Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tax Incentives Dissected; Where is the Media? Covering the Parade...

Why are tax incentives failing to give Michigan an economic boost? The Anderson Economic Group’s study released this month was commissioned mysteriously by the Michigan Education Association and the National Education Association, and we couldn’t be happier to see them all in the same space. Patrick Anderson’s dead-on editorial piece in the Freep last week cites, among other things, “a troubling lack of transparency in reporting the results of these major taxpayer investments.”
And from the report, which we are trying to get permission to post here, the authors say "There is currently no proper, publicly-available inventory of business tax incentive programs. Such an inventory should list the programs, statutory authorizations, intended purposes, eligibility criteria, nominal or estimated amount of tax revenue foregone, and nominal or estimated effectiveness in attaining the intended purpose."
In the Freep op-ed, Anderson goes on to mention that the state’s tax-based programs, which include tax abatements for manufacturers to update facilities, MEGA grants for some companies and the tax breaks for the film industry have also been plagued by that lack of a compilation of these tax breaks and no independent agency to collect the information,
He could have also mentioned something else: Where the Hell are the newspapers that used to dog governments and make them accountable?
Since you asked…
The Lansing State Journal has no statehouse presence, instead opting to use its talent for stunning stories such as “Walk to School Day a healthy step for kids.”
The Detroit News, which has a small statehouse bureau, finds it important to cover a parade and run a story “Thousands crowd downtown for Race for Cure.” We could have found a better use for that space.
The Grand Rapids Press blows the lid off a new scheme with a story, “Michigan state parks offer novices camping lessons,” which is a rewrite of a story the News ran in April. Who didn't do their homework?
Lightweight stories can add to a news product's value. But when a dearth of coverage shows up repeatedly, it becomes apparent that resources are being directed away from actual news and more toward features. And Anderson's report exposes the glaring lack of a real news industry.
We’ve explained the demise of the old news model, which was brought about not only by the rise of the Web, as most newspaper folks want you to believe, but by the people who have decided to pass by the burning building on the way to cover the parade.
The Anderson report is a terrific work, although we feel the authors missed one aforementioned crucial element, that of a derelict news industry.

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