Jeff Bewkes, CEO of Time Warner, parent company of Horse & Hound magazine
No one likes to be the bearer of bad news, Mr. Bewkes. Nor is it a pleasant task to report to the leader of a mighty corporation that the editor of one of his magazine assets has managed to reduce what was once the pillar of English equestrian journalism into the site of a potential massive readership mutiny.
Sadly Horse & Hound magazine should be pilloried, not praised, for what may be one of the worst acts of equestrian editorial incompetence in living memory.
Earlier this month leaders of the British endurance racing world were informed that Horse & Hound was no longer eager to publish news about the world’s fastest growing equestrian sport. Given the dramatic decline in influence and subscriptions being experienced by equestrian magazines across the planet, some might argue that alienating this rich and powerful section of the English equestrian world was financially counterproductive.
Yet you are being contacted about editorial ethics, or the lack of them, not the diminishment in Time Warner’s British bank account.
In a stunning move, instead of continuing to publish news about their confirmed endurance fan base, the editors of Horse & Hound chose instead not only to publish a press release about the world’s largest unethical equestrian race, they took the additional step of actively promoting an event which other equestrian editors across the world have uniformly condemned.
The race being referred to is called the Mongol Derby. It is a profit making endeavour disguised as a social mission. However what should be causing the legal department at Time Warner to confer privately was this typical statement issued by the race organizers, wherein they boast in Horse & Hound of putting your readers at risk.
"It's dangerous, it's unsupported and you could die," warn Bristol-based organisers The Adventurists on the race's website.
The same press release goes on to state in Horse & Hound that the naïve young contestants, all of whom have paid nearly $5,000 to participate, “are all experienced riders." Alas for Horse & Hound, nothing could be further from the truth, as a cursory check of the riders’ biographies, publicly available on the race website, reveals that some of the contestants can barely mount a horse.
Here is a link to the information which was published by your London editor, who apparently failed to undertake the sort of basic editorial fact checking deemed necessary in a freshman journalism class.
The article continues by saying that throughout the race riders will stay with nomadic families. In fact such elementary safety as guaranteed water for horse and rider have been swept aside. There is not even a marked route.
“There will be no set track to follow between the horse stations and in some places no tracks at all,” the race website warns.
As you may well imagine, Mr. Bewkes, there could be legal ramifications from encouraging people to join an equestrian event which boasts about being “the biggest, baddest equine affair on the planet,” and then results in your readers being either injured or killed.
Finally, there is actually more bad news.
Not only has the editor of Horse & Hound eagerly supported this highly questionable event, the magazine has also published the news that it has provided a blog spot to one of the contestants, which in effect would appear to make Time Warner a willing participant in this event.
Mr. Bewkes, the Long Riders’ Guild does not need to dramatize the danger your corporation, or your readers, are in. The organizer of the Mongolian race is quite capable of explaining who you are doing business with.
This man's alarming quotes include "You're only having fun when something's going wrong" and "We don't make any safety arrangements.”
The Long Riders’ Guild is therefore calling upon you to intercede in this unprecedented equestrian situation and to issue an order to the Horse & Hound office to immediately rescind the magazine’s support for this unethical, and potentially lethal, equestrian event.
Failure to correct this alarming state of affairs will undoubtedly lead to a nation-wide cancellation of subscriptions to Horse & Hound.