Friday, March 02, 2007

Times, News still ignore the AY financials

Journalistic neglect of the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) sketchy release of Atlantic Yards financials matters, and here's why: the ESDC needs reform.

A supporter of the Atlantic Yards project recently offered a backhanded criticism of the ESDC under the predecessor administration of Chairman Charles Gargano, appointed by Gov. George Pataki, for whom he served as chief fundraiser.

The Real Deal, in its March issue, reported:
"The primary point is that the Spitzer administration is going to be proactive rather than reactive to developer-driven deals," said Kathryn Wylde, president of Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit group of business leaders.

So if we're concerned about developer-driven deals, shouldn't we take a careful look at the Atlantic Yards project? Well, Assemblyman Jim Brennan had to go to court to get the ESDC to release financial documents regarding the project, and he declared the three pages inadequate.

Times/News whiff

That would seem to be news, at least as important as, say, developer Bruce Ratner's pronouncements of affection for Nets stars Jason Kidd and Vince Carter. (Yeah, I know, the Sports desk isn't the Metro desk.)

Indeed, yesterday, the New York Sun covered the bases on the ESDC's release of Forest City's cash flow projections. The New York Post covered it irresponsibly, failing to get a comment from any outside analyst or advocate, much less Brennan, and misleadingly proclaiming an "exclusive." The New York Times and the New York Daily News passed on the story, and do so again today.

Journalists like to be first. Sometimes they think that, if another news outlet already has the story, they're embarrassing themselves by reporting it late. And in the well-linked information universe in which reporters are immersed, it may seem like this topic has gone through much discussion.

However, the public consumes information differently. Many people only read the Times, or the Daily News. So if the story doesn't appear, it doesn't exist.

(In its daily roundup yesterday, the New York Observer's blog The Real Estate mentioned only the inadequate Post story, not the more thorough Sun article. Brownstoner got it, calling the "lack of coverage and analysis... pretty astounding.")

Following up

And there are ways to transcend that putative embarassment. The "second-day lead" means the news outlet can reframe the story or add some analysis or reaction, thus making it seem fresher.

Now, it seems, we're waiting for a "third-day lead" from the Paper of Record and the largest circulating daily newspaper in Brooklyn. (We're also waiting for news of the planned demolitions.)

That, simply, is brutally weird.

Post follow-up

The Post today offered a somewhat cryptic follow-up, quoting no source by name, in its article based on a Forest City Ratner press release about planned demolitions:
New financial projections for the development, published by The Post yesterday, raise more questions than answers about the massive plan, critics say.

A Post analysis of the documents found that Ratner and smaller investors stand to make close to $700 million in profits by 2015 should the developer ever decide to sell the arena and residential and office space slated to be built.

But sources familiar with Ratner's financing told The Post yesterday that he is taking a big risk - putting up $1.2 billion in equity - although he obviously believes that Atlantic Yards is a sound long-term investment.


Actually, we don't know how much of a risk Ratner's putting up.

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