Columbia Journalism Review looks at media coverage of Nic Cage bill

Columbia Journalism Review, a respected trade publication, has published an examination of the Nevada media's coverage of the film tax credit bill.

The piece features interviews with journalists who covered the measure, inluding the Sun's Anjeanette Damon, the "newspaper's" Sean Whaley and yours truly.

Some highlights:

----In many ways, the Nevada tax credit bill followed a script common to such “tax expenditures.” A legislative champion—in this case, Democratic State Sen. Aaron Ford—brought forward a measure to give an industry a tax break, contending that it would encourage the industry to expand in the state and create jobs. A requisite number of public officials and business leaders supported the measure as a good idea, generally speaking. Good-government organizations weighed in with their complicated concerns, and the news media provided standard-issue coverage, quoting supporters and opponents of the measure fairly, but without going deeply into details as to their reasoning. And the bill became law, because in the abstract, almost everyone is almost always in favor of lower taxes and more jobs.

Pretty accurate description, right?

----The Sun and Las Vegas Review-Journal journalists who covered the film tax credit bill acknowledge that Cage’s appearance in the capitol momentarily captivated the media, and that Nevada has a tax expenditure problem. Their view of the coverage of tax expenditures is more nuanced than Ralston’s; where he sees failure, they see effort with limited resources and at least partial success.

Is he saying I lack nuance?

----Even so, Nevada’s major journalism outlets need to marshal their resources to do a better job of policing the state’s tendency to deplete the treasury through tax breaks for business. From the largely superficial coverage provided by the Sun and the Review-Journal, readers could have gleaned no real idea as to whether the tax credits being proposed did or did not have a reasonable prospect of luring production facilities and long-term film industry jobs to Nevada. Also, the most thorough and in-depth coverage of the film tax break came after the relevant bill was signed into law, when that coverage could not possibly have helped shape the legislation or action on it.

Ouch. But, alas, true: Resources prevent the kind of journalism-- generally -- that won the Sun a Pulitzer in 2009 and allowed the RJ to write that in-depth series on police shootings.

It's a good read, and I hope it prompts some of the higher-ups at both newspapers to do more in-depth stuff on this and other issues.

But I'm not hopeful.