Grassroots motorsport needs more love from the mainstream media
Back in the 80s and early 90s, motorsport was everywhere. It wasn't just restricted to when the Formula 1 or V8 Supercar seasons were on or in town, it covered everything happening at the local track. So what happened? Why did mainstream media fall out of love with grassroots motorsport?
Negative headlines sell papers / get clicks
Fundamentally, the human population is more drawn to negative headlines, why this happens has been explored by a few different researchers including a study done by Mark Trussler and Stuart Soroka in 2014 at McGill University in Canada which was featured in a BBC News article "Psychology: Why bad news dominates the headlines".
The thought process is that we are subconsciously drawn to depressing information and we have in turn "trained" journalists to focus on these kind of news articles. Without going into detail here, the study they did which is documented in the above article, supported the notion of the "negativity bias".
Incident at Barbagallo Raceway, no-one hurt or injured in this / PHOTO: BeardySnaps
With this in mind, if you look at the majority of motorsport news that is related to grassroots events now, the main focus is on the negative aspects of motorsport. Events such as the death of 8 year old Anita Board at a drag racing event and 26 year old Brody Ford at the Racewars event in Albany, were both extensively covered by the media at the time. At no time did the media cover the fact that outside of these two events in the respective years, there were hundreds of successful motorsport events run locally with no major incidents.
This kind of coverage sways the public into thinking motorsport is completely unsafe and ignorant opinions are formed on motorsport. This in turn filters up to the government who try to appease the vocal minority with these opinions, which is then covered by the mainstream media and the cycle repeats.
Motorsport is perceived as too "closed'
Once you start hitting the larger events or venues such as Formula 1 or Supercars in Australia, or the VenuesWest controlled Perth Motorplex (as an example), gaining access requires, on paper at least, that you are accredited media with an outlet that has a high level of readership.
To get these figures, some who aren't backed by large media outlets resort to "click bait" titles to increase hits/likes to their websites/blogs to get to the levels required. These articles are usually negative and enter the cycle above.
Example of requirements for a media pass / SOURCE: Media application form
At the grassroots level, motorsport is easily accessible for anyone wanting to hone their journalistic craft. Access to drivers and teams is easy and they are usually hungry for some press coverage and its an ideal way to start your own following.
To continue to grow, a decision has to be made to either invest your own money to promote your articles, competing with the negativity bias, start writing click bait articles, or to try and get one of the larger media outlets to utilise your articles.
The larger media outlets unfortunately generally only take press releases from motorsport organisations/teams and re-hash them. Not all press releases get included as the outlets are looking at what will give them a maximum return in advertising revenue. General stories about motorsport are not going to get the readership next to articles about Formula 1, Supercars or anything in the negative spectrum. If you look at a lot of the lead articles about the larger motorsport disciplines, the articles are pretty much all the same across all media outlets as they rely on the official press releases for their content.
The shift that needs to happen
Grassroots motorsport drivers and teams love to see their name on mainstream media sites and share those articles to their followers, friends and family on social media. For some reason, mainstream motorsport websites and media outlets haven't gotten their heads around the fact that the sharing of these articles by the people involved with grassroots motorsport increases readership and potential advertising revenue.
Nowadays with most media being online based, there is no restriction on the amount of room available for running stories. The large motorsport based websites and mainstream media outlets need to start dedicating sections to grassroots motorsport and utilise people who are willing to put the effort in locally to promote motorsport.
The flow on effect will also help increase attendance and awareness at motorsport events. When people are attending and aware of things that are going, they then turn to the place they found out about the events for pre and post event coverage as well as news and information. This increase of awareness then, as crazy as it seems, will increase readership and advertising revenue. The cycle which should be happening in motorsport media, not the negative cycle.
Better coverage of grassroots motorsport ensures a better future for younger motorsport fans / PHOTO: BeardySnaps
What are your thoughts?
Of course, this is all my perception of motorsport coverage in the media. Websites such as DriveTribe are allowing people, like myself, to help write articles and promote motorsport and is a step in the right direction that other media outlets should look at. What do you think? Do you think the mainstream media covers grassroots motorsport enough?
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