Stop the journalism boosterism

Last month a Truckee physician, John Eisele Jr., wrote an essay for the Sierra Sun in which he laid out some of the problems residents of this area will face if there is another Olympics here.

It was not surprising that he needed to turn to a “My Turn” essay to get his concerns out there. Reporters, at least in Reno, will not cover them.

A look at coverage of the business community’s drive to bring the 2022 Olympics here over the last year or two will provide a display of boosterism, chamber-of-commerce verbiage, and complete lack of searching inquiry.

There’s a 2010 Sparks Tribune story by Jessica Carner that quotes two boosters of the idea and no critics. Even a Trib story about a Regional Transportation Commission meeting with Olympic boosters never touches on the traffic problems associated with an Olympics.

On television, there has been story after story that all seem to have been written by the Reno-Tahoe Winter Games Coalition instead of by reporters—all pro, no con.

In the Reno Gazette-Journal, we have seen article after article by Dan Hinxman written in upbeat style on the benefits of having an Olympics in this area. If there have been interviews with critics of the notion, it has escaped us. They certainly have not appeared in every story where boosters are represented.

The environmental hazards, the implications for taxes and public funding, the impact on traffic and other quality of life indices have been mostly ignored. So have the people who want to voice those concerns. It’s not as though they don’t exist, but that’s the danger—reporters get so heavily into boosterism they begin believing that everyone feels the same way. Not everyone does—there are many, many critics in this valley of a new Olympics.

As journalists, it is not our job to be boosters for the concerns of special interests in the community. But that’s what has happened in nearly all coverage of the possibility of a new Olympics here. Most news “reports” could have been published by boosters as promotional material with few words changed.

Our job is to scrutinize the claims by those on both sides, or any side, to subject their rosy scenarios or pessimistic predictions to analysis. Most of all, we need to make sure we give everyone their say.

Now, with 2022 a no-go, local businesspeople want to try for 2026.

Eisele wrote, “[I]t is impossible to minimize or mitigate the deleterious impact of more people, more buildings (and their infrastructure), more vehicles (particularly buses) and roads, and their consequence of more lake pollution and damage to the fragile Tahoe basin landscape. … Try to think of what Lake Tahoe and its landscape might look like in 2030 as the price to pay for one more Winter Olympics—bringing an estimated 1 million visitors, many from places historically less concerned about the environment than we citizens of the Tahoe region.”

Why hasn’t his view, which represents a number of people, been reflected in every story done in Reno on this topic?

In 1988, Reno businesspeople launched a push for the 2002 winter games. They were given their say in the news coverage of the period, but there was also fair coverage of critics of the idea, which helped bring into public view just how deeply the business group wanted to dip into tax dollars. What has happened to local journalism in the ensuing quarter-century?