Friday, June 01, 2012
Well all the media that's gonna respond to LUS Fiber's yesterday morning press release has now had a chance to do so and here's your media roundup. What struck me was just how much of a reflection of the character of media outlets themselves the various version were—if you didn't know better you'd be hard put to be certain that they were talking about the same event. (This continues a recent theme; see my post focusing on "Audit:")
We've got, in order of their appearance: The Independent, KATC, KLFY, and the Advertiser.
The Independent version: "LUS makes case for Fiber" is oddly devoid of much of any reference to the points the press conference was intended to announce. Instead we are treated to a story that focuses on media back and forth and political positioning. The story that reprises the points I made in the "Audit" post referred to above and makes some very astute points about the political timing. To wit: the Ind holds that this press conference was called as preemptive strike against the anticipated attack on the Fiber utility at next weeks city-parish council meeting by William Theriot. Since Theriot has requested a report from Huval, director of the utility, after expressing dismay at the portion of the Auditor's report concerning LUS Fiber.
KATC's take: KATC presents a generally upbeat story drawn directly from the presentations marred by just not getting the basic facts right. They reported that LUS fiber had turned a corner and salted that with Huval's complaints about the large legal fees that have held back the new utility drawn from a post press conference interview. Sadly, they get two central facts just wrong. Three times in the piece they refer to borrowing from or paying back monies from the city. The money they are talking about was NOT borrowed from the city. That money was, and I thought that was something everyone in Lafayette understood, bond money borrowed from Wall Street guys. None of it came from the city. They also seemed to indicate that LUS Fiber was profitable...not so, the point of the press conference was that the utility is now cash-flow positive, a very different thing.
KLFY sez: KLFY focused on telling a story about the inconsistent versions of the audit coming out of last week's council meeting and this weeks press conference—noting with some confusion that same auditor was at both meetings. Getting the gist of the news right they also focused on Toup's assertion that LUS Fiber had the potential to help the city-parish with its current budget problems—something the other stories passed over.
And, finally, the Advertiser: Well, the title pretty much encapsulates it— "LUS Fiber cash positive, but still deep in debt." Or "There's good news but we are gonna immediately say bad things to neutralize it." On the upside there's real reporting in this piece (unlike some we've seen recently). All the principals associated with the story from Theriot to Huval to Toups are interviewed. The reporter even calls in real economic expertise in the guise of a Tulane professor. And there's a concerted attempt to actually educate the public on what a phrase like cash-flow positive might mean and how it differs from profitability. All those are things to applaud.
But. The story also goes to some length in the first half to bracket every positive statement with negative ones. I can't escape the feeling that it's defensive writing that is too conscious that the new facts presented contradict the implications of earlier stories in the series. My recommendation is if you've been following the issue you skip forward to the second half which actually introduces interesting material.