AutoMatters & More: #1 in a Series: How Auto Racing is covered in ‘AutoMatters & More’

Formula E racing in Long Beach in 2015
Formula E racing in Long Beach in 2015
(Jan Wagner)

As incredible as it is for me to believe, this is number 663 in my continuing series of columns, written over nearly 20 years. In that time, I’ve shared information with you about a wide variety of subjects. From the possibilities of what I might have shared, it was necessary for me — as it would have been for anyone — to be selective in terms of what made it into each individual column, and in what ways. How did I make those decisions, and why? I will try to answer those questions here with regards to my coverage of auto racing throughout the years.

My objective has always been to share the topics with you in a such a way that would be informative, accurate, interesting and representative of the subject matter. My audience consists of a broad cross-section of the general public, so I write in a conversational style, much as I would talk to friends. It is less technical than a column that, for example, is intended for instruction or a technical analysis of the subject matter. I continually vary the topics, so as to keep this column of interest to audiences with a wide variety of interests. Auto racing, therefore, is just one of many topics covered in “AutoMatters & More.”

Motorsports competition at the 2018 San Diego County Fair
Motorsports competition at the 2018 San Diego County Fair
(Jan Wagner)

To some extent, content of the coverage is dictated by the format of how it will be presented. There are print and online versions of “AutoMatters & More.” In a print publication, the choices are to describe the event in words and perhaps still photos. You’ve probably heard the saying: “a picture tells a thousand words.” Still photos of eventful moments in a race may effectively take the place of many written words to describe those moments. Beyond that, the text can refer you to other sources and types of information, including links to videos and more.

Autocrossing at the 2019 Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational
Autocrossing at the 2019 Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational
(Jan Wagner)

The format of publication is a significant factor in determining how much information can be shared. Notwithstanding the advisability of how long a column should be to retain the attention of its audience, print publications are limited by the amount of available space they choose to provide for specific content. For ongoing columns, publications typically allocate a fixed amount of space, so for years I have written to a word count of approximately 750 words. Additionally, I provide the publications with several edited photos — typically five — in both color and black & white. From those photos, the editors of the publications choose which of those, if any, to use, and then they position them where they deem appropriate.

In contrast, in online publications, length of the text, as well as the number of photos and videos, are potentially unlimited.

Drifting at the 2018 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Drifting at the 2018 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
(Jan Wagner)

Since it is impossible to share everything, what makes it to the top of the list, why and how is it presented? Access is a significant determining factor of what can be presented. Furthermore, the experience and perspective of the journalist plays a significant role in how a race will be presented. A racer, with their first-hand knowledge of racing and the participants, might well report a race differently than would someone who does not race.

At a race, it is physically impossible for me to be everywhere at all times, so I try to go to a variety of places around the venue to see race preparation, the fans, racing, post-race activities and more. I collect printed race notes and other materials, and record drivers’ comments, to refer to when I write my columns. I also take lots of still photos, since I prefer to use my own photos rather than supplied images. Typically in professional race series, shooting video is strictly restricted to the broadcast partners.

2020 NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400
2020 NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400
(Jan Wagner)

Depending upon the type of racing, auto races may be short (for example, drag racing), long or somewhere in between. Before the actual racing, all forms of auto racing require much preparation. Afterwards there are celebrations, packing up and leaving the event site. The reactions and various race-time activities of the fans, and comments from the crews and drivers, also tell part of the story. Ultimately, what I choose to report is determined by what I think you would most like to see from what I have seen.

To see additional photos, visit www.drivetribe.com, click on the magnifying glass, select “POSTS” and enter “AutoMatters & More #663” in their search bar. Please send your comments to AutoMatters@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2020 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #663r2


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