Yesterday, Dave Helling took a little bit of a shot at me on the Star's Prime Buzz. I don't mind the shot. If I put my info out there, I open myself up to criticism. What concerns me is that Helling has once again shown that as a Star reporter, he seems more interested in skewing people to his viewpoint than actually reporting actual information to the public. Sure, Prime Buzz is a blog of sorts, but the misleading numbers is really concerning because I don't tihnk it is isolated solely to what is reported online.
Yesterday, Helling posted on Prime Buzz:
...the blogosphere is lamenting, again, the voters' decision to rehab Kauffman Stadium for $250 million, rather than build a new ballpark downtown.
For the record: Washington's new stadium -- which is not downtown, by the way -- opened last night.
Cost to taxpayers? $611 million.
A couple of key points that I want to bring up regarding Helling's numbers.
1) Kansas City is spending $300 million on renovating Kaufman Stadium. Helling's number only reflects the $250 million the taxpayers are paying for the renovations, not the full dollar amount being paid. Because Washington DC didn't have a team prior to their vote, and the Nationals (then Expos) didn't have a team owner, there was no team owner to offset the costs.
2) As Helling likely knows (and if he doesn't, he certainly should), the cost of building the stadium is only a small cost of the overall stadium project. The $611 million price tag included $41 million for an underground parking structure, $20 million to upgrade the Metro Station near the stadium, $12 million in infastructure improvements and $65 million in the costs of buying the land. Many of these infastructure costs would have been unneccessary in our downtown and land costs in KCMO are certainly less expensive than they are in our nation's capital. The cost for the actual hard costs of building the stadium were only estimated at $244 million -- less than the amount of money the taxpayers in Jackson County are paying for mere upgrades.
Of course Helling prefers to use the really high number because it is supportive of his stance during the stadium tax debate that Jackson County couldn't afford a new stadium downtown that would actually have a postivite economic impact for the downtown area.
I single out Helling here, because of this example, but the problem is much larger than that. The quality of new journalism has been on a steady decline in this country for over a decade. According to a recent survey, 67% of Americans feel like traditional journalism has lost touch with what Americans want from their news. Now, 48% of respondents say their primary source of information is from the Internet, while 29% use TV news (which is very scary) and 10% turn to newspapers as their primary news source.
This trend alone has led readers to flee newspapers, and thus, newspapers to lose advertisers. The newspaper industry suffered 9.4% revenue declines in 2007, and McClatchy (the Star's owners) suffered 20% declines in January and February this year.
Much of this is because people have gotten tired of the lazy journalism...the kind that would quote a $611 million figure as if it translated to the costs in Kansas City. The kind that would purposefully mislead the public to prove a particular viewpoint.
The citizens in Kansas City deserve better than what the Star is delivering...either through the newspaper, or through their online products. I'm not concerned about Helling disagreeing with my opinion, my concern is the apparently blatant attempt to mislead readers with the numbers he's using.
In order for Kansas Citians to make informed decisions - -on legislation, city council elections, etc, it is imperative that we have access to accurate, complete and not purposefully misleading information. My fear is that we are unable to get that now...