Is the Media Pro Big Government?

I have never really liked to wallow much in the accusation and counter-accusations of media bias.  But I am coming around to the hypothesis that the media is neither liberal or conservative but has a big government bias.  Recently, as in this article, the Arizona Republic (our daily paper) has been going after the Goldwater Institute for opposing what amounts to a $200 million subsidy to a buyer of our hockey team.

The short story is that after the city of Glendale blew a bunch of money for a hockey stadium in the desert, it turns out hockey is not very popular here (surprise).  So the team went bankrupt, and threatened to move.  To keep it from moving, the city of Glendale wants to throw more good money after bad and subsidize the new buyer.   Goldwater is challenging the subsidy as illegal under AZ law.

As I noted in the previous article, third parties value the Coyotes at $117 million.  So with this new bond issue, they will have run up $380 million in debt to keep a $117 million asset in town.  Further, they will have basically paid the entire purchase price of the team (and more) without getting a drop of equity in return.  All they get is the right to charge for parking around the arena, which is currently free.  This at first makes some sense (though the value of the concession is never mentioned) but in fact it is ludicrous as well.  The entire reason for the subsidy, supposedly, is to protect the mall/apartment/office complex around the stadium that the city cut sweetheart deals with developers to make happen.  So now they are going to charge for parking -- what is going to happen to all those businesses they supposedly are doing this for when their customer's parking is not longer free?

Anyway, the Republic editorialized against Goldwater on Sunday (in an editorial titled "Back off, Goldwater Institute") saying that they were hurting taxpayers because if the new bond issue and team sale fails, then there won't be any revenue to pay the old bond issue.  Its hard to figure how this is any different from doubling down at the roulette table in hopes of making back one's past losses.  And, Goldwater opposed the first bond issue too.

Now, the Republic has editorialized again, this time in a nominally news article.  They argue that by pointing out the potential illegality of the subsidy, Goldwater is messing up their bond interest rates.  I kid you not:

As Glendale prepares to sell bonds to finance its Phoenix Coyotes deal, the interest rates the city obtains make a big difference in how much debt Glendale would take on.

Team buyer Matthew Hulsizer says investors are demanding high interest rates due to nervousness among bond buyers about a potential Goldwater Institute lawsuit over whether the city is illegally subsidizing a private business. Glendale maintains it's on firm legal ground.

This is exactly the line the paper took in its Sunday editorial.  Now they are giving an interested party the ability repeat it in a supposed news article.  The author deliberately puts Goldwater on the spot and in the center of blame

Late Monday, Hulsizer questioned whether the Goldwater Institute wanted the team to stay.

"If they do indeed want the team to stay, then wouldn't they want the city to be able to complete financing at the best possible rate?" he said in a statement to The Arizona Republic.

He asked, if the Coyotes left Glendale, what Goldwater's plan was for the city to pay off its construction debt on the arena and for businesses nearby to survive without hockey customers. The city spent $180 million to open the arena in 2003.

Why in heaven's name is it Goldwater's problem that an earlier bond issue they actively opposed as a bad idea might turn out to, you know, have been a bad idea?  The article goes on and on this way, quoting other people of the same point of view. Goldwater doesn't get a quote until paragraph 24 or so, where Darcey Olson who heads the Institute says

She said Glendale has "unlimited options" to avoid a Goldwater lawsuit. "For instance, Hulsizer could get a private loan to buy this team like most businesses do," she said. "They finance their investments not on the backs of taxpayers but take the risk privately where it belongs."

The evidence of the article that Goldwater is shaking the very pillars of Wall Street is that the city expected one set of interest rates, but the market was giving them higher rates

Glendale officials in December hoped for a roughly 6 percent interest rate.

Todd Curtis, portfolio manager for Aquila Tax-Free Trust of Arizona, said he expected to see a 5 to 5.5 percent interest rate after Moody's Investors Service in mid-February gave the Coyotes bond sale a fairly high rating.

More than a week ago, Curtis was hearing of proposed rates around 7 percent.

Of course, they present no evidence as to why this might be. We are left to assume it is because Goldwater is somehow creating unfair bad vibes. Except then we get this oh-by-the-way near the end of the article:

Moody's and Standard & Poor's raised worries in February about the city's debt levels. As a result, Moody's downgraded several city bond ratings and Standard put the city on a watch list, though the city's ratings remain high.

Also, Glendale pledged to cover the Coyotes bonds with sales taxes, a revenue stream hurt during the recession. The city in its preliminary bond statement points out its sales-tax base is strong.

