Apr 30


Monday Morning Read

Stories to ponder include deals to build an NFL stadium in Nashville and a hockey arena in Calgary, and what it says about whats going on - and not going on - here in Buffalo.

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The deal to build the Titans a new stadium in Nashville (the current venue is only 24 years old) will involve a larger upfront taxpayer handout than the deal here in Buffalo. The daily paper down there has the details, The Buffalo News compares the deals and Neil deMause of Field of Schemes offers his analysis.  He also reports on a new deal in Calgary to build a $1.2 billion arena for the NHL Flames.

Meanwhile, The Toronto Star reported that the Ottawa Senators, a team similar to the Sabres in many ways beyond their failure to make the playoffs, could fetch up to $1 billion in a pending sale. A price tag even close to that will jack up the value of the Sabres, who Terry Pegula bought in 2011, along with the lacrosse Bandits, for $189 million. (The Sabres’ estimated value these days is $635 million, vs. $655 for Ottawa.) Whether the potential for a major windfall down the road prompts Pegula to pony up for overdue upgrades to KeyBank Center remains to be seen. I’m doubtful.

On one hand, the deal on the Bills stadium involves relatively little money on his part – taxpayers and fans will foot the vast majority of the bill – so he’s shown his preference to get away cheap. However, it’s questionable how much public – or political – appetite there is to spend a lot of money to provide the billionaire with yet another upgraded sports venue.

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Jay Tokasz of The Buffalo News had a couple of stomach-turning stories in yesterday’s paper. One dealt with sewage overflows that occur when heavy rains and snow melts overwhelm Buffalo’s sewer system. The other notes that improvements to the treatment plant in Niagara Falls go only so far. All this is inexcusable: water is our greatest natural resource – we sit on two of the Great Lakes and have Niagara Falls in our backyard, for crying out loud – and we keep fouling it. Fixing it in a matter of devoting sufficient resources. Too bad the powers that be think it’s better to spend on a football stadium used 10 times a year.

Ken Kruly has a good rundown on the finances of Common Council and Erie County Legislature incumbents.

Moog’s CEO is crowing about how much money the company is making and how well positioned it is for the future. So remind me again why the company needed yet another handout from taxpayers.

A decade or so ago, a new breed of digital news organizations took flight. They were going to make money by producing great journalism that capitalized on the power and inventiveness of the World Wide Web. Early results were promising, with some sites enjoying valuations of over $1 billion, one even snaring a Pulitzer (BuzzFeed News). Of late, and especially the past couple of weeks, it’s all come crashing down.

Most noteworthy, BuzzFeed News abruptly shut down. Vice News announced layoffs and the cancellation of its primary news program. Business Insider also announced layoffs. Disney announced it’s severing ties with FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver and planning to downsize the data-focused site.

Some digital for-profits remain standing, including The Daily Beast and Raw Story, but the herd is clearly thinning.

The Nation offered up an analysis of the whole depressing scene

Where does this leave news consumers, especially in light of the decline of daily newspapers?

Nonprofit journalism is clearly part of the future. More than 400 news nonprofits are publishing around the country, including Investigative Post. That’s up from 50 a decade ago. Most are relatively small and fill niches, but as a group, we are gaining traction.

In the Buffalo market, for example, Investigative Post is the only news outlet adding staff, expanding coverage and increasing website traffic. Granted, we’re small, but trending in the right direction. The same can be said of many other news nonprofits.

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I’ll close with a book report: Chuck Berry, an American Life, by R.J. Smith. Berry was my first guitar hero. His was the first concert I attended at the Aud when I was in high school. I’ve always loved his music; I mean, who doesn’t love Roll Over Beethoven and Johnny B Goode?

I’ll never listen to his music quite the same, however, after reading the book, which was published last November. When it comes to Berry, one must separate the artist (brilliant and pioneering, both musically and socially) from the man (needlessly difficult and a sexual deviant way beyond rockstar norms).

Still, I’m glad I read the book. And I’m still listening to his music.

That said, let’s give a listen to the Good Chuck. Go, go, go!

Investigative Post

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