DEAGON TO BE RESURRECTED AS RACING VENUE & HOST 12 TAB MEETINGS FROM JULY

by JOHN LINGARD, EDITOR, LETSGOHORSEACING

IN a surprise move Racing Queensland plans to resurrect Deagon as a TAB venue with 12 race dates proposed for the new financial year – the first of those on Friday, July 17.

These would be hosted by the Brisbane Racing Club and are obviously designed to relieve the workload on Doomben whilst ensuring the new Eagle Farm track is not over utilized early days.

This is part of an overdue decision by RQ that would see TAB racing at two venues in Queensland on many Sundays during the year. These would be shown on SKY with the secondary fixture on SKY2. 

A ‘secret’ list of draft dates for racing in 2015-2016 fell off the back of a track outside the letsgohorseracing headquarters. Rather than comment politically on the move to return to TAB racing at Deagon we have left that to the RQ ‘spin doctor’ at The Courier-Mail to put the slant on this that Little King Kev and his cronies would prefer.

Under the proposal Deagon would host race meetings on:

Friday, July 17 (primary venue)

Sunday, August 30 (secondary to Gold Coast)

Sunday, September 13 (secondary to Sunshine Coast – this is the annual Family Picnic Day)

Thursday, October 8 (secondary to Rockhampton)

Sunday, November 22 (primary with Mackay surprisingly the secondary meeting on the day)

Sunday, December 20 (secondary to Sunshine Coast)

Sunday, January 3 (primary)

Thursday, February 25 (primary)

Sunday, March 13 (primary)

Friday, April 29 (secondary to Townsville)

Sunday, May 15 (primary)

Friday, June 17 (secondary to Townsville)

The introduction of two Sunday race meetings in Queensland – similar to what occurs in the southern states – is seen by some as a move to provide a desperately needed increase to TAB turnover which letsgohorseracing understands has slumped on the local product and is secretly alarming some officials especially under the turnover requirements of the new TAB deal with Tattersall’s. Surprisingly greyhound turnover has increased since the live baiting scandal.

Dual Sunday racing is proposed as well on July 12 (Sunshine Coast and Cairns); August 9 (Cairns and Dalby); August 23 (Sunshine Coast and Kilcoy), October 18 (Sunshine Coast and Mackay), November 29 (Sunshine Coaat and Rockhampton), December 6 (Sunshine Coast and Kilcoy), December 23 (Sunshine Coast and Cairns) and then in 2016 – February 28 (Sunshine Coast and Mackay), June 12 (Sunshine Coast and Lockyer), June 26 (Sunshine Coast and Townsville).

Under the Draft Dates Proposal for 2015-16 the pioneer of Sunday racing – the Sunshine Coast – would be reduced to 39 Sundays. But it would host five metropolitan Satudays and eight Friday night meetings.

During the year there would be 11 Saturdays where the 'primary' metropolitan meeting would be held outside of Brisbane. These include five at the Sunshine Coast, four at the Gold Coast and one each at Ipswich and on the much maligned new track at Toowoomba for their Weetwood-Cup meetings (which suggests this will be approved even before the success or failure of this year’s venture can be gauged).

The Winter Carnival in 2016 would be launched at the Gold Coast on April 30 with the Hollindale-Prime Minister’s Cup meeting following by the Toowoomba Cup and Weetwood on May 7; BTC Cujp (May 14), Doomben Cup (May 21), Doomben 10,000 (May 28), Queensland Oaks (June 4), Strandbroke (June 11) Ipswich Cup (June 18) and Tattersall’s Tiara on June 25.

Interestingly, the first Saturday meeting actually assigned to the new Eagle Farm track is on October 3. But no track has been allocated the Saturday metropolitan meeting in Brisbane from August 15 to September 26.

That suggests RQ would like to re-open Eagle Farm on August 15 but there is some doubt about when the new track will be ready to race. If Doomben has to continue to shoulder the load – and it has done a remarkable job despite the alleged bias to on-pacers on some days – the track there will require a much-needed recovery period which a third Brisbane venue at Deagon will provide.

What new infrastructure will be needed and whether field sizes will be limited at Deagon is conjecture for others to consider. There will no doubt be an extra cost despite most of the facilities being in place at Deagon already.

