Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The Rules Of Engagement For Drivers and Reporters

In the aftermath of Kurt Busch’s latest set-to with the media, questions have arisen regarding the relationship between drivers and reporters, and whether there are unwritten rules of engagement between the two camps.
Most of the time, drivers and media members coexist peacefully, reaping the benefits of a positive, co-dependent relationship. Drivers need the media to publicize themselves, their sponsors and their teams, while reporters cannot adequately cover the sport without access to the men behind the wheel. Both sides know what is expected of them, and for the most part have little or no difficulty working together.
Contrary to widely held belief, the media is not required to provide a “cool down period” after a race. Drivers are free to request a few moments of down time before meeting with reporters, and often do.  Since many print reporters operate on deadline, they need to speak with top-finishing drivers as soon as possible after the checkered flag flies. Questioning angry or upset drivers can be an adventure at times, but reporters understand that it’s an emotional sport and take the occasional curt or colorful answer as part of the cost of doing business.
Conversely, the media cannot force a driver to talk. Other than post-race Media Center appearances mandated by NASCAR, drivers are under no obligation to talk to anyone, at any time. Drivers sometimes retreat to the safe confines of their transporter after a race, rather than risk making an angry or inappropriate comment in the heat of the moment. Blaming a reporter for a driver’s post-race meltdown is like blaming the mailman for delivering too many bills. If you don’t want to talk, simply say, “No comment” and walk away.
It is not the media’s job to go easy on a driver by asking softball questions. In fact, reporters have a right and a responsibility to ask difficult questions, when necessary. If I’m unwilling to ask Joey Logano about his future at Joe Gibbs Racing, my boss will almost certainly replace me with someone who will.
When a reporter asks a difficult question, he/she is not trying to goad a driver into a temper tantrum. Nobody enjoys being the target of an expletive-laced diatribe, especially when it’s delivered in front of a crowded Media Center, or on national television. Nobody enjoys being called names, or threatened with physical violence.
Most reporters want to cover the news, not be the news. Grumpy drivers are part of the job, and media members try not to take it personally. Threaten to kick their ass, however, and they’ll probably hold a grudge for a week or two. They’re only human, after all.
On the rare occasion (and it really is rare) when a driver loses his/her cool, the media should not be expected to ignore the incident. We cover drivers on their good days, and we’re going to cover them on their bad days, too. This is not 1947, when reporters “buddied up” to professional athletes and turned a blind eye to their shortcomings.
Some fans wonder why the media doesn’t simply ignore crotchety drivers in response to belligerence, obscenity, or threats of physical violence. The reason is simple.
It’s not our job.
We’re not at the track to punish evil-doers. We’re there to cover the race. In order to do our job properly, we need to talk to the key players, whether or not they acted like a boob last weekend.
And finally, it’s okay for a reporter to have favorites in the garage. When I need a question answered on race day, I look for specific drivers who will provide a thoughtful, insightful, informative answer. I’m less likely to seek out guys who respond with empty, rubber-stamp answers, or make it clear they’d rather be checked for ticks than spend time being grilled by a nosy reporter.
That’s why guys like Jeff Burton and Mark Martin have long lines of reporters waiting to pick their brains every week. It’s also why a well-considered, outside-the-box answer from Tony Stewart is worth the occasional, “Did you really just ask me that” moment.


  1. Anonymous1:41 PM

    Everyone has had a "bad day". Kurt has never had a good one.

  2. Anonymous1:42 PM

    Very well said godfather

  3. sorry, disagree. elliot sadler gave a class interview right after being wrecked out and losing points in the championship.. he didnt go off half cocked like kurt busch did... but, thats also class for you.. something the busch boys know nothing about.

  4. Anonymous1:43 PM

    Oh come on. Nascar media are NOT reporters. I never saw so much self aggrandizement than that which comes from some of these guys on twitter. The "news" from them is what they eat and how close they can get to their own "idols". Ever hear one of the regulars ask Hendrick a hardball question during a difficult time. Give me a break. You flatter yourself.

    1. Anonymous7:49 PM

      Hear hear. Reporters, no softball pitchers yes.

    2. Anonymous8:26 PM

      I refrain my self from beating the #%^+ out of you for insinuating that The Godfather is not a reporter.

