continued Both McChesney and Joanna Cagan, co-author with Neil de Mause of Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit, have noted that along with the consolidation of media outlets, there's another trend: media companies becoming sports team owners themselves. Media buy-ins into sports franchises range from the famous ones -- notably mogul Rupert Murdoch's recent purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers (which Padres owners Lucchino and John Moores tried to block) -- to more minor interests like Jacor's purchase of a small (less than 5 percent) share in the Colorado Rockies to safeguard their broadcast rights to the team's games.
According to Cagan, local media -- both broadcast and print -- tend to favor stadium projects in their coverage. "I haven't seen any city in which the advocates against the stadium got anywhere near the same coverage as the advocates in favor of it," Cagan said. "In fact, an average reader might not even realize there's an opposition. I thought most of the coverage in San Diego was at least somewhat tainted with this sort of cheerleading aspect."
Cagan did say that in almost every city she's monitored, there has been at least one writer for a local daily newspaper who has been willing to criticize the financing of a pending stadium deal -- a role being filled in the current San Diego controversy by Union-Tribune senior financial columnist Don Bauder. But, she said, "A lot of the coverage in San Diego was what I've seen in other media: very dramatic headlines and broadcast lead-ins of what we need to do to save our team, and what our teams need to do to be competitive. To me, that's the media not doing their job."
Still, despite the odds against them, local opponents of Proposition C intend to take advantage of whatever opportunities for media coverage do open up. In some cases, they're doing what little they can still do under current media law to open up those opportunities themselves. Independent activist and self-proclaimed "average citizen" Chuck Rickman organized several people, independent of the S.T.O.P. C campaign, to monitor the local media and document whether they covered the issue fairly. "People are going to make their decision at the polls, but if they only hear one side of the story, they can't make that decision fairly or from a fully informed perspective," Rickman said. "I really believe the Fairness Doctrine should be introduced."
Rickman also wrote letters to the public files of all four local TV stations with news reports (Channels 8, 10, 39/7 and 51/9) -- files of community responses, which the stations are still required to keep and make available both to members of the public and the FCC -- claiming that their coverage of the stadium issue had been biased in favor of the plan. What's more, according to Rickman, his letters actually got a response from at least one station. "Channel 10 did, miraculously, put on two marvelous half-hour debates on Proposition C after I contacted them," Rickman said. "I don't know if I had anything to do with that, but they did write me afterwards and thanked me for my letter."