DEAGON was established well over a century ago but was utilized for a ‘closed’ race meeting during the Equine Influence crisis in 2007. It was the first time the training centre had been used for racing since 1941.

The first public race day in 72 years was held as a Family Picnic Day in September 2013. The local community was the driving force behind the day. It proved so popular that another was held last year.

Although now owned by Racing Queensland, Deagon meetings are hosted by the Brisbane Racing Club. The venue has turned the full circle from a racing venue to a boutique training complex and now back to a racing venue.

In the latter days of the Bob Bentley era that almost came to an end when there was a proposal for it to become the home of state of the art harness and greyhound complex. This riled local thoroughbred trainers, especially those with major real estate interests at Deagon, which then became a political hot potato and when the LNP Government returned to power the plan was scrapped.

  

 

INTEGRITY COMMISSIONER’S REPORT SUMS UP 'HOW SILLY RACING IN QUEENSLAND IS’

MURRAY DEAN, an occasional contributor to the WEDNESDAY WHINGE, sent this interesting email:

‘IF followers of letsgohorseracing like a good laugh they should have a read of the Racing Integrity Commissioner’s Report (in Queensland).

The so-called Report is astonishing, not only for its brevity, but also for its complete lack of detail.

To illustrate how busy his office has been the Integrity Commissioner states that he visited some race clubs and various racing associations to let them know he was open for business. Great!

Secondly, he was able to stroll along to some industry awards nights. Tough work I guess but someone has to do it.

I know we are close to overdosing on integrity but then he comments on the ‘close and beneficial relationship he has been able to develop with Mr Condon (RQ CEO) and Mr Birch (RQ Head Integrity, currently stood down)’.

And some people are suggesting that the Integrity Commissioner should take charge of an Inquiry into the breakdown in the Integrity Department. Please!  

His report then waffles on to say that he has investigated cases involving ‘alleged corruption issues, fixed races, sexual harassment and improper conduct by a senior official at Racing Queensland’. He further states that these matters have been ‘resolved’.

Great, we can sleep peacefully tonight knowing everything is fine and proper on the good ship Racing Queensland.

Of course there are no details of any of these matters.

He also thanks ‘Furlongs’ Dickson for his strong support. Why wouldn’t he? That was the Minister that appointed him.

Can life get much sillier?’

 

CALLS FOR MINISTER TO STAND DOWN GREYHOUND BOARD & RQ BOSS AS WELL AS BIRCH

By JOHN LINGARD, Editor, Letsghorseracing

THE standing down of ‘sacrificial lamb’ Wade Birch, the Head of RQ Integrity, is a small step in the right direction but the real buck stops with the Board of Greyhounds Queensland and the RQ Industry All Codes Chairman Kevin Dixon.

Reports of the political games and manoeuvring that is occurring being the scenes to protect the job of the RQ Chairman only highlight the need for the Labor Government to engage an interstate non-connected Queen’s Counsel or the like to conduct an Independent Review of the greyhound scandal.

Queensland racing and politics are far too interwoven with mates doing deals with mates for there to be any confidence in a Review headed by anyone local – especially if it involves current Integrity figures or former Ministerial heavyweights who have consultancies with certain high profile businessmen linked to Government and the racing industry.

With all due respects to honourable gentlemen like the Integrity Commissioner Jim O’Sullivan and former heavyweight Labor politician Terry Mackenroth there are too many allegations of conflicts of interest that new Racing Minister Bill Byrne should consider.

O’Sullivan, a highly respected former Police Commissioner with a background in racing, would be ideal if he hadn’t been involved in the selection process for the current Board of Greyhounds Queensland. That alone should disqualify him from eligibility.

As for the politicians well two former high profile Labor Government ministers are reportedly now consultants to two prominent businessmen and racing identities, one of whom is allegedly working behind the scenes to retain Kevin Dixon as racing’s ‘big chief’.

Sources close to the RQ All Codes Board claim that at a recent meeting involving this high profile politician with RQ Chairman Dixon and his CEO Darren Condon both were given an assurance that their jobs were safe despite the change of Government and the greyhound scandal.

Whilst Condon is generally regarded as having been caught in the crossfire, critics of Dixon say the buck stops with him and have called for the Racing Minister to show ‘no alleged deals have been done’ and either replace him as QACRIB Chairman or stand him down from the job. Many will regard any Review as 'a whitewash' if certain former politicians are involved.

