Turf Writers President Makes Eclipse Disagreements Public

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Turf writer Tom Law, the president of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, appeared on Steve Byk's radio show Thursday to discuss the disagreements the group had with its fellow Eclipse presenters, Daily Racing Form and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, over this year's awards. Law said that the NTWAB's disagreements centered around two issues: industry organizations being added to those up for consideration for media Eclipse Awards, and the awarding of this year's Eclipse Award of Merit to Stuart Janney.

Woodbine Entertainment went on to win an Eclipse Award in the category of Feature Television programming for their production of “Secretariat: the Last Race,” and America's Best Racing, a multimedia marketing program run by The Jockey Club, received an Honorable Mention in the multimedia category for their video with Mage's owner, Ramiro Restrepo, at this year's Kentucky Derby.

Law, who represents the Turf Writers on the six-person Eclipse Award steering committee, said that in the past, the lack of unanimous approval had been enough to negate a rules change like the one to the media Eclipse Awards this year, or the awarding of a Special Eclipse Award or Eclipse Award of Merit.

“Obviously, as we all know, everything went through,” said Law of the rules change and the awarding of the Eclipse Award of Merit. “They presented the award and I asked them if we could not be included in the press release because we didn't really feel like our organization was behind it. We had basically full agreement by our board about this and about how it was handled, about how we were either ignored, or our concerns were ignored.”

The NTRA disputed Law's claims. In a statement emailed to the TDN on Thursday, NTRA President and Tom Rooney said, “With regards to the rules change, the Steering Committee continually converses to keep the rules reflective of the ever dynamic and changing landscape. Allowing industry outlets to submit media nominations, with the approval of the Steering Committee, is reflective of the changing media landscape and was agreed to by the committee. Additionally, the process for selecting any Eclipse Award of Merit and Special Award is decided on in coordination with the Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters in the same way that it has been for the past 25 years. This year was no different.”

Byk, also an NTWAB board member, agreed with Law.

“Both of these topics essentially dictated the spirit of cooperation and collective approach that has essentially ruled this system over the last 50 years,” he said. “It was clearly abandoned here. And the Eclipse Award of Merit, in fact, three of the last four years, or three out of the last five years, I think, wasn't awarded. It's something that you mentioned at Steering Committee, it gets floated and everybody has to agree. Everybody did not agree, and I was very proud of the collective, frankly, of the Turf Writers and Broadcasters when we had these discussions that we forcefully said, `This is a divisive decision and inappropriate at this juncture, but it was basically forced upon us and the forum.'”

Law, who won an Eclipse Award in 2022 for his story “Big Tally” in the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred, told Byk, also an NTWAB board member, “I'm not even a year removed from winning one myself, so I understand what it means to win one. I don't take any of this lightly, and it was a serious business to me, and it still is. And after 12 years as President of the Turf Writers, I take it seriously and it means a lot, and I feel like I'm representing a large majority of our members with these statements that I'm making to you now. And, certainly, with the support of my board, which is very diverse and has a great representation of all the trade publications and geographic locations, as well, in print and broadcasting.”

The Turf Writers hadn't gone public with their disagreement until they had had the opportunity to discuss the issue with their members, which happened in a Zoom call Wednesday.
Law said that the Turf Writers had put an individual forward several years ago, and despite a 5-1 vote to award the Eclipse of Merit to that person, the one `nay' vote overruled that. “I didn't agree, but I played the game,” said Law. “Didn't complain about it. Didn't cry about it. But as I mentioned to our members yesterday, someone asked `what do they think will happen going forward?' I said, `Well, I mean, we've just emboldened them now. If you think that this won't happen again, you're mistaken.'

Archives of Byk's show are available here.

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