Raising Arizona (Taxes)

17 May 2004

Teeter-totter Reporting at the Arizona Republic
by Craig J. Cantoni
May 17, 2004

A front-page story in today’s Arizona Republic was more unbalanced than a teeter-totter with Shaq on one end and a jockey on the other.

The story was about an election tomorrow on raising taxes in Scottsdale to purchase more preserve land. There were just over 23 column-inches that quoted proponents or that put the tax in a favorable light. Conversely, there were about ten column-inches that quoted opponents or that put the tax in an unfavorable light, and those inches were near the end of the story on the second page.

This two-to-one ratio and placement are par for the course in the establishment press in stories on tax increases and government spending. Such coverage explains why federal, state and local spending continues to far outstrip inflation and population growth, and why federal spending alone costs the average household $20,000 per year.

The story begins…

”Arizona voters will decide the fate of thousands of coyotes, kit foxes and sky-high saguaros…”

How’s that for objectivity and balance? The opening would have readers believe that thousands of coyotes and kit foxes will die if the tax isn’t passed. This is creative writing, not reporting. A neutral opening would have gone like this: ”Scottsdale voters will be going to the polls tomorrow to vote on a sales tax for more preserve land.”

The reporter goes on to say that voters ”will do more than weigh in on the future of unspoiled land.” She doesn’t say that power lines run through part of the ”unspoiled” land under consideration.

Later, the reporter writes, ”The votes come in the middle of a conservation crisis.”

Oh really? Although the reporter didn’t mention it, 85 percent of the land in Arizona is already off limits to development, a 20,000-acre regional park is next door to Scottsdale, and a 2.8 million-acre national forest is only 10 minutes away. That hardly constitutes a conservation crisis, regardless of the outcome of the vote. It would have been more accurate for the reporter to write, ”Arizona already has a glut of preserve land.”

Then there are the accompanying photos. One is of a blooming ocotillo framing a stand of saguaros on undeveloped land. Below that photo is a photo of a housing development, taken from a perspective that makes the development look as overbuilt as Manhattan. The third and last photo is of a diamondback rattlesnake.

There were no photos of the coyotes, rattlesnakes and bobcat that have been seen in my development. Nor were there any photos of the cacti in my backyard, which are much more abundant than the cacti on the undeveloped parts of the neighboring Salt River Pima Indian Reservation.

The story did not mention the curious fact that the information ballot for the vote that was mailed weeks ago to voters contains 13 pages of arguments in favor of the tax and not one against it. How did that happen? Don’t look in the Republic’s news pages for an answer. And don’t look there for an expose on how spending advocates virtually assured themselves of victory by tying the vote to a phony public safety issue and by scheduling the vote for a special election, when voter turnout will be low, thus making it easier for proponents to get a majority of the votes.

Newspapers used to be for the little guy. Now they sit on the end of the teeter-totter with the big spenders.

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Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (HAALT). He can be reached at ccan2@aol.com

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