Sunday, January 08, 2012

Horse-race coverage of sports, politics, and business--and an egregious AY example

From a 1/3/12 column by Reuters media columnist Jack Shafer, Presidential campaigns, sports writing, and the fine art of pretending:
The jobs of political reporters and sports writers are almost identical: Determine who is ahead and who is behind; get inside the heads of the participants; decode the relevant strategies and tactics; and find a way to convert reader interest into sustainable enthusiasm.
And that extends also to business:
[Washington Post reporter Paul] Farhi, who has reported on business, sports, politics, and the media, says business coverage also obsesses on winners and numbers. “Maybe all journalism is about success and failure, and we see it more clearly in sports,” he said.
And, I'd argue, that misses meaning.

The Times on AY

Remember the New York Times's horse-race analysis in the 6/9/05 article headlined Unlike Stadium on West Side, an Arena in Brooklyn Is Still a Go?
While the Brooklyn plan still has hurdles, its progress so far is providing an object lesson in how to navigate big projects through the often treacherous and choppy waters of New York state and city politics. In the Brooklyn project, backers have aggressively courted the local community since the project's inception, trying to placate those who could be its most aggressive foes. Perhaps most important, they have reached out to Mr. [Assembly Speaker Sheldon] Silver.
(Emphasis added)

Object lesson? Not anymore. Nor for a long while.

The differences

There wee two huge differences, one, as noted by the Times, the support from Silver, who, notably, did not consider Atlantic Yards a threat to his Lower Manhattan constituency (and ultimately was further placated with a shift in plans from office space to housing).

The other:
But opponents say all of this ignores this crucial advantage that Forest City Ratner had over the Jets: It did not have to face an opponent such as Cablevision, the owner of Madison Square Garden, which has money to wage such a battle. Cablevision was less threatened by competition in the form of a competing site in Brooklyn than it was by one a few blocks away in Manhattan.
The role of the Times

Without advertising to report on, as newspapers like to do, apparently the Times didn't see its role as actually analyzing the claims and providing a counterweight to the Forest City Ratner's aggressive courting of the local community--actually, some very selected segments.

Note this quote:
"It's when Ratner agreed to the housing that opportunity turned to support in low-income and working-class parts of the area," said Dan Cantor, executive director of the Working Families Party, which derives its support largely from housing and labor groups and has its headquarters in Brooklyn.
And what has the Working Families Party said about Ratner's recent comment that "existing incentives" don't work for high-rise, union-built affordable housing?

Nada.

What has the Times said?

Nada.

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