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Star Revamps Racing Coverage

Published: January 20, 2014 2:08 pm ET

Last Comment: January 21, 2014 8:37 pm ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

One of the largest daily newspapers in Canada has discontinued printing entries and results for horse racing, but that doesn't mean it's dropping racing coverage.

In an interview with Trot Insider, the Sports Editor of the Toronto Star, Jon Filson, confirmed that the entries and results that have appeared for decades in the Star's Sports section have been stopped.

"The decision was made before Christmas," said Filson. "We looked at various research in terms of what people are reading in the paper and online. Horse racing has a group of incredibly dedicated fans who are incredibly sincere in their wishes that they want to see horse racing survive and thrive, and they do follow the sport."

That said, the Star had to make a decision as to whether or not that fanbase was large enough to justify the amount of space entries and results take up on the Scoreboard page.

"That group is not large enough in order to take up the space it does in the newspaper," said Filson. "We can do one page of soon as you add horse racing into that it spills that over into the other pages -- the editorial pages. So it creates a problem for us in that we always have fluctuating space as a result."

Filson went on to note that space wasn't the major issue in the decision. It was a shift in focus from presenting entries and results, where the "level of readership was not high" to more feature-based horse racing content. We'd like to get more feature content in there and we'd like to use the space differently."

Given the increasing shift of immediate results to an online platform, The Star's decision was made easier to shift its focus based on its own feedback to the previous content.

"We've heard from many racing fans and many of them have said that all that information is online and that's not to say that we shouldn't put it in the paper but we're seeing declining interest in it, frankly, from our own readers in our own studies. So we start looking at it and say 'well, are we serving the best interests of the reader with this and could we do things different or with more mass appeal?' and when you start looking at it, you can cover it differently."

Filson agreed that such a shift in direction means, on average, horse racing would receive less real estate in the Sports section.

"It's won't be as regular...but we don't have the Blue Jays in every week. We'd probably have the Leafs in every week ... one thing is to manage expectations of what is realistic in terms of coverage," said Filson. "I'm seeing this from the letters I'm getting is 'why isn't The Star promoting horse racing?' We're trying to deliver what our readers want. It's not our job to promote any particular sport over another sport. Our job is cover the sports that we believe people want to read about."

In saying that, Filson strongly believes that there are horse racing stories people do want to read about and The Star will gladly cover and feature that form of racing coverage going forward.

"There are plenty in horse racing that I think can be good stories that can get on the front page, we need to commit to those and stories and we want to cover those stories as much as we can. Katie Lamb (a new freelance writer) and Jennifer Morrison will continue to write for the paper, and we're hoping that develops.

"We'd rather do that than put in something where we know the audience is going to be shrinking, frankly. The number of people using those listings is getting smaller every year because online is going to take more and more of that audience."

Filson understands the importance of horse racing within the Greater Toronto Area, calling Woodbine Racetrack "an institution in this town." He went onto say that, while the standardbred entries and results are the ones not being covered now, the plan is for thoroughbred information to suffer the same fate come April when the Woodbine thoroughbred season begins.

"At this time, and I'm not saying it's impossible that we wouldn't do it, but at this time we have discontinued the thoroughbreds as well."

In Filson's opinion, this redirection in focus will be beneficial to both parties as it will help The Star feature horse racing in a way that's more accessible to a mainstream audience knowing all too well that the group of fans that did read the selections and results have voiced their displeasure.

"There's some people who always want it the way it was, and I respect that. One of things you hope, as a journalist is that people develop a habit and continue to read your product out of habit and because they're happy with it. So a change like this is never made lightly. Some of the mail I've received [implies] we've just arbitrarily decided to do this. It's been talked about as something we've considered for years."

Filson guaranteed that if a "good story" related to horse racing comes his way, The Star will cover it.

"Otherwise, I might as well pack up and go home."

Feedback to The Star can be directed to Sports Editor Jon Filson at 416-814-2749 or [email protected].

January 21, 2014 - 8:37 pmToday I sent my letter to the

Dave Bryans SAID...

Today I sent my letter to the Star expressing my disappointment and asked for a reinstatement of entries and results. The Star should not throw racing under the bus alongside the Liberal government. I would suggest all horse people support the Toronto Sun as they give great coverage to the sport. As we'll ask your family, friends and neighbours to also support the Sun, Knowing their Sunday edition covering sports is far more superior to the Sunday Star. Time to take a stand!

Dave Bryans

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