Branson Media's Conflict of Interest - Branson Alderman
The carefully laundered factoids strewn together into a collective body of published opinion that graces the front page of Ozark Mountain Newspapers tri-weekly tabloid are only sometimes marked "opinion".
The adjective before this series, "Old" is a good description for the ethically challenged reporting the community has been accustomed to over the last few years. What we can pin is the next victim of the "Old" columnist will be. Ironically, he's the last vestige of the "Old" watch and appears to remain the victim of the hatred which has defined the last year of "Old" style reporting.
Focusing in on the most recent series of setups we should examine the numbers which we are left wanting. Biased statements aimed at specific companies are reiterated. The hard numbers providing the score card for the economy are omitted. Instead the financial report can be summarized:
Hate speech 2 hard facts O.
On the homepage of the Branson Edge a firsthand non-editorialized examination of the hard numbers is posted. Retrieving updated numbers has been difficult since the city no longer has a full-time financial director.
If Branson's economy is stagnant where is the failure? The theatre industry currently is the most subsidized industry in Branson reaping 10 times a return on their tax dollars. The money is funneled to a highly experienced local marketing agency, who often functions as a private club - without any real accountability.
The "old" reporter states Branson's numbers remain static while HCW properties continue to deliver an increasing return on investment. The infrastructure in the two areas are financed by (Tax Increment Financing) TIF dollars - like Silver Dollar City's TIF financed development. Of course, our neighbors to the north (Christian County) and to the Northeast (Joplin Area)and to the south of Branson (Hollister) all have massive TIF projects being negotiated. Both counties have higher anticipated growth rates than the Branson area.
Back to our massively subsidized fiscally static theater industry - If we're dumping $15 million dollars in taxes to boost an industry that isn't growing - whose responsibility is it?
Either the Theater industry is declining and being artificially boosted through massive marketing efforts just to tread water or the Branson Chamber of Commerce and Convention Visitors Bureau is a dismal failure promising to propel the Taney County Economy into bankruptcy.
We haven't reason to believe that the Branson Chamber of Commerce / Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau is failing us but the newspaper certainly is. They're failing us by conveniently ommiting details ( a violation of ethics) and failing to scrutinize the parties and economic attributes that create the business environment we all depend on to put food on our family's table.
If they ignore it, continue to act as "government lapdogs" instead of "government watchdogs" eventually they'll be drowned out in the way so many Branson area newspapers have - with relevant detailed coverage of our community by emerging publications.
In a year and a half, three members of Branson's City Government have been the focus of vile, biased and prejudiced attacks - while others are worshiped. The "Old" method of reporting has become predictable. Here's a view of an issue "Old" addresses regarding one of his sacred cows - Alderman Stephen Marshall.
Stephen Marshall is arguably the most intelligent, politically aware individual sitting on Branson's Board of Alderman to date. Marshall's full time job is to maintain and compete for convention business in one of Branson's premiere properties.
The fact Chateau on the Lake is competing for convention business is undeniable. Marshall's experience in the convention business puts him in a strong position to advise and interpret data relating to Branson's Covention Center - contrary to the statements expressed through faux-reporting (partial reports) and editorials the potential of a conflict of interest isn't so far fetched.
The conflict of interest isn't in the overall numbers or basic strategy - the question of conflict remains in the fact Marshall has access to the complete client list.
If there is any doubt whether a conflict exists, perhaps Marshall should be asked for a complete list of clients for the Chateau on the Lake. After he denies the request - maybe the "Old Bird" could ask why. Of course he won't
We're lucky to be blessed with John Q Hammon's vision for Table Rock Lake and we're lucky to have a man as brilliant as Stephen Marshall sitting on Branson's Board of Alderman though contrary to a year of "Old" reporting, Marshall doesn't walk on water and if the reporter gave half the scrutiny to Marshall that other politicians are given - the community might know it.
I don't want to conclude whether Marshall's position in oversight for a competing entity is a conflict, but to deny the legitimacy of such a question is ludicrous. No public official should be above scrutiny and failing to explore legitimate questions breeds the types of problems the press should be helping us avoid.