Thursday, September 11, 2008

Trials, Business and 'Student Athletes'

September 11, 2008, 7:30 a.m.

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Whose Business is Business Anyway?The Gazette's "Money" section had an unusual report the other day worthy of commendation: George C. Ford, "Who Owns What in the Corridor," The Gazette, September 7, 2008, p. D1.

Our local papers provide us plenty of what amounts to free advertising disguised as "news" about local businesses: promotions and awards received by local business persons; the opening of new businesses or other upbeat descriptions of the persons and properties involved; a new factory coming to town. But there's relatively little in the way of information beyond that.

Like, most basic, who owns Iowa City? Noam Chomsky quotes America's early John Jay as saying that "those who own the country should govern it." Nicholas Johnson, Are We There Yet? (2008), Part X: Action. Whether they "should" do so is worthy of debate. But that they do is beyond much question. It's true in most communities and states as well as for our nation. And, that being the case, it seems to me "the Fourth Estate" (the media) owes those of the local citizenry who constitute its readers at least a little information about who their real governors are and what they're up to.

Anyhow, what The Gazette did, in one sense is no big deal. It just reported on the ownership of nine major malls and other facilities in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. What was striking about the feature was simply how rare something like that is.

I would think the papers' readers would be interested in the laundry list of benefits businesses receive from our local governments and utilities -- the city employees who clean up the vomit outside our plethora of local bars rather than requiring the bar owners to pay for it; the city property turned over to bars and restaurants on city sidewalks formerly used for walking; the extensions of roads and water mains; the deep discounts offered for industrial users of water and electricity over what the rest of us have to pay; the cash, TIFs and other subsidies and tax breaks awarded the favored few.

Wouldn't some itemization and reporting about those things be of as much interest to readers as a complete directory of the salaries of all government employees? I would think so.

Why is it we can name the athletes arrested for offenses related to alcohol abuse, but many of us would be hard pressed to name the owners of Iowa City bars who profited off the sale of the alcohol that contributed to that behavior?

At a time when we need all the land in greenbelts and greenways we can possibly obtain, for a whole variety of reasons -- not the least of which is as one means to reduce or eliminate the economic loss from future flooding -- who are the developers buying up that land with the intention of building the malls, parking lots, roads, homes and businesses that will add to the rapid runoff, intensity and frequency of the future floods that will produce even more economic loss than that from which we've just suffered? Isn't that something you'd like to know? I would.

So a "Hat's Off Award" to The Gazette, along with hopes it may inspire more coverage of one of the most important, and least reported, stories in any community.

"Student athletes" search for study time.And on the football front, Scott Dochterman provided some insight into how little time for studies is available to those "student athletes" who are producing handsome salaries for their coaches. Scott Dochterman, "Learning Time Management a Must for Hawks; Demands of Classes, Football Make Life hectic for Players," The Gazette, August 28, 2008, p. C1 (with a sample daily schedule).

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1 comment:

Richard W. Symonds said...

Thanks, Nick - and greetings from England !

Richard W.