      Steve in TX

    3. Anonymous11:03 AM

      re·port·er (Noun): A person who reports, esp. one employed to report news or conduct interviews for newspapers or broadcasts.

      Now that you know the definition, Factually, explain why the NASCAR media members are not a reporters.

      I can't count the number of times I have heard the president asked softball questions on hard issues by the biggest name reporters. Take it one step forward and many situations the president gets the list of questions before the interview. Scripted questions and scripted answers, is that an interview or a sit-com?

      Just because you don't like thier questions doesn't change the fact they are reporters.

    4. Anonymous3:48 PM

      A lot of good reporters covering NASCAR as well as those who provide yellow journalism to provoke a negative reaction from drivers by twisting the context of their answers.

  5. Anonymous2:02 PM

    My favorite part of this whole thing is "we need to talk to the key players, whether or not they >>acted like a boob<< last weekend." Gave me a good laugh.

  6. It's sad that you had to write this, Godfather, but some people need to be told how it is and not fly their black helicopters all over the media.

    I read a comment this morning where someone said that the media was TRYING to get the "boob" to lose his temper. As if.

    Thank you for posting this. Very well said.

  7. Great post, Moody! Now, if only we could get the mail man to PAY the bills he delivers.

  8. Al the mad cab driver2:17 PM

    You mean like " Hey Tony, are you bringing your good car this week?" That was a classic.

  9. Anonymous2:54 PM

    Kurt needs to smile and walk away or don't answer if he doesn't like the question. The bigger teams have coaches for that. Not all of us or the drivers are Carl Edwards. Most of the fans forget that. But that's what makes the sport great (to a few million of us.)

    Doug from NJ

  10. Moody!! I have a question that might be worth addressing. Someone said this up above about the media not being professional.

    Ok I don't believe that's the case, but, how much do you think media members blogging like this and tweeting impact how the media is perceived by the public.

    Most of us know that as a media member you are supposed to be professional but is it also important to make the distinction between commentary and journalism? There are commentators out there looking for a story and there are journalists just trying to get the facts to report. Does that cause issues also, when the lines between commentary and journalism are blurred?

    1. That's a great question, Patti. As reporters, our number one goal is to get the story everyone is talking about. I have posted a number of straight "news stories" here in recent days and gotten virtually no feedback or comments at all. That's fine, but when a story about Kurt Busch's latest adventure produces hundeds of views and dozens of comments, it's a good indication of what you and your fellow readers are interested in.

      I can't speak for anyone else, but I personally don't worry much about whether my opinion is popular with the listeners and readers. My job is to report the facts as accurately as humanly possible in news stories, and to offer a toughtful, sincere and well-considered opinion in commentary pieces. I learned a long time ago that when you're opinionated -- and willing to state that opinion -- you're not going to enjoy universal love and support. When I offer my take on situations like this, I do so knowing that some readers are going to like what I have to say, and some are going to hate it.

      I can accept that. In fact, prompting people to respond with an opinion of their own (pro or con) is one of the most enjoyable parts of my job

  11. I thank you for another measured report, Mr. Moody. Having watched the video, reading and hearing what you describe as a "set-to" described by others as a "tirade", "vicious attack", and/or "heated exchange" made we wonder what these "reporters" were talking about. It's just too bad we can't spend more time talking about the actual racing on the track.

    1. Anonymous11:11 AM

      Wasn't the question that triggered Kurt's latest comments asking about how the probation impacted his actual racing on the track?

  12. Anonymous7:40 PM

    Dave,I agree with your posting,I would like to say that the press corps is as much a part of racing as are the drivers,that being said I feel they are in a position not just to report on the event but they can influence the event by the words they choose and the questions they ask just like a driver can influence the event they way they drive. I support any question asked by members covering the sport but I have an issue granting protection for them normally reserved for the fans.We cannot,in my opinion,get indignant if a question asked of a "jerk" gets a response suitable to his demeanor.Rubbin is racing,boys have at it and questioning people all are apart of the sport,along with sportsmanship and clean competition and we should not be shocked when we do not get what we think we should get ay times.Thank you for your time,I am
    Bruce from Philadelphia

  13. Dipship9:58 PM

    Just once.... Just once, I would love to hear an athlete, coach, owner, race car driver, answer the absolute dumbest question EVER, asked by the media, of any of the previous mentioned.....
    "What is it gonna take to beat the other team/other 42 driver's today"?
    Answer... "We have to score more points than they do/I have to cross the finish line first" !!!
    It really is no more complicated than that..... in my book!

