Thursday, March 12, 2009

West Update

Last month, the U.S. unemployment rate hit 8.1%. It's a ticker-tape parade of pink slips: 1700 at National Semiconductor; 323 American Airlines flight attendants; Big Bird and Elmo; 1600 jobs throughout McClatchy, publisher of 30 daily newspapers including the Star-Telegram. But, apparently, the Star-Telegram will be keeping its turf writer.

This morning I received an email from Gary West,
Well, apparently we still live in the age of miracles. Frankly, I was sure I was going to be part of the reduction, but I just got off the phone with [my editor] and she tells me I still have a job. I'm shocked, but, of course, very pleased.

And others are very pleased: Lone Star Park, TexasHORSE, various horsemen, the teeming millions who read his columns, etc.

So, at this writing, I can continue to enjoy his horse racing columns of lumpen management, flapdoodle, intriguing races, remarkable horses, and colorful characters.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Disappearing Turf Writer

Last week as I was reading the unfolding Magna Bankruptcy Hoopla, a little blurb in the Star-Telegram caught my attention:
The Star-Telegram is reducing its work force by about 12 percent

Fearful that the layoffs would include my mentor and Turf Writer Extraordinaire, Gary West, I sent him an email. He confirmed the disappointing news that he’s included in the cutbacks; his last day is to be March 20. "I've sometimes wondered which would last longer, horse racing or me," he wrote. "I'm actually glad to see it's going to be horse racing."

Layoffs, cutbacks, downsize, smartsize, workforce optimization – whatever fancy terminology you wrap around job loss – is painful and disheartening, to put it mildly. Included in this particular instance is the poor timing.

Lone Star Park begins live racing in 30 days. Gary West has covered the meet extensively over the years, providing great insights, handicapping, and anecdotes in his column. During racing season, it’s common to observe the railfolk milling about, referring to the Star-Telegram racing page prior to each race. Who knows what will happen to horse racing coverage in the paper, if it will even be covered at all save a small photo of the Kentucky Derby winner and a snippet from the AP wire buried on page 5D.

Speaking of the Derby, we are also in the midst of Kentucky Derby preps and Triple Crown hysteria. One time, Gary informed me that he begins compiling notes on 2-year-olds beginning in July, and by the new year, he has at least two large notebooks containing comments and impressions of roughly 300 prospects. "I was, I think, the first to put together a list of early prospects more than 20 years ago, and now everybody does it, largely borrowing from each other," he told me.

Oh, of course we have a plethora of other news that he’d be handy to dispense to the masses: MEC bankruptcy filing and the impending slot legislation in Texas.

I’ll miss reading Gary’s column in my local paper. And it will probably only be a matter of time before I miss my local paper – I suspect that horse racing will outlast the newspaper industry.

And a personal note to Gary: You have an open invitation to be my Guest Blogger whenever you like. The pay is lousy but there’s an abundance of liquid refreshments. Plus Post Parade could stand some credibility!