;We are about to spend $1.8 billion on downtown venues – don't forget the interest – and you didn't get a say in any of it. More to the point, it's likely you didn't even know very much about the deal.

;;And for that you can thank the Orlando Sentinel, which has so thoroughly botched, obfuscated and spun the biggest public-works deal in Central Florida's history as to render it an incomprehensible mess. Mere incompetence can't explain away this sorry journalistic performance (though stories about how basketball teams with new arenas win more games are worth a good chuckle). No, for a paper of record to screw up this badly – top to bottom – is close to a case of reportorial malfeasance.

;;We long ago came to expect cheerleading from the Sentinel's editorial board, and sportswriter/Magic shill Mike Bianchi is such a hack he actually put forth the idea that Orlando will become Birmingham if commissioners didn't give the Magic everything they want. No, really, he did.

;;But those folks have excuses. They're not bound by notions of "objectivity," whatever that means. Far and away the biggest embarrassment for the Sentinel has been the performance of its "A" team, city hall reporters David Damron and Mark Schlueb. When all else at the paper turns to lazy reporting and outright propaganda, it used to be that you could at least count on Damron and Schlueb to turn in something resembling journalism. Not so in the case of the venues.

;;On July 15, the two wrote a piece answering readers' questions about the venues. Either no Sentinel reader wanted to know if claimed economic benefits numbers were real – possible given the paper's kid-gloves coverage – or the question didn't make the cut. Same with questions about Community Redevelopment Agency money being used that could be spent on things like cops and schools, the polluted land under the arena site, Rich DeVos' paltry contribution, the special interest money behind the venue-boosting Project Hometown, etc. Pretty much all Sentinel readers wanted to know, I guess, is where they were going to park and who the arena will be named for.


;The duo co-bylined a story July 20 headlined "Venue outcome could cast sizable shadow in politics" that amounted to a veiled threat for county commissioners who dared vote against the venues. The entire premise of the story was as follows: Politics is a game that politicians must win; theirs is not to be beholden to the interest of their constituents, but to primp for higher office. A vote against the venues would anger the powerful and they would then cut the supply of campaign funds. Vote against the venues and fade into obscurity.


;Nowhere in the story did the two give ink to the idea that objection to a plan the county comptroller herself thinks sketchy – as noted in a July 21 story by Schlueb – might prove politically advantageous. Watching out for the people you serve? How quaint.


;On July 23, Schlueb wrote a story headlined "It's time: What you need to know about venues," that failed even to give lip service to an idea he should have picked up in Reporting 101: Get both sides of the story. This "rundown" on the issues devoted a paragraph to why supporters wanted a new arena, but not a single word on why non-supporters didn't. He did throw out the red herring that helps the Sentinel get over the objectivity bar by raising the non-question of whether or not Rich DeVos was contributing enough, but that's like writing a story about the Iraq war and wondering if the troops are getting enough Wheaties.

;;As the vote neared, we once again witnessed star reporters Schlueb and Damron being snowed by a push poll bought and paid for by pro-venues marketers. The first time it happened, back in May, it took their own colleague, Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas, to point out that the "opinion" poll Schlueb reported on was conducted by campaign consultants who worked for the DeVos family. The second time you'd think they would have learned. You'd be wrong. The July 24 poll, paid for by the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, was done by a Virginia polling firm, American Viewpoint, that is a favorite with Republicans everywhere, from Bush-Cheney '04 to the Republican Majority for Choice. Think it might be newsworthy to mention that fact, seeing ;as DeVos is a megacontributor to the Republicans? The Sentinel didn't.


;So congratulations, Central Florida. You just bought yourself projects that will shape and constrain the finances of this region for decades. Too bad the paper of record didn't think it necessary to be honest with you about the consequences.


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