  14. Anonymous1:19 AM

    Who cares about Busch? We love Danica!!! Pockrass always is writing about Danica! We love Danica. She is a great driver!

  15. Anonymous7:10 AM

    I posted this in reply to a Thomas Pope article. It says what I honestly believe.

    "While Kurt needs to modify his attitude you need to go read some articles that Pockrass wrote earlier about him. I understand his animosity towards Mr. Pockrass.

    Pockrass, Gluck, McLaughlin and others have wrote scathing, personally oriented articles on Kurt, Kyle and their parents. I think they would be perfectly happy to see both brothers out of NASCAR. Basically they want to put a negative spin on everything they do.

    Who was it? Gluck or Pockrass who wrote an entire article on how he couldn't sleep at night because Kurt had hurt his feelings during an interview. Give me a break. It's about the drivers, the owners, the crew chiefs and the crews....not the reporter covering the event.

    Kurt's an ass at times however certain members of the media go out of their way to ask inane questions, knowing full well the potential for an explosion is there plus the opportunity to get their name in the lights. When it happens, they all pile on and take shots.

    I know Mr. Pope will strongly defend his brethran as they can do no wrong.

    And No Mr. Pope, I'm not saying it's all the media's fault. Kurt has a lot of responsibility for it.

    What I'm saying is certain media members love to stir the pot and then sit back, giggle and proclaim their right to ask any stupid, inane question they want.

    1. Anonymous10:45 AM

      As once a member of the media, I kind of agree with this. Just because you are a member of the media does not give you the right to run rough shod over anyone. The media has to take responsibility as well and to defend some of these people that say they are reporters just because they own a laptop is irresponsible at best.

  16. Anonymous7:16 AM

    Sometime in the late 90's NASCAR slowly started changing from a "sport" to "entertainment". As the years went by another change occurred .... Those covering the "sport" slowly started morphing from "reporters" into "paparazzi".....and we all remember what happened to Lady Diana......

  17. Anonymous9:40 AM

    What a one sided article. I have followed Na$car for 20 plus years and never saw any diver picked on and pointed out as much as the Busch brother are. The media and you Godfather are included just want to poke to angry bull just to see what happens. Maybe Kurt should have just beat the _____ out of dear old Bob P. and maybe you so called reporters would not stick your nose places it dosent belong.

    1. That's an interesting comment, especially since Kurt was never mentioned int he article, even once!

  18. Jake James11:23 AM

    As it pertains to Kurt Busch and his most recent encounter with the media, he had plenty of time to cool down before talking to the press. He had time to cool off before he got out of the car, he had time to get a grip on his emotions once he got out of the car and started walking away from his garage stall, and he had plenty of time to take a breath before actually speaking...

    if you can't control yourself emotion given all that time to get a grip, maybe the new Nascar and public life ain't for you.

  19. Anonymous11:58 AM

    Dave, I never took the article as an indictment of Kurt. I see it as a defense of the media.

    I will say this insofar as Kurt is concerned. Few of the NASCAR media have covered the Busch saga without personal bias.

    By and large,I believe Lee Spencer has, oddly enough I think Jenna Fryer has, Dr. Jerry Punch has, and I believe you have. I thank you and them for that.

    Others have gone out of their way to paint the Buschs as evil incarnate.

  20. Sharon12:17 PM

    I do not agree with Kurt being put on suspension for what he said. It should be strictly about what he actually does. Drivers do need to understand that the media is just doing their job as cliche` as that is. But it is true. I also believe some in the media like to get drivers fired up, they know who is going to give them the "story" they need. I'm disappointed in NASCAR and their over-policing of the drivers. It is clear the actually racing has gone by the wayside and it's all about image portrayal.

  21. Anonymous1:01 PM

    I think you give the media way too much credit. Especially someone like yourself who is an employee of the France family. I know some of you in the media may find this hard to understand, but most fans like RACING! Not the soap opera that the media keep stirred up. The persona of the drivers is manipulated for maximum exposure and income for the all important media. I for one am tired of your self-righteous attitude that you and only know what is best for Nascar. How about a little less "insight" and a little more race reporting.

