It’s not just Sheldon Adelson’s paper running crappy articles on the Raiders stadium plan

I, along with pretty much everyone else, have been extremely critical of the Las Vegas Review-Journal for its coverage of the $950 million Raiders stadium subsidy proposal being pursued by the paper’s owner, Sands casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson. But as I always try to point out, there’s plenty of bad journalism out there being committed by news outlets that don’t have an overt conflict of interest, and today it’s the Las Vegas Sun’s turn. Here’s the lede on today’s Sun story on whether Nevada will call a special session to vote on the stadium subsidy:

It’s that time of year again: The only thing standing between Nevada and what many would see as an economic-development win is a legislative deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

In 2014, it was Tesla. In 2015, Faraday. This year, an NFL stadium.

That’s bad, for starters, because of the way it contorts itself to paint a Raiders stadium (plus the equally problematic Tesla and Faraday subsidy deals) as a big win that’s being held up by legislative red tape. (“What many would see,” seriously?) But it’s also bad because the article contains a bunch of interesting information about what’s going on behind the special-session talks, all of which it buries:

  • “Sands executives have said they’ve been in touch with lawmakers daily — sometimes two or three times a day — in an effort to woo their approval of [a special session this month].” That’s a crazy amount of lobbying, and would seem to demand asking legislators if they’ve really been getting daily calls from Adelson’s people,  investigations of how much Adelson is spending on lobbyists, and so on. None of that appears in the article, which is mostly he-said-she-said stuff running down who seems to be leaning towards or against approving the special session.
  • “There’s also concern about the impact voting for the stadium could have on the outcome of the election itself. Republican Assemblyman Ira Hansen, who is running unopposed in his race in Northern Nevada, pointed to a recent KTNV/Rasmussen Poll that showed 55 percent of Clark County voters oppose pledging up to $500 million in public funds to the stadium. ‘The polls I’ve seen in Southern Nevada are about 50-50,’ Hansen said. ‘Politically, this could hurt somebody running for re-election.'” Does Hansen have access to some other polls, or does he really think that 55%-35% opposition is “about 50-50”?
  • And way down at the bottom of the story: “A two-thirds vote in both houses would be needed to raise the room tax, so 42 legislators need to be on board. If that doesn’t happen, Plan B is to punt the decision to the Clark County Commission. Legislators could pursue a permissive vote, which would only need a simple majority, and pass the tax-increase vote along to the seven-member county commission, which would need to pass it with a two-thirds majority.” So if the legislature can’t get a two-thirds majority, it can punt it to the county, which only needs five commissioners to say “yes” to make this happen? Where do the county commissioners stand on this? Sorry, story’s over, check back tomorrow.

I don’t mean to pick on the author of the Sun story too much (though she should be picked on some), since she was probably just assigned to get the temperature of the state legislature, not to actually write a story explaining the more important details of what’s going on. Still, that none of her bosses read this and said, “Nice first draft, now flesh it out by answering some of the questions that it raises” is a pretty depressing indictment of the state of journalism today.

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25 comments on “It’s not just Sheldon Adelson’s paper running crappy articles on the Raiders stadium plan

  1. First, let me translate. When you see “bad journalism”, it means “not sufficiently biased against government funded stadiums”.

    Second, let me help out with the other issues Neil had:

    -Perhaps legislators don’t share information about calls & meetings with lobbyists? In fact, I’m certain that few politicians cc: the media whenever they set up an appointment.

    -Perhaps Hansen dismisses the 35-55 poss due to its biased wording?

    -Perhaps the reporter (a female, and we all know how much feminists like to demean the work of any female who doesn’t toe the progressive/feminist line) doesn’t like dealing in multi-stage hypotheticals, so she didn’t ask the County Commissioners for their opinion on an issue that is not in front of them, and may never be? And perhaps the female reporter felt that her impressive feat of getting a legislator to openly admit to the inevitability of a Yes vote, made pursuing quotes from County Commissioners a waste of everyone’s time?

