"My 11 year son won his first race a year ago in September and we asked (Travis) to do a write up on it. At the time we were pretty sure he was the youngest to win a feature race in the state. (Travis') response was that he couldn't because of too many other sports going on and there wasn't enough room, but it was funny that not long after this more racing news made the paper. (Travis) also said that he would be sure to do one on him in the spring. We're still waiting for spring to come."
Buckle up, folks, because most of you aren't going to like what follows here.
An 11-year-old winning a race is not in and of itself newsworthy. The fact that the boy in question here (and I'm not going to name names, even though I know exactly who made the above post on MaineRacing.com) won that race at Unity Raceway wasn't newsworthy, either. Yes, he may in fact have been the youngest feature winner ever at Unity, but there's far more to that story.
And it's that story that, at one point, was weighed on the news desk at the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. The boy in question won a race in the "Teen" division, which, at Unity, is open to anybody ages 10-17. In essence, the boy won a race that equated to a Little League baseball game.
Our papers don't cover Little League baseball, and our policy is fairly firm on that. As the boy's mother was told, if he won the championship, the family was more than welcome to send a picture of him with his car/trophy to the paper -- and that photo would run on our community sports page. It was the decision that the sports editor came to -- with input from me -- and that's where it ended. It was strictly a policy decision, not a slight to a certain family having "the wrong last name."
Unfortunately, most people are under the assumption that newspaper hacks are free to write about whatever they want, whenever they want. I'm given a lot of free reign -- and I understand that. But I also need to discuss every story that I'm planning on in full detail with my editor.
Yes, the hacks have bosses, too.
I'm particularly fond of the above criticism that after I declined to write a feature story on our 11-year-old "future Jeff Gordon" there was still other racing news reported in our papers. Yes, there was. It was called "news."
It becomes incredibly hard to sell racing stories to sports editors once football season rolls around and baseball playoffs get underway. It is the same way at every newspaper across New England -- feel free to ask around. The feature stories, the human interest pieces, are gone -- and we are forced to stick to straight news. We cover individual races and pay attention to championships, and that's about all there's room for.
It's just how it is. Yes, as a racing writer and fan, I become as frustrated as all of you about this. I'm sure the people in our sports department could bore you to death with the stories of the arguments I've had with them in the past over why we start ignoring racing just when championships are starting to be decided and extra-distance races are being scheduled.
It's one of the reasons I started blogging -- to have an outlet for all the stuff that couldn't find its way into the newspaper out of space constraints or a general lack of interest.
"(Travis) didn't seem to have a problem writing about another kid."
And to that jab, I say show me. I've never written a single feature story about kids racing cars. Not a one.
As a parent, I want my kids to get their fair share of praise, too. But I work for a company that has a certain policy about youth sports, and there's nothing I can do to change that. Period.