Globe struggles to balance Olympics coverage by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

Olympics logoYesterday the Boston Business Journal revealed some of Boston 2024’s duplicity in misrepresenting to the public what it had included in its bid for bringing the Olympics to the Hub.  Information the BBJ obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request indicates the bid outlined the need for public funding (and a public authority) for land acquisition and infrastructure costs (not just for security) and the dependence on a Convention Center expansion (already scotched by Governor Charlie Baker).  The BBJ says the bid document mentions only the traffic challenges and nothing about the problems of the T, though one hopes that by 2024 those will be remedied, and goes into considerable detail about required land acquisition, including the New Boston Food Market and other parcels.  This material was “redacted” from what the organizers had previously shared, allegedly to protect their competitive advantage vis-a-vis other bidders.

The Governor has rightly called for Boston 2024 to reveal details of its plan by June 30, which it has agreed to do, and one has to assume the contents disclosed are still in flux. But the revelations validate public skepticism and concerns about getting left holding the bag financially.

In contrast to other local media, the Globe’s treatment of the Olympics story in this morning’s paper are downplayed on page 2 of the Metro section. Above the fold was Mark Arsenault’s piece “Boston Olympic team meets with IOC.”  It quotes new 2024 chairman Steve Pagliuca about how flexible the IOC is being about venue sites and about the optimism of the visiting team, including John Fitzgerald of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, representing Mayor Marty Walsh.

Buried below the fold is an even shorter article by the same reporter with the headline “Olympics panel disingenuous, foes say.”   The italics are mine. In fairness, the online version is headlined “Questions raised about new 2024 documents.” I’d like to think that some editor noticed the print headline was unfairly dismissive about critics of the Olympics bid, but the tone does reflect the attitude of 2024 booster and Business section columnist Shirley Leung, whose contempt for 2024 critics was plastered on the front page last week.  She compares skeptics and critics to two-year-olds throwing tantrums and scoffs that they love to hate and complain.

The paper has tried, in occasional substantive editorials, to explore ways the 2024 Olympics bid could align with certain long-term needs, including improvements in Franklin Park, opportunities for Gateway Cities, and tourism generally. But placement of articles and thought pieces has editorial content as well, and given the watering down of the institutional voice on the Globe’s new look, lamentably diluted editorial pages, the thought pieces have yet to make an impact on the public dialogue.

We’d be better served to have the Globe play a stronger thought leader role in some of the Boston 2030 discussions, helping to plan Boston’s future, instead of bootstrapping the Olympics into something it wasn’t designed to be.

Shirley Leung is bright, energetic, engaged and, except for her overweening Olympics boosterism , frequently on target and a welcome addition to the paper.  The history of Olympics cost overruns (with a couple of exceptions) gives legitimate pause to any rational thinker interested in the well-being of the entire community and the need for long-term strategic planning.  The tail should not wag the dog.

We need a for fact-checking what’s being said about the Boston Olympics bid. Independent vetting of competing claims could go far to dialing back the venomous characterizations of pros and cons as self-serving fat cat elites versus two-year-olds having tantrums.

I welcome your comments in the section below.