    1. Well, since it's my blog, I think I'll continue to write whatever I want. If you don't like my self-righteous attitude, one good way to avoid it is to not hang out on my blog page!

    2. Anonymous2:28 PM

      Has it ever occured to you that being the France family appointed "Voice of Nascar" we do not have a choice. Well I guess we do maybe that is why the stands are empty.

  22. Anonymous1:11 PM

    I agree with Mr. Moody 100% Someone needs to write an article about James Finch. He's been around the sport a long time but I know very little about him. As I'm reading more about him and reading some of his quote's I'm thinking he's quite a character.

  23. Anonymous1:46 PM

    Too bad there aren't more Tom Higgins around, a class act. Now if it weren't for the Busch brothers all we would get from the NASCAR wags is how Dale Jr. is about to win a race and 5-time wearing a mutli-coloured wig. Not wouldn't that make for some great reading.

  24. Anonymous3:19 PM

    Thumbs up Godfather...I suppose L Spencer only writes nice things about the bush's ...Yeah thats I need more fertilizer... Might as well listen to a JJ interveiw...The Bush bro's have done :stupid/ignorant/dangerous things at times & ...They were reported...I Call this doing your job & Thanks...Yes I've heard some DUM questions (& so has Moody) & maybe kurt should go to the Tony Stewart school of dum question smart a's reply ...Its comical & can teach the reporter to do better next time...& IT WON"T GET U SUSPENDED ...Now one more time He threatened a Nascar accredited reporter with physical harm..There is no workplace that will accept this (If it exists I'd like to work there cause a lot of folks would be better with a small tune up) The man was on probation ...What could Nascar do? ...& in the scrap ...I Don't think kurts 155lbs is to much of a terror to be threatening people...My cash is on the P man...(where Spence when ya need him)...Earner

    1. Anonymous7:58 AM

      he didn't threaten a reporter, he said he'd like to beat the crap out of him. Sorry, that is not a threat that is an expression. A threat would be "Bob, if you ask me that question again, I AM going to beat the crap out you" There is a big difference between threatening someone and expressing a feeling. Kurt got suspended for an expression not a threat.

      Think about that one, next time.

  25. Jake James3:54 PM

    This is how a racing driver can respond to those "boring" questions reporters hate ask:


    Imagine that, Kimi is quotable without being a jerk.

  26. Anonymous4:01 PM

    This article is not about the Busch's or anyone driver etc. It is about SOME reporter?, journalist? or what ever you want to call them, not ALL, but some, are prima-donna's think they have the right to ask the dumb questions. I have been amazed at some of the questions I have heard. Stupid is what stupid does. It has been done to Dale sr., Tony Stewart, Dale jr. Dale Jarrett, and many more. Pockgrass is known for his off tone questions and comments. Back in the day when I was racing, I most likely would have had to swing a few at a (Bob Pockgrass) or simulair prima-donna. Just look at what they have done in the past. Jumped on Dale jr,(asking why he has not won a race?) If he knew, he would fix it. Danica? why have you not won a race? after all you have been racing Indy all those years. These are all stupid questions and comments that these prima-donna's feed off of. If Pockgrass had not been so negitive on Busch in the past and ask a dumb question, Busch would not have been suspended. I would love to see another Richard Childress take care the old school way.

  27. Anonymous4:51 PM

    Here's a question I've been wondering about? Tony Stewrt to me has alwys been the epitome of what a racer is. Put him in just about anything and he can when. But there was a time when he was a bad to the media as anyone has ever been He basically bitch slapped one reporter if I remember correctly. Why is it that when he was being a jerk to the media not so many years ago and doing it repeatedly, he never got parked or lost a ride? I have my opinion , which is that Tony is basically someone that everyone has always liked and both Bush brothers have pretty much always been thought of as punks by many, despite their talent.

    1. Anonymous7:37 PM

      I would suggest you look at what Tony said about Kurt's response...


