If you read Jason Shandler’s account of Saturday’s G3 Obeah Stakes over at Bloodhorse.com, you get a good idea about the dominance of Unbridled Belle’s 11-length victory over a sealed sloppy Delaware track.
What you don’t get is any indication whatsoever that the six-year-old Awesome Again mare All Smiles broke down—very graphically—directly before the finish line, tossing jockey Justin Shepherd over her head and obviously with a severely broken right front leg. Instead, the article merely points out that All Smiles “completed the order” of finish, when, in fact, she didn’t finish at all. To be fair, Ron Parker at Thoroughbred Times didn’t even mention the mare’s name in his story, while Joseph Swavy at the Daily Racing Form only wrote “All Smiles was pulled up before the finish, unseating her rider, Justin Shepherd.”
Before I’m accused of being a bleeding heart PETA-type—which is so far from true—let me say I’m not particularly interested in propagating morbidity. Nor am I infringing on some insane belief that, as chattel, the medical condition of horses are not open to public knowledge unless the owners deem it so. Everyone who watched that race saw what happened.
I am, however, all for truth and fact which, unfortunately, appears severely-lacking in much media today, particularly when objectivity is overshadowed by being beholden to industry advertisers. When you shape the story and don’t simply factually report it, you are not truly a journalist—you are tiptoeing the line between journalism and public relations. When obvious breakdowns are not mentioned—in even briefest fashion and not in graphic detail—it implies two things: the industry has something shameful to hide, and/or they simply don’t care, that casualties are part of the price to be paid in the name of “sport” and thus not worth mentioning.
I know I’m quixotic in my thinking about journalism—and, for full disclosure, let me say I entered college intent on becoming a sports journalist and have worked professionally (i.e. got paid) as a feature writer for a small city daily while finishing my dissertation. While I chose what I thought was the lesser evil before which to prostitute myself (the throne of academia), I now realize that, unless you are self-employed, most occupations require you to sell your soul occasionally. It just appears that certain jobs require a higher price to be paid when it comes to being “fair and unbiased.” Or maybe they are just paying lip service to that old adage, and independent, accurate reporting is just a thing of the past in traditional media.