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A shakeup in Charlotte....so what's up at AP-NASCAR? | NASCAR Racing Breaking News: Trackside Live, Every Week, Every Sprint Cup Race - MikeMulhern.net

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A shakeup in Charlotte....so what's up at AP-NASCAR?


  The AP's Jenna Fryer, with legendary promoter Bruton Smith (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
  


 

   By Mike Mulhern
   mikemulhern.net

   

   BRISTOL, Tenn.
   Whether you live in Davenport, Iowa, or Los Angeles or Charleston, S.C., or Boston, if you follow NASCAR, you know the name.
   Jenna Fryer.
   But an unexpected shakeup in the AP's Charlotte, N.C., sports department, on the eve of the fall football/basketball season, has raised worries that The Associated Press might be considering a significant change in its approach to coverage of NASCAR's national Sprint Cup tour…just as this sport's championship playoffs are about to begin.

    However Fryer, who is the AP's lead national NASCAR writer, seven years now full-time on the beat, and with a reputation for feisty and inspired coverage, says any fears that the AP may change its NASCAR operations from a national approach to a more regionally-based format are unfounded.
    If the AP, which bills itself as 'the world's leading news-gathering organization,' were to shift its national NASCAR writer back to a regional beat, with NASCAR just on the side, that would be yet another major blow to the sport of stock car racing, which is already reeling from mass firings of NASCAR journalists at so many newspapers around the country.
    Virtually every significant American newspaper has essentially either dropped its NASCAR beat or severely curtailed specialized coverage over the past three years. In what could be seen as fallout from the sheer expense of covering this sport in depth, newspapers have been firing veteran, prominent NASCAR journalists right and left.
    Thus the AP's own NASCAR coverage has become ever increasingly important to the sport.
    Indeed, Fryer, who typically covers some 25 to 30 of the sport's 36 national Sprint Cup events from February through November, has become almost 'the last line of major league journalistic independence' on the print media side of the sport.
    Just a few days ago the Las Vegas Review Journal, Nevada's largest paper, suddenly eliminated its NASCAR beat and dropped veteran Jeff Wolf.
    Last month major newspapers in Tampa, Fla., Norfolk, Va., Roanoke, Va., and Greensboro, N.C. also abruptly dismissed their veteran NASCAR writers, continuing a troubling trend.
    Over the past few years major newspapers around the country, from Los Angeles to Boston, Kansas City, Dallas, Fort Worth, Washington, Baltimore, and other cities, have either completely eliminated the NASCAR beat or limited coverage to just a few events.
    All that has increased reliance on the AP's NASCAR coverage.
    Some key executives in this sport have not only expressed alarm at the situation of losing so many experienced NASCAR journalists but have begun meetings to study media alternatives.
    The big picture background here: The AP is a non-profit 'collective' that gets its income primarily from its clients, like newspapers themselves, by charging annual fees. However newspaper budgets have been under attack lately, and the AP's fees have been questioned, with papers wanting to pay less for AP coverage.
   And The AP's most recent budget analysis shows a $34 million loss in operating income for 2010, following a $21 million loss in operating income for 2009.

  
   

say that again?

If you had told me what the shake-up involved rather than alluding to doom and gloom, then I may be able to muster more concern. Instead, you've changed the subject to layoffs at various newspapers. That's certainly a problem, but I'm left curious as to how it applies to AP and to Jenna Fryer directly.

You gave me the headline but fell short on the story.

Story short: first, dude

Story short: first, dude quits Charlotte-AP abruptly on the eve of the new season, leaving a big hole to fill, or not fill, depending; second, AP has lost millions of dollars the last few years, so cost-cutting is obviously an issue, just as at the newspapers AP serves; third, if newspapers themselves no longer bother covering NASCAR, and if AP cuts its NASCAR coverage, then the sport itself gets hurt.

It's just the latest chapter; for more in-depth on all this:

http://bit.ly/piFK1E

http://bit.ly/mzcHma

http://bit.ly/nGfYhK

Retrenchment

Tough times in the land of plenty, so say Omar and the Howlers. We see a decline in NASCAR market share and general interest with one size fits all cars, in line or fuel strategy racing and wonder why folks don't care about the sport or coverage thereof. The writing is on the wall and you don't need an MBA to tell the sport is in a decline and desperately needs leadership and EXCITEMENT! Get it together France, your MBA is killing our sport - and its coverage....

What Am I Missing?

In the past, didn't AP have a national motorsports writer, who chose which races to attend and then had a local AP writer cover whatever other races of significance? While it would be nice to have a beat writer, so long as AP is there, isn't that what counts?

But isn't the real problem that the local newspaper editors no longer consider NASCAR relevant? Because their readers don't consider NASCAR significant?

You were one of the most hallowed small newspaper reporters in the country. Was it an increasing struggle to convince your editors to give you the space which you felt the beat deserved?

Not unexpected!

I consider this to be nothing more than fallout from NASCAR's "rush to Hollywood" approach to "growing" the sport. The past several years have focused on money-based marquee figures, leading to the recruiting of a new and inherently fickle fan base. The cookie-cutter approach to track design at the expense of venerable tracks like Rockinghan, North Wilksboro, Darlington, etc has produced a show that is not able to sustain the interest of the new fan base beyond a race or two. As a result, the sport is now in decline on a national level, so it's logical that media coverage would decline as well.

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