The emails that letsgohorseracing has received in the wake of the ‘greyhound scandal’ and the change of Government send one message clearly to the new Government and Racing Minister – it’s time for some independence in any Review (anything internal is not good enough) and most importantly there is no place any longer in the RQ hierarchy for Dixon and his cronies.

IT was early Sunday morning and the hive of activity at the Deagon bunker didn’t go unnoticed. The jungle drums of the industry were beating loud long before ‘death in the afternoon’ arrived for the first victim of the ‘live baiting’ scandal.

Less than a week after the 4 Corners expose, which Robbie Waterhouse yesterday wrote in the Fairfax Media ‘could see greyhound racing outlawed’, the first sacrificial lamb was sent to the slaughter yards by the All Codes Board of Racing Queensland.

After a hastily convened meeting QACRIB distributed a Media Release advising that the General Manager of Stewarding and Integrity Operations, Wade Birch, had been stood down pending an internal review of the integrity department and its inspection procedures.

QACRIB chairman Kevin Dixon said in the wake of evidence of live-baiting occurring within the greyhound industry, the procedures of the integrity department needed to be addressed.

“Information that has to come to light in the past week suggests there are procedural issues within the integrity area of the business. As Mr Birch is the officer responsible for that department, the board has taken the decision that it is appropriate to stand Mr Birch down while those short-comings are further understood,” Mr Dixon said.

“There is no allegation of improper conduct on Mr Birch’s part, however in the board’s view, it was appropriate he be stood down until the review is completed.

“Racing Queensland will be making appropriate arrangements in the next day to cover the position, with the view to implementing the recommendations of that internal review.”

The Twitter-sphere went ballistic. ‘Wade Birch has just found out how solid his good mate Kevin Dixon is,’ was the instant response from one angry industry stakeholder.

‘Have they found a scapegoat in Birch,” was the comment of another.

‘Why wasn’t the Greyhound Board stood down as well? That happened in NSW. Those blokes must have had a inkling what was going on.’

And finally this little gem: 'Dixon doesn’t care whose head is lopped as long as it isn’t his.'

From an industry and public perspective the standing down of Wade Birch is just a band-aid solution to the problem. Letsgohorseracing understands that the All Codes Chairman had to be urged – some say almost kicking and screaming – into making this decision after a recommendation of such action was made last Thursday.

Just what role the politicians are playing in all of this, who knows?

Here’s hoping the new Racing Minister Bill Byrne only views this as a small step for justice but a big step for animal liberation and the future of the industry – all three codes – in Queensland.

 

RQ WOULD LOVE JIM O'SULLIVAN TO CONDUCT THEIR INDEPENDENT REVIEW INTO GREHOUNDS - THAT CAN'T BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN

BY JOHN LINGARD, Editor, letsgohorseracing

INDUSTRY stakeholders and the racing public are urging new Racing Minister Bill Byrne to extend his independent review into Racing Queensland’s disgusting failure to uncover live baiting which was unearthed by Animal Liberation Queensland.

They want the new Labor Government to also examine the RQ Integrity Department’s handling of the cobalt swab situation and to have RQ Chairman Kevin Dixon questioned over serious allegations doing the rounds about the new TAB deal with Tattersall’s, alleged favoritism to clubs loyal to the current hierarchy and the lack of consultation and information provided from the Deagon bunker.

Byrne has already indicated the likely appointment of senior independent figures to ensure the industry is cleaned up. The greyhound debacle – and failure of RQ to act on information received from Animal Liberation Queensland and the RSPCA – is just the tip of the iceberg with the problems confronting the industry.

Much of this has occurred under the watch of RQ Chairman Kevin Dixon who needs to be exposed to extensive questioning at an independent review and questions need to be asked as well of his association with former Treasurer Tim Nicholls, former Racing Minister Steve Dickson and the LNP Government despite claims by Dixon that he is a-political.

