Unscientific survey results trump actual testimony in Bronx soccer stadium reporting

Friday is catchup day! (Not catsup day. That’s a whole ‘nother thing.) First in our order of business is this article earlier this week from Capital New York’s usually excellent Dana Rubinstein, who reported that according to “a survey of 168 participants at a recent town hall meeting” about the proposed NYC F.C. stadium in the Bronx, “three out of four survey participants agreed that the stadium is ‘a good idea for River Avenue,’ according to the BID’s executive summary of the meeting.” The headline was even more definitive: “Survey: Bronx stakeholders like soccer stadium.”

This, you may recall, is the meeting organized by the 161st Street Business Improvement District that I attended, and estimated that testimony was roughly split down the middle on whether the stadium was a good idea. A local radio reporter, meanwhile, said it was tipped toward being in favor, but only slightly. So what’s with this survey showing three-quarters support? I have the press release sent out by the BID that was the basis of the Capital NY article (PDF here), and all it says is: “Three out of four participants believe that the stadium, ‘is a good idea for River Avenue.’ (Question #4 in the survey).”

I don’t remember getting an actual survey at the event, so one possibility is that most of them were grabbed by early arrivers, who were predominantly construction workers who got there two hours early to grab seats. And in any case, the headline is misleading as many people at the meeting were not “Bronx stakeholders,” but rather other interested parties (including Manhattan-based youth sports teams that have gotten donations from the Yankees, NYC F.C.’s part-owners).

All of which is well and good — the article does spell out that these are unscientific survey results from a single town meeting. But then why on earth write an article that’s 100% based on a single press release from an interested party (the BID’s Cary Goodman has been vocal about supporting a stadium, with the right conditions) without any independent research, or even checking news reports on who spoke at the meeting? (Neither Rubinstein nor anyone else from Capital New York was in attendance.) I know the hamster wheel is a harsh mistress, but does that really mean that every pronouncement on fancy enough letterhead deserves an article? Nobody’s asking you, Chuck Todd.

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