You're holding a breakthrough edition of The Special. The first double issue, a Wednesday/Thursday paper. That's part of the breakthrough, the physical act of combining two days into one paper - two days of previews, two days of handicapping, two days of Name of the Days, one Cup of Coffee.
The other part of the breakthrough is more metaphysical, the confidence to do it.
Tom Law, Joe and I held one of our rare editorial meetings after last year's season and talked about what we could do differently, what we could do better, what we could do to lessen the madness, especially, during the 12-day-in-a-row Survivor series that is sales week.
One less issue during sales week was one of the answers. It was simple, subtract one issue from the 35 we did last year. Thursday made sense. What was complicated was letting go of the all-or-nothing approach that had served us so well since the beginning. We needed to recognize that we have the ability, the foundation, the freedom to make choices (whoa, sound like Joel Osteen there for a minute). It's not our nature to back off.
We set out in 2001, determined to prove we could publish a daily racing newspaper at Saratoga. Richard Bomze, who was in publishing, admired our moxie while thinking we were crazy - "Every day. Why every day? Try weekends." As Nick Carras said the other day, "I looked at you guys and said, 'That's never going to work.' "
That was said often, as we delivered the paper on a disk to Staffield Printing down the Northway and drove bundles of papers back to Saratoga every night/morning.
It was said when we tried to sell eight-page newspapers, a dollar apiece was daunting for most. It was said when I wrote every article in the paper and Joe laid out every page (although the latter hasn't changed). It was said when we didn't mention returning champion Countess Diana winning at the meet. We just didn't get to it.
It was said when our Skidmore interns were more interested in writing about coffee shops and bike routes than the day's races. It was said when the likes of Don Dean, Charlie Boden and Bill Person would tap on my window to wake me up from my car naps at the Morning Line Kitchen. It was said when we published our first "subscriber" list in edition #4 consisting of The Reading Room, Ken Ramsey, Tom Voss Stable, Chuck Simon, Mark Hennig, Lisa Lewis, Toadie Taylor, Lynn Whiting, Carl Nafzger, Al Stall, Ronnie Ebanks and the Saratoga Sleigh Bed and Breakfast.
The first year, we published six days a week, because we felt like we needed to prove it. Daily meant daily. Racing Monday? We're publishing Monday. Six days a week turned into five days a week after Travers weekend when we produced expansive papers Saturday and Sunday - including a four-page Q & A with Gary Stevens when he was due to ride Point Given in the Travers- and made the decision to skip the next two Mondays.
Considering those editions were due to be eight-page newspapers (Frank Alexander once called it nothing but a flyer), it didn't register as a blow to journalism or even register with our readers. We slept in Monday and Tuesday mornings and showed up with Wednesday's edition. The world kept spinning.
That was the first and last time we decreased our number of issues. Since then, we've increased our publication schedule every time NYRA lengthened the meet. The August place to be has turned into the mid-July/August/early September place to be and The Special has grown with it.
We like to think producing one less paper this week is a sign of strength. Not weakness. When you spend your life as the underdog, the little paper that could, sometimes it's hard to take a step back and make a good editorial decision, a prudent economic decision.
One less press run and one less deadline should improve quality, it will certainly improve sanity.
The Thursday edition of The Special - the ninth of 12 in a row, published on moving day between the Select Sale and Preferred Sale and covering a card topped by the Statue of Liberty Stakes - was a struggle. It wasn't our best work.
Today, we've previewed the Statue of Liberty Stakes and we'll recap the Birdstone, the Statue of Liberty, Wednesday's and Thursday's cards in Friday's edition. Sound good?
So, if you're looking for us Wednesday night, we'll be on a boat on the lake instead of a desk in the office. Anybody know how to get to the lake?