Thursday, June 18, 2009

Star Swallows CIB Spin, Public Not Convinced

While teaching at IUPUI a number of years ago, I taught a class on how politicians and elected officials use the media. One of the class topics was the "Art of Spin," how politicians try to shape not only public perception but how they try to influence reporters in how they cover their story. Good reporters are vigilant about not buying into the spin and giving people the facts.

For most of the past year, the City and the CIB have been in spin mode. They tell us that the need for a CIB bailout, including tax increases, has nothing to do with sports, and is instead about protecting the convention/hospitality business. They talk about how tax increases that hit hard the hospitality industry for the bailout are needed to protect jobs in the hospitality industry.

Usually the general public is easier to spin than reporters who are supposed to be viewing things with a more critical eye. The CIB bailout saga is an example of the opposite. While the public ain't buying the CIB spin one bit, reporters have started to incorporate the spin in their stories and editorials.

Today's example comes from the Indianapolis Star. The Star's staff editorial criticizes the Mayor for waffling on which plan he supports to bail out the Capital Improvement Board. While it is valid criticism, what I find interesting is how the editorial reflects that the Star has completely bought the CIB spin. Let's examine some quotes from the editorial:

"A decision by the House Democratic leadership to kill off a rescue package for the Indianapolis' troubled Capital Improvement Board is disappointing."

"Rescue package?" The Star reporters and editorials have all started to call the plan a "rescue" instead of a "bailout." If you look back at the early stories on CIB problems they all referred to it as a "bailout." The City/CIB spinsters knew that "bailout," especially today, has a negative connotation. So they worked to get reporters to use "rescue" instead. Who doesn't want to "rescue" something? Amazingly, reporters, in particular those of the Indianapolis Star, completely bought the spin and started substituting "rescue" for "bailout" in their stories. Given its nearly almost uniform usage now, I would not be surprised if there was at some point a staff meeting where the reporters were told to use "rescue" instead of "bailout."

"Worse, if not reversed, the move would seriously jeopardize the strength of the city's convention and tourism industry, the source of tens of thousands of jobs in Central Indiana."

The Mayor and the CIB have been spinning this nonsense all along and they found a taker when it comes to the Indianapolis Star. First, of all the 66,000 hospitality job figure the administration keeps citing are hospitality jobs in the Central Indiana area. Many of the jobs aren't even in Marion County. Probably only a small fraction of that amount have jobs related to the downtown convention business.

Second, how exactly does the proposal to raise taxes that hits hard the convention and tourism industry, giving us the highest or nearly highest hospitality taxes in the country, a move that is going to protect convention and tourism jobs? Again, people aren't buying it. But the Indianapolis Star is.

"Two weeks ago, the mayor stood with Gov. Mitch Daniels at a press conference and hailed a fresh proposal to erase the CIB's projected $47 million [deficit] through a mix of spending cuts and targeted tax increases."

Reporters, television and newspapers, keep repeating the lie about the $47 million deficit. That includes a $15 million gift to the Pacers, in the form of the CIB picking up the organization's operating costs to run a building on which the Pacers get 100% of the revenue. But the CIB has never taken a vote to pick up this $15 million which couldn't have happened until this Fall anyway when the Pacers reach their 10 year anniversary on their Conseco Fieldhouse contract. Rather the City and the CIB simply went about including the $15 million whenever they mentioned deficit. Instead of being more discerning, reporters started simply repeating the $47 million number as the deficit figure. The spin by the CIB was deliberate. They knew the Pacers $15 million gift would not fly as a separate item. So the CIB strategists decided to just start lumping it into the deficit. The newspapers bought it. The public did not.

If the Star wants a good CIB topic for an editorial, the editors might try a very easy one: Come out against giving the Simons brothers, the billionaire owners of the Pacers, $15 million more of our tax money while the CIB is, allegedly, already in the hole $32 million dollars.


jabberdoodle said...

To my recollection, the editorial board has been consistently in favor of the entire $47M 'rescue of the hospitality industry through the honorable efforts of the CIB'. (Ugh!)
Even when their sports and city beat reporters were decidedly against or neutral, respectively, on the bailout.
What crosses my mind is that the Star is one of that 'group of civic minded' entities that loaned the CIB money a couple of times and whose bill comes due in 2013. No bailout now, no bailout then is my guess. Gannett hasn't shown itself to be more interested in honest newsgathering than it is in the bottom line.

Downtown Indy said...

Googling for "indystar cib rescue" and "indystar cib bailout" seems to show the metamorphosis started in April. Wasn't that about the time the first big (publicized) CIB board meeting on the subject took place?

Centuries ago, news passed from person to person. As the population grew, 'media' came to be because that was an efficient way to disseminate the information more widely.

As we have seen in Iran this week, the people can once again pass news person to person efficiently without that intermediary filtering it (although the Iranian govt is certainly trying to do so).

This is good.

Paul K. Ogden said...


You bring up a good point. The Indystar has gotten itself involved in these projects loaning money. It really compromised their objectivity.

Flipper said...

Paul, I just sent this message to our wonderful crooked politician Bill Crawford


Bill Crawford

How can all you Crooks sit in your fancy offices and continually screw us taxpayers, especially you Bill Crawford. Last year you killed fire consolidation to protect your crooked Center Township bunch. This year you want to bring in a budget with lots of political pork in it. Hopefully you and the rest of your bandits will not be re-elected when you run again. The taxpayers are real tired of all your shit and we will clean up government next election.
Tim Dugan

Oh!, when you leave office don't forget to take Pat Bauer ( you know the guy with the critter on his head ) with you.
You are all a disappointment to the United States of America.

All Bloggers. Be sure and send the crooks a message at the above e-mail address. Not sure they can read. but WTF

I know said...

You all keep forgetting the CIB current assistance package will be brought back on the table next year to prepare for the needed up front funds for the SUPER BOWL.

As VP Biden would say, "Folks, this is only the beginning on a long road to recovery." Recovery of all the tax dollars the CIB can get to fatten the little piggies at the table.

You can't have a CIB with no travel and entertainment money for 2011 to get ready now can we.

Installment #1 in the Special Session of three to be the total. Ask around.

As Mitch would say, "Wake up fellow Hoosiers"

Jon said...

And the beat goes on. Still on the CIB plate; additional VIP parking for the Colts, cost overruns on the new convention center, additional operating expenses on the new convention center, practice facilities for the Superbowl and probably a few I've forgot.
If anyone in Indy thinks giving the CIB 47 million dollars is a long term fix for their woes I've got a bridge in Brooklyn with their name on it.

Unigov said...

The Star - not that fab a paper to begin with - ceased to be a real newspaper when Gannett bought them out.

They've supported every cockamamie (sp?) scheme since then.

Star's Ketzenberger called today for the government to invest $500 million in an electric car company.