    1. Wow, talk about putting words in my mouth. I think I was clear about what was bad journalism here, but let’s try again:

      – I didn’t say that the reporter is at fault for not providing information on lobbying. I’m saying that she’s at fault for not *asking* — a “legislators declined to comment” line would have been fine, but instead it’s presented as not worthy of investigation.

      – Hansen can dismiss that poll all he wants, but then what poll is he referring to?

      – If you’re writing about the likelihood of this deal passing — which is the entire point of this article — at least pursuing the question of what the county would do if it gets punted to them is kind of important.

      I don’t know what to say about your remarks about feminists, except that I’m going to go look up the Greek rhetorical term for that “we all know” gambit.

      All I can say is that if someone handed in this article to me for editing, I’d kick it back with a lot of “more research needed” notes. And that would also be true of most of the good editors I know.

      1. But see that’s the problem Neil. You’re an intellectual; whereas, in Nevada the town is bereft of intelligence. I can speak on it directly since I’m born and bred here. Since the Great Recession, Nevada has been picked apart by vulture capitalists taking advantage of politicians lacking any sort of sense. From Warren Buffett single-handily destroying the solar industry and gouging ratepayers so bad casinos are paying hundreds of millions of dollars to leave (that’s another conversation in itself), to the disastrous Tesla deal (granting them significant water rights in a drought-stricken state; no one talks about that here either), to a deal with a company (Faraday) that didn’t even have offices where there were initially incorporated in, to the biggest gouge of them all: the stadium deal.

        Around town I continue to ask a simple question no one can answer: who’s going to pay for all this? Schools are critically underfunded and overcrowded, charter schools are popping up everywhere due to white flight, infrastructure is crumbling, the university system is in disarray and corrupt, wages are down, crime has skyrocketed (homicides up nearly 70%), Las Vegas has the lowest cop-to-citizen ratio in the country, social services are severely lacking and about to face yet another cut, etc. Their proposed solution is to levy a tax on businesses so punitive even California wouldn’t dare attempt such a thing, and to continue to raise property and sales taxes.

        And good luck trying to explain to these lemons that the raising of the hotel tax being paid by tourists is a tax on the citizens. Even so-called educated talk and radio show hosts are falling for that fallacy. When I try to inform them that bonds must be raised and tax revenue used to secure those bonds they are bewildered. There is no way on Earth hotel tax revenue alone will be remotely enough to pay back the estimated $50-$60 million a year annual nut.

      2. I’m guessing that “most good editors” is journo-speak for “editors with a hard left wing bias”, but I’ll otherwise leave that alone.

        Can’t argue with the criticism that she should’ve asked Henson what poll he’s referring to that has the question at 50-50.

        On your other criticisms, I just don’t think it’s fair. You want journos to ask pols “let me see your schedule of meetings w/ lobbyists” and then get a guaranteed “no” over and over again? What’s the point? (And I already mentioned the fact that any county action is purely hypothetical.)

        You know, to me the big news is how assured Hansen seems to be that the stadium funding will pass. This is starting to feel like the Bucks & Vikings situations, where a deal was in the bag for months, but pols felt they had to go trough Kabuki theater so that some of their colleagues could save face.

        1. Good editorship comes from ensuring the right questions are asked. That’s definitely a bipartisan capability.

          Putting politicians on the spot is part of the process. “No comment” is not the same as “no.” Glad you are concerned about fairness to politicians, land developers, and newspaper owners, though!

          The worst part of this story is that it leaves out the most common public policy outcome–football stadiums especially do two things well: spend down surpluses and cause deficits. Might be of interest to readers to know what happens to similarly-sized municipalities that go on this kind of binge. Hint: nothing good.

          It would be fine if the paper just presented this for what it is–a luxury. Just like building a large sphinx, a giant hole in the ground, or pyramids. They don’t come close to paying for themselves.

        2. Ben, I find it ironic that you are critical of the Neil’s analysis of the failures of basic journalism.

          Quote: “I’m guessing that “most good editors” is journo-speak for “editors with a hard left wing bias”, but I’ll otherwise leave that alone.” Unquote

          The problem is that this is not a conservative vs liberal issue. Sheldon Adelson is a well known “conservative”. Yet in this instance he is all about spending government money!

