Commentary: New Chief

Commentary: New Chief
Photo: File Photo
Stacy Bearse President and CEO

It is my privilege to introduce Dan Liebman as the editor-in-chief of The Blood-Horse. Dan is the sixth chief editor in the long history of this publication.

Now in his 15th year of service at Blood-Horse Publications, Dan brings a wealth of experience to his new position. He began his Turf-writing career in 1984, joining the editorial staff of Daily Racing Form. There, he pursued a variety of assignments and had the opportunity to work closely with the paper’s longtime Kentucky bureau chief Logan Bailey. Dan assumed responsibility for the paper’s “Bloodlines” column upon the retirement of legendary Turf writer Leon Rasmussen. He left DRF to join the start-up team of Robert Maxwell’s Racing Times in 1991 and joined Blood-Horse Publications as research director in 1993.

Dan earned the title of executive editor of The Blood-Horse in 1998. In this position he was largely responsible for the content of the magazine as well as its Web site and ancillary publications. Since then, he has held leadership positions with the National Turf Writers Association, taught a journalism class at the University of Kentucky, where he sits on the School of Journalism and Telecommunications advisory board, and developed an amazing network of global contacts.

What challenges does Dan face as chief editor? They are not as simple as they used to be. Yes, he must continue to cultivate and expand the readership of The Blood-Horse magazine. And, he will be expected to be a responsible, well-informed spokesperson for the industry, as well as for The Blood-Horse brand. However, other critical aspects of the editor’s role have transformed significantly in recent years. A decade ago, success of an editor relied on a fat Rolodex, a creative mind, and the ability to turn an eloquent phrase. Impeccable writing skills, peer respect, industry contacts, and an in-bred sense of journalism are still required for the position, but these prerequisites are just a starting point.

Today’s chief editor is, in essence, a brand manager who must figure out how to preserve yesterday’s quality and tradition, while leveraging these strengths to develop new content platforms. As an example, consider our popular Stallion Register. The original Register was published more than 35 years ago as a three-ring binder stuffed with sire data sheets. The binder has transformed into a fat reference volume published each November. Several years ago, the pages from the Stallion Register were posted to a Web site in PDF format. A few years later, the static PDF pages were complemented by an active Web site driven by a powerful data base. The result was a continuously updated research tool, with interactive features such as video and hypothetical mating analysis. And, we are not done yet. Next month, online Stallion Register users will gain access to a handy sire comparison tool.

This type of transformation just doesn’t happen. It takes the knowledge, imagination, and leadership of a savvy editor. The chief editor is a change-agent, leader, and visionary who must understand what lies beyond the horizon. The core responsibility of the editor is to develop a strong sense of where our market and audience will be in the near-term future, and position our products accordingly.

Obviously, the editor cannot transform a brand alone. It’s a team effort, and here is where Dan is truly blessed. In his new position, he is surrounded and supported by a very skilled and multi-talented staff. He will oversee the contributions of researchers, fact-checkers, photographers, writers, editors, art directors, and layout artists required for our print publications. Also on his team are the Web producers, digital artists, videographers, programmers, and other specialists required for top-notch digital publications.

The last time I named a new chief editor—approximately 15 years ago—e-mail and digital publishing were arcane concepts; in 1991, the Web was in the process of being rolled out by CERN, a French-Swiss think tank. Today, they are facts of life. Please join me in wishing Dan success. Between the revolution in publishing and the explosion of key issues within the Thoroughbred industry, his days are bound to be exciting.

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