Showing posts from June, 2009

Another Piece of Magna Heads Into Bankruptcy

MEC Pennsylvania Racing, a subsidiary of Frank Stronach's Magna Entertainment racing empire that somehow was omitted from MEC's bankruptcy filing last spring, has now joined the club. MEC Pennsylvania, which operates racing and parimutuels at the Meadows harness track in Washington, PA, filed for bankruptcy on Friday, saying it had lost $2.6 million last year and that, as of May 31st, 2009, had $4.7 million in liabilities and $4.9 million in assets. MEC Pennsylvania filed under Capter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code, which presumes a reorganization that will allow the company to continue in business, though nothing is ever certain in these cases. A lot depends on the goodwill and forbearance of the creditors.
Magna Entertainment had owned the Meadows track until 2005, when it sold the facility to Cannery Casino Resorts, which operates three casino-hotel complexes in Las Vegas. MEC took back a contract to run racing operations, while Cannery built and operated the slot machine fac…

Taking Care of Business, or Not, in Albany

Thanks Dave (Paterson) and Malcolm (Smith). Even by the historically low standards of Albany, your leadership has been stunningly incompetent. And now you've apparently -- one never knows where this circus will end up -- managed to lose Democratic control of the NY State Senate, with unpredictable consequences for a myriad unresolved policy issues. Two of those issues directly concern horse racing in the (declining) Empire State.
First, any upheaval in Albany can only prolong the agony of selecting a contractor to build and run the slot-machine palace promised for lo these many years for Aqueduct. We've been promised the slots, and their attendant boost to purses, for at least the last five years, so we've learned to expect delay, but this latest blow, completely unnecessary, has one feeling like the camel as more and more straw is piled on its back.
Purses in New York are stagnating, while costs continue to increase. Trainers, equally squeezed by cost pressures, are forc…


Salary data from the annual newspaper compensation study done by the Inland Press Association underscores the points I made in a lecture at Oxford University recently on why journalists deserve low pay.

According to the salary study, average newspaper wages in the U.S. increased 2.1% between 2008 and 2009, but that result was skewed because hefty increases went to producers of interactive (online) content and editorial personnel involved in new business development. Journalists on the average received no or marginal increases depending upon their category.

My lecture, which was carried in a significantly reduced form in the Christian Science Monitor , and redistributed by multiple online sites and blogs, produced shock, anger, and invective by many journalists who missed its point. The text of the full lecture can be found at the website:

Journalists today create very little economic value and are having a difficult ti…

Handle, Purses on the Down Escalator

Thanks to Ray Paulick for posting the latest Equibase figures on handle and purses. Both figures dropped in May, as compared to a year ago.  Total US handle was off by 8.26%, to $1.375 billion, even though May, 2009 had one more weekend/holiday race date than the same month in 2008.  Purses for the month declined by a lesser percentage -- 6.73% -- to $105.1 million.
For the first five months of the year, through May 31st, total US handle was down 9.22% from the corresponding period last year, while purses declined by 5.54%  
While purses are generally set as a fraction of total handle or takeout, there are a couple of reasons why the decline in purses has been somewhat milder then the decline in total handle.  First, some tracks use slot machine revenue or other gambling income (e.g., the casino supplement in New Jersey) to augment the purse account.  Second, there's a time lag in the calculation of purses; tracks set an initial level for a race meet based on what they estimate the …

May 20th Show recap

May 20th, featured our largest audience to date and the most interesting show to boot. After losing the traditional opening game of Rock-Paper-Scissors, Alex Koll discussed a variety of topics, including what song his father might sing if he had Alzheimer's (working title: "I'm Somebody's Dad"). Sean Keane followed with ten minutes, primarily about the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia and why people hate the dollar coin.

Special guest Eric Andre, visiting from LA, then performed fifteen minutes of energetic, crowd-pleasing standup. His mom was in attendance, so it was especially great that he killed it. Bucky Sinister - totally anchoring these shows every week - did his usual "rambly, ranty storytelling" to much acclaim. If you are interested in learning about cocaine, 80's gangs, door-to-door atheism recruitment, or even why Jared Leto gets his ass kicked so badly in everymoviehe'sin, just listen to Bucky.

We then premiered the firs…


The question of whether we are witnessing the end of journalism is perhaps the most common topic at contemporary gatherings of journalists and journalism scholars. Although hushed and apprehensive conversations about it have taken place in recent years, today’s discussions are open and filled with alarm and fear.

Many of the voices and opinions, however, misunderstand the nature of journalism. It is not business model; it is not a job; it is not a company; it is not an industry; it is not a form of media; it is not a distribution platform.

Instead, journalism is an activity. It is a body of practices by which information and knowledge is gathered, processed, and conveyed. The practices are influenced by the form of media and distribution platform, of course, as well as by financial arrangements that support the journalism. But one should not equate the two.

The pessimistic view of the future of journalism is based in a conceptualization of journalism as static, with enduring processes, u…

The Business: June 3rd

San Francisco can't get enough of the underground comedy sensation, "The Business", and neither can our fabulous guest stars. Fresh off a killer performance at the SF Punch Line showcase, New York City's (and Seattle's) Andy Haynes joins us this Wednesday, along with local legend Brent Weinbach (Comedians of Comedy Tour, Andy Kaufman Award).

To paraphrase Wooderson, that's what I love about The Business shows - they keep getting better, and the admission price just stays the same (Five dollars).