OK, lets check the reporter's decision-making here.  We have five facts

  • The major bond ratings agencies recently put the city on a credit watch list
  • Sales tax revenues that pay for the bonds are way down
  • The city is investing $200 million in a $116 million dollar asset without getting any equity
  • The city has a history of failed bond issues, as evidenced by the previous $180 bond issue they are trying to bail out with this one
  • A local think tank has raised legal questions about the deal -- legal questions that turned out to be correct in a parallel case.

So our lede is that it is all about the fifth one, just because millionaire Matthew Hulsizer, who is set to feed at the public trough to the tune of $200 million, says its so?

Ask yourself, what is the first section of the paper many folks look at?  The sports page?  An extra professional sports team adds a hard to quantify but definite amount to the paper's bottom line.  The AZ Republic clearly recognizes this and is all-in for any taxpayer subsidy that is required to keep this important part of their business running.


  1. Mike:

    You see this sort of thing in Dallas all the time. One day they might make a principled liberal stand, the next a principled conservative stand. But you can always count on them to be the booster of stupid government ideas. We have our new convention center hotel, our expensive light rail (your spreadsheet showed our subsidy to be $6.00 per rider mile), and our fancy bridge over the drainage ditch called the Trinity River.

    If it's a big government program, you can count on The Dallas Morning News for support.

  2. Sam L.:

    I agree they're nominally on the side of big government, but I don't see the media in favor of Republican big government. And it may just be that big daily papers are in favor of sports teams, regardless of the cost or the desires of the voters; that's the appearance, for sure.

    In reading the article, I did not see the GI as saying they might sue, I just saw the paper say the GI was "threatening to sue." (I don't have enough info to confirm what the paper's saying.) Question: What is the tax base for the bond? Glendale only? Glendale and environs? And since the team is Phoenix Coyotes, shouldn't Phoenix chip in? Shouldn't the paper endorse Phoenix taxpayer contribution? Shouldn't they be concerned that this whole thing COULD be against the state constitution? Or are they just mindless boosters?

  3. marco73:

    I think you've hit the nail on the head. The local media loves sports coverage. Losing a team to relocation or contraction is a disaster to the local media.
    The Tampa Bay area chased baseball for decades. Now that we have a team, the fan attendance is not up to the levels our rivals, the Yankees and the Red Sox. Ignore that the stadium is located a significant distance from most of the population, and the metro area isn't nearly as large as New York or Boston. The media claims that the fans just don't support the team, so they must not be "good" fans.
    Shoot, everyone living here is from somewhere else, and brought their allegiances with them.

  4. Noah:

    As long as the Tampa Bay Rays are playing in the Trop, attendance will suck.

  5. RandomReal[]:

    Somebody robbed the Glendale train
    This mornin', a half-past nine
    Somebody robbed the Glendale train
    An' I swear, I ain't lyin'
    They made clean off with 16 Gs
    An' two men lyin' cold
    Somebody robbed the Glendale train
    An' they made off with the gold

  6. commieBob:

    You are right.

    The freedom of the press belongs to the guy who owns the press. The guy who owns the press doesn't identify with you or me, he identifies with his buddies in big government and big business. He's not on our side.

    Gnome Chomsky* (sorry for putting your blood pressure up), no matter what you think of him, made a very good case (thoroughly in several books) that the media reports what the publisher tells it to report. The publisher will not allow anything inconvenient for his cronies to be published.

    Some people bemoan the death of newspapers. They ask; who will do investigative reporting? Who will expose scandals? I say, we are better served by blogs as far as that goes. Blogs do an excellent job of exposing the lie which is AGW. The media is totally not doing that job.

    *Chomsky is a scholar. If you don't like what he says about something factual, you can check his references. Of course, his opinions are something else entirely. Even I, commieBob, find myself disagreeing with his opinions much of the time.

  7. Smock Puppet:

    > But I am coming around to the hypothesis that the media is neither liberal or conservative but has a big government bias.

    Funny, I'm reading this and my own rapidly forming hypothesis is that the editors of the AR are f***ing brain damaged idiots.

    Shall we compare our justifications to see which one matches the facts better?

  8. Smock Puppet:

    > If it’s a big government program, you can count on The Dallas Morning News for support.

    Again. F'in BD'd.

  9. IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society:

    > The Tampa Bay area chased baseball for decades. Now that we have a team, the fan attendance is not up to the levels our rivals, the Yankees and the Red Sox. Ignore that the stadium is located a significant distance from most of the population, and the metro area isn’t nearly as large as New York or Boston. The media claims that the fans just don’t support the team, so they must not be “good” fans.

    Dude -- it's the Tampa Bay Devil Rays... Located in... St. Petersburg.

    That has to have been one of the more imbecilic marketing decisions ever made by a sporting venue. That'd be kinda like the Miami Heat having OJ Simpson "Fan Appreciation" day. And yeah, I meant exactly that.