Anger is growing at suggestions by RQ that they will provide $1.5 million of industry funds for Integrity Commissioner Jim O’Sullivan to investigate the ‘live baiting’ controversy. Those close to the action have been quick to point out that Jim O’Sullivan was on the selection panel that put the current Greyhound Board in place and say there would be a major conflict of interest for him to determine their future. A similar Board in NSW has been stood down, the one in Victoria will soon be stood down (if media reports are correct) but in Queensland we sit on our hands. Questions should be asked of Greyhound Board members, like Steve Hawkins (a close friend of Kevin Dixon and major greyhound owner-breeder) whether they were aware of the live baiting allegations and what they did about it.

Jim O’Sullivan is not the one to investigate the greyhound debacle. There needs to be an independent person brought it. Barry Taylor is a lawyer with a racing background, who served on the Racing Queensland Board before resigning in protest over the lack of consultation on the TAB deal. He has no ties with greyhound racing and would ensure the sport was cleaned up and those responsible for this mess shown the door.  

Heads need to roll – not only over the greyhound debacle but many other things that have occurred since Dixon took over three years ago. Forget about the positive slant his mates in the media put on everything he does. Those pedaling that propaganda now want to be part of bagging the crap out of greyhound racing. They were the ones who should have been doing their jobs and investigating these allegations long ago – not leaving it to an ‘angel of mercy’ – a young woman from Animal Liberation Queensland to expose what everyone knew was happening. That was Hayley Cotton - pictured above right in the Gold Coast Bulletin.

Nathan Exelby the Racing Editor of The Courier-Mail is playing catch up with his colleague Brad Davidson of the Gold Coast Bulletin. If you want to read the great inbalance in reporting – log on to News Limited and read reports from both. It was Davidson who revealed the plans by the Minister to have an independent review. Not only did Exelby miss that one – for some reason – but when he followed it up a day later it was the last paragraph of his story and he was quick to add that the Minister would not speculate on the future of RQ officials – many of whom everyone knows are his mates.

As Brad Davidson correctly reported in the Gold Coast Bulletin:

SPECULATION has been rife in recent weeks that Dixon’s position at RQ could be in jeopardy due to his alleged ties to the former government and the controversy surrounding the live baiting issue won’t help his cause.

Bill Byrne is no dill but has been handed a poison chalice. He needs to dodge the Dixon coat-tuggers and show the RQ Chairman (pictured above left by the Gold Coast Bulletin) the door sooner rather than later. Dixon supportes have already gone into over-drive to protect ‘little King Kev’ spearheaded by the club chairman who benefited most from the decision-making of his hierarchy.

Animal Liberation Australia has outlined five important things that have happened since the ABC 4 Corners expose was aired. They include:

  • 100,000 people signing a protest petition.
  • Dozens of trainers being suspended.
  • The industry's prestigious awards nights being cancelled.
  • The entire board of Greyhound Racing NSW being stood down.
  • Sponsors backing out.

And critically, thousands of animals will now be spared from the most terrifying ordeal imaginable. Pressure is mounting on the future of greyhound racing. Regardless of what happens this is a disaster of ‘Fine Cotton’ proportions for this so-called sport.

If Queensland doesn't act quickly confidence not only in greyhound racing but the administration and integrity of the three codes will be lost forever. It's time for a change at the top Mr Minister.

 

NEW RACING MINISTER SHOULD SEND AN EARLY MESSAGE TO RQ AND SACK WADE BIRCH

by LGHR Editor JOHN LINGARD

BILL BYRNE, in his fledgling days as Racing Minister, would win a lot of friends inside and outside the industry if he put the broom through the Integrity Section of Racing Queensland.

Byrne has flagged possible changes to the policing of the racing industry in the wake of the greyhound live baiting scandal but here’s hoping he goes the whole hog and starts by sacking the RQ general manager of stewarding and integrity Wade Birch.

The buck has to stop somewhere in this sordid ordeal and the more revelations about RQ not doing their job when told of these problems months ago suggest that the new Minister should also consider appointing a new Chairman of Racing Queensland.

It took a group of Animal Liberationists, the RSPCA and the 4 Corners expose to show up the inadequacies of the integrity units in three states but the situation in Queensland is especially alarming when it is considered that RQ was apparently made aware of ‘live baiting’ in October but allegedly did nothing about it.

Gold Coast-based Brad Davidson is one of the few News Limited racing scribes with the balls to objectively criticize RQ while his colleague Nathan Exelby, the Turf Editor of The Courier-Mail, is seen by many in the industry as too busy promoting his mate the RQ Chairman Kevin Dixon.

