While we’re on the subject of bad journalism, let’s check in with the Guardian, which is generally one of my preferred news outlets, even if it has a reputation for occasional sloppiness. I haven’t been following the paper’s sports coverage lately, so what’s it been up to?
— Travis Waldron (@Travis_Waldron) June 14, 2015
Oh, wow, yeah, that’s not good.
To recap for those who missed the whole “LeBron is worth $500 million a year” fiasco when it broke last year:
- A staffer for Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald was reported by Bloomberg News to have said that the Cleveland Cavaliers re-signing LeBron James would be worth $500 million a year to the local economy.
- FitzGerald’s office said that Bloomberg got it wrong, and they were only claiming LeBron was worth $53 million a year in local economic activity.
- Lots of people, including me, pointed out that even this lower number was pretty implausible, and the overall impact of LeBron’s presence was at most something on the order of a few million a year, of which maybe a few hundred thousand gets returned to the city or county as actual tax receipts.
So repeating a $500 million impact figure that even the person who conducted the study says isn’t true is not a good start. But then the Guardian doubled down by citing Convention, Sports & Leisure, a consulting group that really should come with a warning label reading “objects in studies may be less lucrative than they appear”:
- CSL overestimated the impact of the San Diego Padres‘ new stadium by including the economic activity at the city’s new convention center that opened at the same time.
- The group took on a contract to study the impact of a new Los Angeles Angels stadium even though its corporate owner was also the Angels’ concessionaire.
- It reported $109 million in economic benefits from a new D.C. United stadium, then later admitted that two-thirds of that amount had nothing to do with the stadium.
Or as I replied to Waldron:
.@Travis_Waldron But if CS&L stopped repeating lies, what would they do for billable hours?
— Field of Schemes (@fieldofschemes) June 15, 2015