If you want a strong candidate for the most misleading newspaper headline since, well, pretty much ever, I would nominate yesterday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch masterpiece “Downtown St. Louis soccer stadium would be paid for with cash by would-be team owners.” Here is how it begins:
The hopeful owners of a new Major League Soccer team in St. Louis are prepared to pay for a $250 million downtown stadium in cash, the leader of the ownership group said on Wednesday.
And here is its sixth paragraph:
The Kavanaugh-Taylor group is asking for tax-dollar help. The city of St. Louis has proposed giving the owners a 50 percent break on ticket taxes, a full tax exemption on stadium construction materials, a $30 million tax break from the state, a 3 percent sales tax on stadium goods, and the free use of land — just west of Union Station on Market Street — for the stadium.
That is not “paid for with cash by would-be team owners”! Unless all it means is they wouldn’t sell bonds or take out a bank loan, but would front the $250 million, getting repaid in part by all those tax breaks. Which would make the headline correct on a technicality, while still implying the exact opposite of the truth.
Anyway, the city-run Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority approved the $30 million state tax break and the sales tax break on construction materials yesterday, sending it to the Missouri Development Finance Board for final approval. (And yes, you are correct that neither of those bodies is made up of elected officials.) The city council could vote today on the ticket tax, the free land, and the stadium sales tax surcharge. Neither Post-Dispatch report attempted to determine a total value for all the tax breaks, because come on, man, journalism is hard enough in these troubled financial times without having to “provide numbers” and “write clear headlines” and all that.