          It seems that for Mr. Adelson, the government can’t be trusted to help anyone except for billionaire sports team owners like he wants to be.

          That is simply not consistent.

          1. Nothing inconsistent about Adelson. I can’t speak for him exactly, but many conservatives believe strongly in government spending, as long as it is for infrastructure and projects that stimulate growth.

          2. So Ben you are against the stadium. Since the primary beneficiary is the raiders and there will be no growth as a result of this?

        3. “I’m guessing that “most good editors” is journo-speak for “editors with a hard left wing bias”, but I’ll otherwise leave that alone.”

          Oh, I know this one! Paralipsis!

          1. And as for Hansen calling this a “done deal,” that reads more as him saying “these are powerful people, they get what they want” than actually doing a headcount. Which, again, a thoroughly researched piece would have checked, instead of taking at face value because the author needed a pat kicker quote.

          2. No he isn’t. Conservatives believe in the private sector and do not believe in government waste or welfare.

            Hansen is a hypocrite.

            I don’t mind liberals. Or conservatives. But I have no time for hypocrites.

          3. I thought Hansen was opposed to the deal, or at least mildly critical. But there are both liberals and conservatives (and other political stripes) on both sides of these debates.

  2. Its going down for sure, that and the convention center plan. Its a ton of cash, but LV is trying to become a major city and as a long time resident Im really looking forward to it.

    If anyone has every been to Boyd or Cashman then you understand, those places were built when SNV had a few hundred thousand people. Clark County will have 2.5m by the end of the dedcade, new airport will be next as that mccarren land is pretty valuable.

      1. Sounds like Vegas is really growing up–by making the same foolish decisions (football stadiums and convention centers) that other “big cities” make.

        Economically, stadiums are good for two things–using up surpluses and causing deficits. They are nice to look at though.

      2. If Vegas doubles in size, it has a chance to be Cleveland:

        1. Agree with a lot of what you say but please don’t reinforce this ‘small population’ myth. We have well over 2 million residents (and over 40 million yearly visitors). The City of Las Vegas is only about a third of the population of the Vegas metro area. In fact, the stadium, just like the Strip, won’t even be in Las Vegas.


          1. Clark County is also 100 miles across each way. If you took a similar area around Cleveland, you’d have at least that many people.

            (And Nielsen TV households don’t go by city limits either, FYI.)

    1. And I’m a native and completely disagree with you on all fronts. First off, Las Vegas is already known as a major city, just not a major city in terms of business and sports. Second, mortgaging off the future to enrich men who can pay for this stadium many times over is as reckless as driving drunk.

      It baffles the mind that people fall for this rhetoric over and over. Look mom: Las Vegas has a professional football team; now it’s in the big leagues. Completely ignoring the fact that Las Vegas has a professional hockey team that will be playing in a privately-financed arena, or that the same group with their hand out is building an arena that will be privately-financed. Ask Columbus, Nashville, and Glendale how those arrangements are working?

      I have a solution: for those people who support the stadium, make yourselves financially responsible when the bill comes due. Be willing to pony up the difference when your local politician informs you property and sales taxes are going up. Be willing to pony up when Metro needs more money to hire more officers, but since $1.4 billion is already accounted for, there is a shortage of available funds.

  3. Their is still $120 million left on bond that brought Raiders back to Oakland…Who’s paying for that…oh yea…Oakland taxpayers. if you have $500 million to put a stadium Mark Davis…then put it in Oakland.. Oakland stadium is projected to cost $850 million (football stadium only design…no whistle or bells). Besides if I remember when the Raiders moved back the agreement was they could not move anywhere until bond was paid off.. And I do remember Al Davis saying “that the Los Angeles move was a mistake. Should not have happened. ” Mark Davis….your fan base is in Oakland…no where else wants you… and yes I paid $1000 psl on the second deck 20 yard line for my seat..when they moved back

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