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When it comes to new sports stadiums, the media often cheerleads first, and asks questions later

Sep 17, 2014

Two months ago, the Ilitch family's Olympia Development of Michigan announced plans for a new sports and entertainment district to be built on largely vacant land between downtown and midtown Detroit.

The center piece of the development would be a new home for the Detroit Red Wings.

Tomorrow night, the public will get its first look at the details of the new $450 million venue as Olympia officials present the plans at a meeting of the Detroit City Planning Commission.

David Uberti from the Detroit area recently wrote a piece for the Columbia Journalism Review as its Delacorte fellow. He looks at the way reporters cover new stadium constructions not just in Detroit, but across the country. 

And he notes a distinct "cheerlead first, ask questions later" approach.

In pieces and broadcasts covering the planned arena in Detroit, as Uberti explains, the media repeatedly cited the rosy projections of $2 billion in economic spinoffs along with thousands of jobs.

However, those reporters neglected to remind the public that academic literature are almost universally saying such projections are way of the mark. Some media outlets even failed to acknowledge the fact that the $450 million arena will be built primarily on the public’s dime.

"Citizens should remain skeptical ... This is, in a lot of cases, a political question: Should a local government subsidize a local business? They have to evaluate by themselves whether that's worth it," says Uberti.

* Listen to our conversation with David Uberti on Stateside above.