Amidst driving rain, flooding, delays, and great racing at Road Atlanta’s round two of the 2015 season, we had a short chat with MotoAmerica’s Communications Manager, Paul Carruthers. If you’re unfamiliar with Carruthers, his credentials make him the perfect fit for his job. Carruthers grew up on the racetrack. He’s the son of Kel Carruthers, a 250 Grand Prix World Champion who also won the Isle of Man and was manager of the team that brought Kenny Roberts to his world championships. Where Kel worked, Paul played as a child.
As an adult, Paul was editor of Cycle News for 30 years. The grind of that weekly easily made him the hardest working journalist in the motorcycle industry for three generations. There’s barely a masthead at any publication that doesn’t include editors who learned their trade under the guidance of Carruthers. Yes, even this scribe spent some time in the Cycle News offices, though likely less than any other.
Many journalists have had the opportunity to witness and challenge Paul’s motorcycling abilities on racetracks at motorcycle introductions. There’s an agreement that he’s the most gifted rider in the profession of scribes. If he’d cared less about writing and more about riding, who knows where his career would have gone.
Now Carruthers has gone to the other side, managing the message for MotoAmerica, the new series sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, and co-owned by multi-time World Grand Prix Champion Wayne Rainey.
Cycle World: What do you now do?
Paul Carruthers: I search out media. If I can get an interview in a local paper—like we did with Richard Varner, one of the four MotoAmerica partners, that ran in Austin, in the Saturday edition—that’s me doing my job. I help make that happen. I do all of those things that we can do in advance to help us sell tickets. Here’s the thing: Anytime something’s gone, people aren’t accustomed to expecting it any longer.
At Road America people expect the event. It’s that last weekend in May, it’s pretty established. Whether it’s DMG [Daytona Motorsports Group], or who was before them, it’s established. So an event like this one at Road Atlanta, we have to let people know that it’s back. This year the weather’s not helping us. Next year it will get better. Once it’s consistent on the calendar it will build.
Family Events of Bonnier, is helping, us. [Disclosure: Cycle World is owned by Bonnier.] They do a lot of the dirt-track stuff for DMG, the Indy Mile, stuff like that. So they’re pretty good on the local level: posters, place cards, going to the local dealers, working with the local media.
We have media at each event on Thursday. Chris Ulrich on the two-seater bike is great with that. You bring in someone from the local radio station and scare the sh*t out of him and he’s going to talk about it. Same with the newspaper. They get to learn what it’s about. It gives them something to talk about.
Having that is golden. So, we’re always going to have that on media day. Chris does it for his sponsors, for GEICO. He’s just helping us out. It’s great they’re doing that.
CW: Because of your years of reporting about races, do you find yourself thinking like a journalist at the events?
PC: At the end of the day I do a press release. That’s each day, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, after qualifying and after the races. It fuels my competitiveness. I try to do it really well, do it really fast, and I try to have good photos. That puts me back in my comfort zone. So I’m glad to have that. It’s what I’m used to—sitting down and trying to write a good story, something that I can be proud of. It kind of feeds me. Do those work better than your normal press releases? I don’t know, but it makes me feel better about myself.
One big difference between doing this and Cycle News is, when I was here doing my race reports I only had to answer to myself and produce for myself. If I put something off until later in the evening, only I knew or cared about it. Now I need to produce for everyone with media needs or questions all day long as quickly as possible.
CW: How long have you known Wayne [Rainey]?
PC: I’ve known Wayne since 1983, I think. About when he started racing the AMA nationals. I started at Cycle News in 1985, so then I was covering him at the races.
CW: How long have you been at the racetrack?
PC: I’ve been at the racetrack since birth. My father was racing in Australia at the time, so the whole family was there with him. We moved to Europe when I was five. We were there from 1966 to 1971, throughout his racing career there.
Kenny [Roberts] went to Europe in 1978, and I was in school here then, so I went there for the summer. I was 16 or 17 and traveled with them in the motorhome. We also did stuff here in the States with my dad. My dad raced here in ’71, here at Road Atlanta. He did the double here, winning both the main race and the 250 race. So that’s really cool—44 years ago. Think about that: I was here 44 years ago. So, once we left Europe, my father raced some in the AMA, and we were here then.
CW: How do you feel about this position now that you’ve been through a couple events?
PC: I was excited to take this job. I enjoy it. It’s a nice change and I needed the change. I was at Cycle News for 30 years. I needed something else. Not like becoming a fireman, or anything like that, just a change. So this is great.
CW: How has being a moto-journalist changed in 30 years?
PC: Part of journalism has lost its soul because of the Internet. I call it churn-alism. You get a press release and many Internet sites don’t even change it, or investigate it; they just post it, churn it out. I told my staff, “Look, unless they go into the press-release section of the website, they need to be edited, changed, you need to call who sent it and learn more. Don’t just regurgitate it.”
Gone are the days when you learned something, you’d call someone, you’d get a scoop. Now it’s, “Oh no, we can’t talk about it. The press release will be out later today.” So the initiative to work harder than the other guy has been sucked out of it. There’s still good journalism out there, don’t get me wrong.
CW: What are your thoughts about social media?
PC: The social media stuff is incredible. The way you can link people to stories is great. It’s so valuable. It’s so great how you can spread the word with it. All of the guys in the paddock use it. You used to have to pay money to get people’s attention about these things. Now people are shown a link, read a story, get sucked into it, and you can get them hooked.
CW: What about live-streaming online?
PC: My life changed yesterday morning when we were able to sign the deal for live streaming. Our biggest complaint so far was from all of those who want to see the race live. They don’t want to wait for a delayed broadcast on CBS Sports. But with CBS Sports we can get casual viewers. Maybe a guy in a bar is watching a game and then our program comes on. You get new fans that way.
But the hardcore fan wants it live. It was important to get that and it came together after the 11th hour. I’m that guy, I watch MotoGP online, World Superbike. And with the shows a week delayed we can make that more feature-based, about teams, riders, something special.
CW: How has your new job changed your life?
PC: I’m enjoying this job. I like communicating. I feel like I’m being paid to be myself. The biggest thing I’m going to miss about being a journalist is the bike intros—being in a nice place, at a great track, riding a nice bike with your buddies.