    The fact that St. Pete is "also" on "Tampa Bay" is pretty much irrelevant. When someone hears "Tampa", they just don't think "St. Pete" unless they're unusually familiar with the area. The team should have either been located in Tampa or named after St. Pete. As-is it turns off both of them.

    And the idea that Tampa doesn't have an excess of lunatic sports fans is itself absurd. Look at the Buc's win-loss record. I recall hearing, back when they finally started to win a fair number of games, that they'd, at that point, have to win every single game for 15 years in a row just to have a 50-50 franchise record. But the fans kept turning out and putting butts in seats, despite "their team" being the worst loser in NFL history (They lost a record 26 consecutive games in a row, almost two full seasons). The Detroit Lions are the only team that is even allowed to sit next to them on the Loser Bus. But fans kept coming for years and years.

  10. mahtso:

    Standing in isolation, the story could be seen as a sign of bias in favor of (big) business. But I think it is more accurately an example of what the blogger has called cargo-cult economics. In this instance its: all the great cities have professional teams, so if we have professional teams our city will be great. (I am treating the Phoenix area as one “city.”)

    I don’t recall ever seeing the Republic editorialize against spending tax payer money for professional sports, and it was in favor of eminent domain to take land for the baseball stadium. But it's not just sports: As reported in this blog, the Republic is a booster for light rail, and it was a big booster of spending tax payer money to build a hotel.

    Although much of this does favor business, it is not just any business, but rather the “right type.” What is the right type? The type that all great cities have.

  11. stan:

    Same song, different verse

    Bill Richardson on subsidies for movie makers.

  12. perlhaqr:

    Bill Richardson is such a boil on the ass of humanity.

    Sam L.: Newspapers are usually pro-War On Drugs, which does tend to be an R-associated trope these days.

  13. Ashleigh Brilliant:


    I either want less corruption, or more chances to participate in it.


  14. LoneSnark:

    Is there a law against the city buying the team? Why pay $200M to keep the team for a little while when you can pay $110M to keep the team forever?

    Or, if the league has rules against city ownership, why can't the city start its own team? I think a bunch of cities should get together and found an urban sports league. Would be infinitely cheaper than bribing the current sports cartels.

  15. DrTorch:

    You guys keep getting at the obvious, why look for anything else? The obvious thing is, sports help newspaper sales, so every newspaper will be pro-local sports.

    They're looking out for their own self interests.

    The dishonesty is that they purport to be unbiased arbiters of facts and news. That's the lie.

    Even my hometown newspaper, which labels itself as "libertarian" plays these games, and will avidly defend gov't intrusion into the marketplace when it comes to local sports.

  16. Robert:

    AFAIK, the first pro team to identify itself with Tampa Bay rather than Tampa was the Rowdies of the NASL, and they seem to have started a trend. But did any before this locate or play primarily in St. Petersburg?

  17. blokeinfrance:

    "Is the media pro Big Govt?"
    And here's another your unique skills can help us with:
    "Do bears shit in the woods?"

  18. John David Galt:

    Emergencies, whether real or phony, sell newspapers and TV ads. Therefore, they have an incentive to point their cameras (and ears) at anyone who shouts "There's a *crisis*, and we *have* to *do something NOW!!!*"

    Naturally people who say things like that are pro-big-government. And in most cases, they made up the so-called emergency just to draw attention and gain power and money for themselves.

    Politicians of both the left and right have embraced this tactic, though the left seems to have more experience and more expertise at doing so successfully.

    When smart people hear these shouts of crisis, our first reaction is that at least 90% of the time it's going to be BS. Anyone who doesn't feel that way is so stupid he shouldn't be allowed to vote.

  19. marco73:

    Re the Tampa Bay Rays - they are no longer Devil Rays, just the Rays, although they still use the devil ray logo. The hockey team, the Tampa Bay Lightening, play in the St Pete Times Forum, located in downtown Tampa. Yes, I think the fans can get frustrated.
    I believe that the Tampa Bay area, and anywhere else in Florida, has plenty of lunatic sports fans. Just look at how many Florida Gator fans there are. UF only graduates maybe 10K undergrads a year, in a state of 18 million folks, but you can't throw a dead cat without hitting someone who absolutely bleeds orange and blue.
    I believe that people moving to Florida with loyalty to their old baseball team "up North" haven't completely warmed to the Rays, and a drab crappy stadium in a difficult to reach spot, and a drab crappy local economy, are all contributing factors to why attendence to Rays games isn't up to the levels that the new owners expected. The local media condenses all that to a 5 second sound bite: "You just aren't great fans."