Davidson tweeted on the dog scandal:

POOR effort by RQ to wipe their hands of this mess – a full inquiry is needed.

RQ received email with concerns about live baiting last October – blamed admin error for no action.

There are alarming reports that a letter from the RSPCA warning RQ and its Integrity Department of the increasing usage of ‘live baiting’ at training tracks in Queensland was ‘lost in the mail’.

Then we have the situation of the bungled inquiry involving a high profile trainer with a Media Release stating:

Racing Queensland stewards have confirmed they interviewed Mr Reg Kay this afternoon in relation to comments attributed to him regarding his attendance at a property near Ipswich last week prior to a joint QPS/RSPCA operation.

At this stage, stewards have found no evidence to support that Mr Kay engaged in the alleged conduct for which seven licensed trainers were stood down this week.

Accordingly, no further action has been taken at this time.

Two days later and RQ issued another Media Release advising that seven greyhound trainers had been issued with show cause notices of why they should not be banned for life. It followed the airing of the 4 Corners program showing individuals involved in alleged ‘live baiting’. Heading the show cause list was Reg Kay.

This is a blunder of monumental proportions by the Integrity Department of RQ and heads should roll over it. The buck stops with Wade Birch but more importantly with Chairman Kevin Dixon. Both should be sacked by the Minister.

Worse is yet to come. Letsgohorseracing has received allegations of a greyhound being clubbed to death by a trainer for failing to perform, of the owner being provided with another dog to ensure her silence after a high profile vet resigned and reportedly took his concerns to the RSPCA and of RQ being advised but allegedly taking no action (at this stage) on this issue. If these allegations are correct this is what some would call another cover up of mammoth proportions.   

Since the 4 Corners program was aired of course we have had politicians and administrators on the front foot. RQ has suspended 13 trainers, including seven who have been asked to ‘show cause’ when they should be warned off for life. Close to 100 greyhounds and pups have been impounded.

Under the present legislation, Racing Queensland is responsible for both the administration of all three codes, in addition to overseeing racing integrity. That means the same body that promotes the industry, also polices it.

The simple separation of the two bodies will not overcome the problems of the past unless some high profile stewards are brought in to take control. The Racing Minister should order a nationwide search for a new Chief Steward and Integrity Manager. Policing of all three codes should then be taken out of the province of RQ. In the case of the Racing Integrity Commissioner many beieve he should either eliminate the position or appoint someone who can prove to stakeholders and punters that he or she is prepared to do the hard yards. Many believe that has not been the case with former Police Commissioner Jim O’Sullivan and question what he has achieved since being appointed.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has described the live baiting scandal as ‘very serious’ and said she was in talks with her Racing Minister about the issue. “It has been absolutely horrific what we have seen, what has been carried out in the greyhound industry,’’ she said.

She should take it a step further. At the least what is needed is a new Head of Stewarding and Integrity and a new Chairman of Racing Queensland. If they want to stop short of sacking those who many believe should have been more proactive then leave them there but put someone else above them who will win back industry and public confidence.

While all this is going on we have one of Kevin Dixon’s greatest supporters canvassing club chairmen to take a deputation to the Racing Minister telling him they are happy with the job the boss of the control body is doing.

Most regard this as finger down the throat stuff with the ‘cowboy’ heading the posse of support simply trying to repay the current RQ hierarchy for the overwhelming support his club has received at the expense of others (some saw it as LNP political pork-barrelling but we all know the RQ Chairman is a-political, so it wouldn't have been that).

Fortunately there are some race club chairmen out there who don’t share the cowboy's views and in fact want to see the back of Kevin Dixon after only three years. They want the Racing Minister to act now – not in a few months time when it is more likely.

The pressure has only just started to mount and 'little King Kev' shouldn't be feeling too safe despite walking away from his first meeting with the new Racing Minister as his supporters would say 'unscathed'.  

 

MESSAGE TO MERGER MASTERMIND: ‘BLISTERS ONLY APPEAR WHEN THE HARD WORK IS DONE’

FORMER RQ Chairman, BOB BENTLEY, is becoming a regular contributor to the Whinge (he would hardly get a run with the media mates of Kevin Dixon) and we welcome his views. As usual if the RQ Chairman wishes to respond, we would welcome a reply, but expect as usual that he will ignore any form of constructive criticism in the hope that it will go away. Unfortunately for him, there has been a change of Government and these comments aren’t going to simply be ignored by those above him as has happened in the past couple of years.   

