PLANET DECIPHERS THE TRUE MEANING BEHIND THE BB STORY: ‘STATE APPROVES $9.7 MILLION GRANT FOR PITTSFIELD LIFE SCIENCES CENTER’ … UH, WE HATE TO SAY THIS, BUT TAXPAYERS, YOU JUST GOT WHACKED AGAIN
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, MAY 22, 2014) — First off, see you at 7 p.m. tonight on Planet Valenti Television — PV-TV. Our call-in number for Episode 3 is 445-4234. As the show evolves, we have to figure out if we want to continue with call-ins.
Actually, you have to figure that out. Two episodes do not for us at PV-TV a conclusion supply. If you call in with enough quality (more important than volume or frequency) we shall be inclined to continue with calls. If you express no interest or if the calls are not of sufficient quality, we shall turn the full hour over to Dan Valenti, who tells us he is more than pleased to carry the honors. In the abstract, THE PLANET cherishes free speech and thus inclines toward call-ins, but the decision will be made in the practicality.
PV-TV does know one thing: We shall never supply boring, talking-head TV, which is the mainstay of local access. Our motto: “Anything but boring.” Along those lines, you will never guess what we have planned for The Empty Suit segment. TES and THE PLANET ”shall become one.” That is all we can say. The rest will be in the viewing.
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Today’s lesson in cryptography shall be in reading the contour map of how the mainstream press reports local news. They do so c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y. In this care, the local media are not mindful of you — its readers, viewers, and listeners — but of its bosses, who are mainly owned by advertisers. Once again, it’s “You against The Suits.”
Case in point, a newstory yesterday in The Boring Broadsheet titled, “State approves $9.7 million grant for Pittsfield life sciences center,” written by our colleague and friend Tony Dobrowolski. The story explains how on Tuesday, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center awarded Pittsfield the money to be applied to construction of a building at the PEDA site. THE PLANET credits Dobro with doing about as much as a reporter possibly could after being told not to stray from “The Party Line.”
Now on with the content analysis. THE PLANET suggests that in reading, watching, or listening to local stories produced by the tamed mainstream media, you concentrate on three factors: Location, Key Phrases, and Ambiguous Quotes.
The story received two kinds of placements. In the print edition, which is mostly dying and consumed by an aging demographic, The BB played the story as its lead on page one. The newspaper’s web page, however, buried the piece. To find it, the reader would have to search hard. This provides clue number one: For the reader demographic with whatever disposable income exists in the city of Pittsfield, The BB presents the “all the good news, all the time” version. For its younger and less engaged readers on the web, it assumes they will not care.
Conclusion: The newspaper (a) has no faith in its readers as a whole, (b) the newspaper doesn’t know who it is or what it wants to become, and (c) it finds itself in this dilemma because of management’s refusal to go to the truth that always resides in between the lines of the Official Press Announcements that come from the various agencies involved, in this case the city of Pittsfield, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, and PEDA.
— KEY PHRASES
Stories of this kind contain trip-strings that the careful reader will trigger, releasing the truth that lies hidden in between the lines. Key phrases are often repeated, sometimes with the same words and, as in this case, sometimes slightly reworded. In this case, we read the following sentences, with the “key phrases” underlined:
Sentence 1 — “[MLSC President Susan Windham-Bannister] said city officials reassessed their funding needs in the final presentation by gauging the regional impact such a facility would have and the need for private-public partnerships that would make the initiative work.”
Sentence 2 — “You never know if you don’t ask,” said Corydon Thurston, the executive director of [PEDA], the quasi-public agency charged with developing the business park.
The underlined phrases — “private-public partnerships” and “the quasi-public agency” — suck the Botex off of the rhetorical facelift to reveal the wrinkles and liver spots underneath. The dreaded “public-private partnerships” rarely work out well for taxpayers. In Pittsfield, they never do. These alliances are partnerships in name only. The “public” part provides all the venture capital … and risk. The “private” part consumes all of the booty. If the venture works out, the private interests benefit. If the venture fails, as it usually does in Pittsfield, taxpayers get stuck with the check. Folks, the recent history of Pittsfield is littered with the rusting shells of dead “public-private partnerships” (EV Worldwide, Workshop Live, and so on). In fact, PEDA itself is a good example.
Conclusion: Glowing stories about “public-private partnerships” are actually more about the dead and dying local economy than it is about economic growth. Folks, there’s a reason why cities such as Pittsfield fall prey to these typically phony alliances. The private companies cannot get traditional backing from private risk capital, and they therefore gravitate to locations that are desperate to provide them with “free” money simply so that the politicians and Suits can maintain the illusion that something is happening.
The third and final major indicator in reading what a snow-job story actually means is to look carefully at what the quoted principals in the piece are saying.
THE PLANET presents the key quotes from Dobrowolski’s story:
Quote 1. “All of these earmarks are placeholders,” said MLSC President Susan Windham-Bannister. “They represent a vision, and some good thinking at the time.” — Even in context, this quote says nothing. The proper reaction is, “Why isn’t she talking straight to us. What’s she hiding?”
Quote 2. “It turned out that the project they identified cost more to implement,” Windham-Bannister said. “We never say at the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center that this is all you can have. What we really want to see are good projects. What their team came up with was more money, but it was a very different vision. We were very happy to give them the extra money.” — What the Hyphenated Lady is actually saying is that “We don’t care how much we give away. It’s taxpayers money, and we can be as irresponsible with it as we like.” Again, a higher dollar figure in a “gee whiz, everything’s great” story like this, according the The Suits’ GroupThink, plays as better than a lower one and again makes it look like they are “doing something” about jobs, about the economy. As astute readers will know, this is an illusion.
Quote 3. After the already-lifted “You never know …” from Thurston, we find this gem: ”That’s what it costs to build” the structure, Thurston said. “It was just today’s costs versus what we originally anticipated.” — Again, an admission that taxpayers are getting screwed. Corydon is actually saying that his group just inflated their needs by 50%. Naturally, he produced no data or information on which to justify this outrageous increase.
Wait! It gets better!
Quote 4. “We weren’t trying to slip the project through the budget,” he said. “We’re trying to do one that would make sense and accomplish our mission.” — That’s Corydon speaking again. Whenver they tell you “We weren’t trying to slip the project through the budget,” you can bet your bottom, top, and middle dollars in between that they “were trying to slip the project through the budget.” My dad has a lovely phrase that captures the essence of this type of Suit Hypcrisy: “God-damned phony bastards” (GDPB).
Quote 5. “I think it will have a tremendous impact on our region,” Bianchi said. “The model that we’ve come up with for the innovation center fosters growth for existing companies, and also contains the impetus to grow new companies as well.”I’m very pleased,” he said. “It was a lot of hard work and it was certainly well worth it.” — TES speaks of the “tremendous impact.” Translation: “It gets me a favorable headline. I’m very pleased.” GDPB.
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Finally, ladies and gentlemen, if the project will have such a dramatic economic impact, ask yourself why the private markets are not beating down the doors to get in on it. They like making money, you know. The reason, of course, which the story actually “says” without saying it, is that the private money is too smart to stay from losers like this.
Truth in advertising — What else can we say?
See you on the television tonight.
“Mrs. Brown you’ve got a lovely doe-tah. Girls as sharp as her are something rare.” — Herman’s Hermits, “Mrs. Brown,” 1965.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.