    2. Tony never "bitch slapped" a reporter. He once knocked a tape recorder out of a reporter's hand, perhaps that's what you're thinking of. He did have a number if run-ins with reporters, but only that one instance of actual physical contact. And while he never got parked or lost his ride, there were MAJOR conversations had between Tony, Joe Gibbs Racing (his team at the time), and Home Depot about the need for him to clean up his act, which he ultimately did.

  28. Anonymous1:17 PM

    Dave it's nice to know that you will censor those who have a strong disagreement with you. Real Journalism there bud. What happened to being able to express yourself freely. If someone tried that with you, you'd be talking about suing all the way to the USSC.

    1. I don't censor people for disagreeing with me, "Anonymous." I censor people who are unable to make their point without using foul language or calling people names. Those are the rules here, and they will be followed whether you approve of them or not. If you can make your point without profanity or insults, your comment will be published, just like all the others here.

    2. Anonymous3:48 PM

      There was no profanity in what I had to say. Everything I wrote is heard everyday on National TV. So yes you did censor my previous post. And I would be glad to sign it the way I sign everything.


    3. Anonymous9:13 PM

      Did it to me too mikeyfan ... and I stand by my comment abou having god inin his title.

      The fact that HE makes choices on what gets published and what doesn't absolutely points at censorship which he supposedly holds so dear to his profession. The fact is a choice to not publish something, is exactly censorship.

      But of course this won't get published either so he doesn't have to show his hypocrisy.

      Ironically he doesn't censor those who call the busch's and others "boobs". But I am guessing thats constructive insulting and name calling because they agree with the writer. Extremely hypocritical! Not really reporting the facts when you can decide whats published. So is this really a story by a reporter?

    4. Guys, I absolutely have the right to decide what does and does not appear here on my blog page. I pay the bills, I create the content, and I make the decisions. Call it censorship if you want, but the bottom line is that I get to set the standards for conduct in my own house. Deny it all you like, but if your post did not get published, it's because it contained profanity and/or name calling. Disagreeing with me does not get you banned, as your above posts proves.

      If you want a place to say anything you want to say -- with all the profanity and name calling you like -- I would suggest creating a blog of your own, because the standards on THIS site are never going to change.

  29. Anonymous6:42 AM

    Your article is an interesting read. I have a follow-up question or two to one of your comments/statements you wrote. In the article you point out that “this is not 1947, when reporters “buddied up” to professional athletes and turned a blind eye to their shortcomings.”

    Who decides when to inform the general public of the following:
    1) What is a shortcoming and what is not a shortcoming?
    2) When is a shortcoming relevant to NASCAR and driving within NASCAR?

    I ask the above not neither to defend anyone nor to point a finger at anyone. I’m curious because when looking the above questions answers become subjective and often can be bent to tailor a story or story-line a certain way. Shaping a driver’s image one way or another (often times as we are seeing now with the driver’s help in comments or actions that driver is making) can hurt a driver and his/her ability to stay within the sport. On the flip side not reporting well know facts can shape a driver’s image also. Example: A very well known and liked current driver could have children with different mothers out of his current relationship(s). Not reporting that information could make the driver’s image remain spotless. On the other hand reporting that information could damage the driver’s image and his ability to keep his sponsors.

    What it comes down to is: Who watches the watchmen and how you do your jobs?

    1. These are great questions.

      It is up to each individual reporter (or their editor) to decide what they feel is appropriate to cover. Most of us steer clear of things like divorces, etc., feeling that a driver's personal life is exactly that, personal. There are some in the business who consider those stories to be fair game, but I'm not one of them.

      Your second question is much more difficult to answer. It can be argued that problems in a driver's personal life may impact his performance on the track, thereby making them fair game for reporters. I don't believe it's my job to "shape a driver's image." They have PR people for that. It's my job to accurately report what a driver says and does, and let the readers decide for themselves what they think about it. I sometimes criticize drivers for their comments or conduct, but that is done as a commentary piece, not a race report. The two are very different.

    2. Anonymous10:10 PM

      Thanks for responding. A very interesting subject to say the least.

  30. Anonymous2:56 PM

    I was censored by gf...no profanity just a few upper case word (after being insulted by an anonymous) ...tells me everything I need to know about this site...this anonymous guy must be a buddy of yours so I'll leave the 2 of you alone ...Earner

    1. That is certainly your right! Enjoy wherever you end up next.