go to their dream school.

I'm getting pretty tired of the sense of entitlement hysteria that is saying that if every team, no matter how bad, is not funded, NASCAR is not good.

ri88girl said...

Anon 3:38 my sentiments exactly,

JD I hope you have at least rethought your decison not to post my comment of a week or so ago in which I expressed almost identical concerns.

Ken said...

WE will have a season but it might remind us old folks of a time years ago. The Mega teams will be like the Richard Petty of old. Back in Petty's prime, his equipment was superior to the rest of the field. If he didn't wreck or have mechanical problems, he won. The Mega teams will just win more easily than they do now. The bottom 25 or 30 will simply be field fillers.

Daly Planet Editor said...

ri88,

A while back, I had to dump an entire run of comments because one Anon flooded the comment page.

Sorry if I wound-up deleting yours.

JD

Anonymous said...

I do not resent the kind of money drivers make. I think it's great. What I resent is the fact that as a fan, I should vote for a bailout to ensure the drivers have their jobs. Some have said that poor Joey Logano will be at risk now that there is no testing.

Well, if Gibbs wants to pay him no matter how well he does in Cup, that's his right. But to feel sorry for an 18 year-old who has made more in one year than I have in 20 years, is a bit much! Reed Sorenson, 22, has made more in his 3 years than my husband and I in our life time. Don't ask me to prop them up with my taxes.

By the way I'm a school teacher and my husband is a policeman.

Anonymous said...

Yahoo.com's NASCAR columnist Jerry Bonkowski who writes a few articles and columns a week, and has a weekly mailbag from NASCAR Fans (Trading Paint) said in his previous mailbag that he has been let go from yahoo.com.

Today's mailbag is his last one. I don't know about the status of others who report from races for Yahoo like Bob Margolis.