‘I noted a letter in the last Wednesday Whinge which made claim to Kevin Dixon doing a good job in merging the QTC/BTC to form the Brisbane Racing Club. What absolute tripe!

While the writer may have felt he was telling the truth the reality is that the Dixon PR machine has continually promoted Dixon as the father of the merger.

Furthermore, when the merger misnomer is peddled by certain media friends of Dixon, he does not man up and is happy to take the credit.

Can we once and for all get the history right and acknowledge those who were the real workers in driving the merger of the BTC/QTC?

In January 2005 Rob Schwarten (then Racing Minister) appointed Kevin Dixon to drive the merger of the BTC/QTC and the Government provided funds in excess of $5mn to cover expenses and consultancy fees.

 The industry remains unaware of how these funds were disbursed or who were the recipients.

 Was Kevin Dixon paid for his services as it has never been disclosed?

 By June 2006, the BTC Board walked away from any further merger discussions. Any fair thinking person would mark that down as a failure to complete the task allocated to Kevin Dixon.
In the third quarter of 2007 Wayne Purchase, Paul Williams and the late Randy Pascual were appointed to the BTC Board under the chairmanship of Ms Mary Collier. A vote to merge was put to members of the BTC in November 2007. The membership voted against the merger.

In protest (and by agreement) Purchase and Williams resigned from the BTC Board.

December 2007 saw a member ballot for the two vacant Board positions undertaken which resulted in Wayne Milner and Ms Kerrina King being appointed to the Board.

Interestingly, the ‘father of the merger’, Kevin Dixon, was invisible and not to the forefront in nominating for a Board position.

During January 2008 negotiations by Milner with the existing members of the BTC Board, saw Collier, Cannon, Ryan, Johnson and Milligan resign. At this stage Wayne Milner was installed as interim Chairman of the Brisbane Turf Club.

In March 2008, following a member vote, Purchase, Williams, Tinniswood, Tighe and Dixon were elected to the BTC Board. 

Immediately following this Wayne Milner was reconfirmed as Chairman of the Brisbane Turf Club and led this team to a successful ‘YES’ vote to merge with the QTC in August 2008.

You would note that Kevin Dixon appeared to slip away between June 2005 and early 2008 when a number of hard working BTC members were driving the plan to merge the BTC/QTC and only reappeared when all the hard slog had been completed.

His actions remind one of the stage play: ‘The Best Little Whore House in Texas’, and the song, ‘Oh I Like to Side Step. Now You See Me, Now You Don’t’.’


NEW GOALS FOR LETSGOHORSERACING WEBSITE

THE aim of LETSGOHORSERACING when first established was a non-profit website designed to be different to the hundreds of other racing websites operating throughout the world. Nothing has changed on that front except that our emphasis has been on feedback. We listened to what you wanted and learned that racing stakeholders, punters and followers were keen to HAVE THEIR SAY. This was reflected in the response to the WEDNESDAY WHINGE which has seen the popularity of this web site (through hits) soar to incredible heights. It has also drawn detractors from within the industry - especially in Queensland - from officials who aren't used to having the job they do put under the microscope which has rarely happened for many years in the mainstream racing media. Websites like ours and justracing have got up the nose of officials at RQ and will continue to do so. Despite legal intimidation which we are told is aimed at closing us down or intimidating us into refusing to follow up controversial issues letsgohorseracing and the Wednesday Whinge are here to stay. But that means increasing costs to fight these legal threats, improve the quality of our website and to overcome that we are now accepting advertising and have decided to pursue a LETSHORSEHORSERACING LATE MAIL SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE. It's unique, it's different, it's affordable. YOU CAN SUBSCRIBE NOW.

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'SILKS AND SADDLES' with TERRY BUTTS 

SILKS & SADDLES is a popular weekly column written by respected racing writer TERRY BUTTS that we run courtesy of one of Australia’s leading rural newspapers, the NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER. Butts is an old-style racing journalist who shoots from the hip and takes no prisoners. He resents the 'suck-up and survive' mentality of some of the new breed of racing journalists in the print and broadcast media. 

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