Sunday, April 15, 2018

Bill Crawford: A Tale of Two Headlines

The same information released by State Auditor Stacey Pickering resulted in two quite different headlines.

"Study: Economic development incentives paying off for state," read the headline in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

"Auditor: Failed economic projects cost Mississippi taxpayers $185M," read the headline in the Clarion-Ledger.

Both are accurate, both based on the same report by Pickering, but both convey very different perspectives. So, too, do the stories.


The CL story by Jerry Mitchell focuses mainly on the state's economic projects that failed, 11 out of 243 from 2010 to 2017. The DJ story by Bobby Harrison focuses mainly on the overall success of the projects.

"State Auditor Stacey Pickering says failed economic development projects over the past decade have cost Mississippi taxpayers more than $185 million," begins Mitchell's story.

"Despite failures that have the potential to cost the state $185 million, Mississippi has received positive results from its incentive programs designed to entice companies to locate in the state, according to a study conducted by the office of Auditor Stacey Pickering," begins Harrison's story.

Again, both are accurate, but convey different perspectives.

Mitchell's story spends 14 paragraphs describing seven "green companies" approved as projects during Gov. Haley Barbour's administration, most of which failed, some of which may cost the state as much as $180 million in losses. He focused in particular on the biofuel company KiOR bankruptcy that may cost the state $76.3 million and the $74.8 million loan to Stion, a solar panel manufacturer that located in Hattiesburg. While calling these losses, he did quote Attorney General Jim Hood who said, "as soon as a company that promised to deliver jobs and money to the state falls flat on its promise, our office will go after every penny it owes the taxpayers of Mississippi, just as we are doing now with GreenTech, Stion and KiOR.

Mirchell also quoted Columbus economic developer Joe Max Higgins who said about the KiOR plant that was located in Columbus, "Mississippi got screwed way bigger than it did with the (failed Yalobusha County) beef plant."

Mitchell's story does mention the one green company project that has been "a roaring success." This is the View high-tech windows plant in Olive Branch that paid back its $44 million loan and has hired 335 employees.

He also pointed out that Gov. Phil Bryant, in contrast to Barbour, "prefers that Mississippi not invest in startup companies," adding, "the state has lost far less from failed projects under his administration." He failed to note, however, that Barbour's projects failed after he left office and Bryant has not yet completed his second term.

Harrison's story spends only three paragraphs describing losses, highlighting KIOR and Stion.

Both stories quoted Pickering's key finding: "Economic development projects have been good for Mississippi. Overall, we have all benefited from industry being recruited to our state by economic incentives. However, we must remain vigilant in ensuring public dollars are only spent on industry with a track record of success instead of risky startup technology.”

Both cited Pickering's statistic that the state's five incentive programs have had "a return of $12 for each $1 invested" even when taking failures into account.

Two tales, two perspectives. But no fake news.

Crawford (crawfolk@gmail.com) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

And you wonder why Mississippians are in the dark, and at the bottom of every list nationally. So sad.

Anonymous said...

11:42 - How come you left off the part about two of your kids have already graduated and left Mississippi and you're convincing the third to do the same?

Don't disappoint us. You're getting lazy.

Anonymous said...

3:33, Maybe the economic development people in Mississippi need to brag on the high quality of your state’s exports: The bright young people leave the state as soon as they are old enough.

Anonymous said...

Roll out your usual stats, 7:54. With the exception of the thousands of 'bright young people' who live in Madison, Flowood, Hernando, Southaven and Tupelo. And while you're denigrating MY state....Which state is YOUR state?

Anonymous said...

10:20, Yes, I forgot about those cultural centers of enlightenment in Mississippi. Do they still grind up old cars in Flowood?

Anonymous said...

Well, of course they do. The Clarion Ledger focuses on the negative / glass half empty. Negative sells and gets them awards. That is all that they're about. Pitiful.

Anonymous said...

Hey 11:26 is it negative to actually state or restate facts? What has this crowd done to get Mississippi off the bottom? I'm not sure how kids getting to carry guns to nursery school or 4 week abortion laws builds the economy but maybe you can tell us without all us negative nellies hollering. Geez.

Anonymous said...

1:54 (Jerry? Sam R.?), you sure you're talkin' to me (11:26)?
My commentary was in regard to the statement, "...both convey very different perspectives..." and the Clarion Ledger policies and practices. Yes, sometimes they do restate facts that someone else has researched and provided via other media. I did not read anything in Mr. Crawford's column about children and guns and abortion laws. "Geez"

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).


Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.


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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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