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WEB REIVEW: Just the facts

Jim Cota
September 1, 2012
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Jim Cota
Television news outlets can’t seem to resist the temptation to include their own analysis, newspapers seem unable to simply report the facts (er, except this one, of course), and radio talk show personalities—on both sides of the political spectrum—seem more interested in increasing the divide between us than improving the level of discourse.

It’s human nature, I suppose, that we don’t want to be wrong. It’s uncomfortable to find out that something we believe, even something we were sure was right, turns out to be wrong. Americans love to argue, love to challenge, and love to persuade. But we’re not all that keen on being challenged or persuaded ourselves.

But the problems we’re facing as a nation are very real. Unemployment, debt, crumbling infrastructure, education, rising costs of health care, the impending Social Security crisis … you need not look long or hard to find examples of tough issues that drive passions at every step.

So it’s more important than ever that we have the facts. In previous articles, we’ve discussed sites that work to dispel rumors and lies or get to the bottom of claims made by one party or another. Examples include Snopes (snopes.com) for myths and urban legends and Fact Check (factcheck.org) for political distortion.

But a new site has emerged this year that deserves special consideration. Face the Facts USA (facethefactsusa.org) is a nonpartisan, independently funded initiative supported by George Washington University and based at their School of Media and Public Affairs. The idea is simple: Students and faculty work with journalists and media professionals to research facts. Then they present the information to inform conversation and thoughtful consideration of public policy issues.

The project was started as a direct result of the current political and governance climate. Its stated reason for existing is to “slice through the hyperbole and spin that gunk up the biggest issues facing America today—and present exhaustively researched and vetted facts in a compelling, easy-to-digest way.” The goals of the organization are to insert more factual data into meaningful conversations, debunk myths and misconceptions, and encourage people to get involved to push for solutions that move us forward as a nation.

It’s planning to release 100 facts in 100 days, broken down into 10 primary categories, including topics such as jobs & economy, national security, health care, life in America, and energy & environment.

Each of the facts has been well researched and, where possible, presents opposing views and additional stories to help you discern for yourself what the situation is and how you feel about it. Many of the stories have accompanying video or some interactive element that aids in clarity and can boil the topic down to salient points—perfect for sharing with your middle-school and older children to help them understand big, complex issues.

The first fact was on the debt and deficits: In 2011, the federal deficit rose $41,210 a second. Fact No. 10 was that the United States was a net exporter of fuel for the first time since 1949 (meaning we exported more refined gas, diesel and other fuels than we imported). Fact 13 explained that the amount of spending on prescription drugs through Medicare has increased 22 percent since the inception of the Medicare prescription drug program. During the same time, private-insurance spending on prescription drugs rose only 6 percent.

Fact 16—my favorite so far—took an in-depth and frightening look at our infrastructure of bridges across the country (including right here in Indianapolis) and reported that 605,000 of them are classified as structurally deficient. This particular story includes an interactive map that allows you to zoom in on your area to see bridges near you that have been restricted to light vehicles, are in need of immediate repair, or are outright closed.

I don’t know if there is anyone left in the country who is undecided about whom they plan to vote for. But I do know that there are lots and lots of people who made that decision based on shaky data, myths or an outright misrepresentation of the facts. I hope Face the Facts USA will help reverse this trend; lead to increasingly informed and civil discussions; and help us to find good, workable solutions for the problems we’re facing.•

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Cota is creative director of Rare Bird Inc., a full-service advertising agency specializing in the use of new technologies. His column appears monthly. He can be reached at jim@rarebirdinc.com.
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  1. Cramer agrees...says don't buy it and sell it if you own it! Their "pay to play" cost is this issue. As long as they charge customers, they never will attain the critical mass needed to be a successful on company...Jim Cramer quote.

  2. My responses to some of the comments would include the following: 1. Our offer which included the forgiveness of debt (this is an immediate forgiveness and is not "spread over many years")represents debt that due to a reduction of interest rates in the economy arguably represents consideration together with the cash component of our offer that exceeds the $2.1 million apparently offered by another party. 2. The previous $2.1 million cash offer that was turned down by the CRC would have netted the CRC substantially less than $2.1 million. As a result even in hindsight the CRC was wise in turning down that offer. 3. With regard to "concerned Carmelite's" discussion of the previous financing Pedcor gave up $16.5 million in City debt in addition to the conveyance of the garage (appraised at $13 million)in exchange for the $22.5 million cash and debt obligations. The local media never discussed the $16.5 million in debt that we gave up which would show that we gave $29.5 million in value for the $23.5 million. 4.Pedcor would have been much happier if Brian was still operating his Deli and only made this offer as we believe that we can redevelop the building into something that will be better for the City and City Center where both Pedcor the citizens of Carmel have a large investment. Bruce Cordingley, President, Pedcor

  3. I've been looking for news on Corner Bakery, too, but there doesn't seem to be any info out there. I prefer them over Panera and Paradise so can't wait to see where they'll be!

  4. WGN actually is two channels: 1. WGN Chicago, seen only in Chicago (and parts of Canada) - this station is one of the flagship CW affiliates. 2. WGN America - a nationwide cable channel that doesn't carry any CW programming, and doesn't have local affiliates. (In addition, as WGN is owned by Tribune, just like WTTV, WTTK, and WXIN, I can't imagine they would do anything to help WISH.) In Indianapolis, CW programming is already seen on WTTV 4 and WTTK 29, and when CBS takes over those stations' main channels, the CW will move to a sub channel, such as 4.2 or 4.3 and 29.2 or 29.3. TBS is only a cable channel these days and does not affiliate with local stations. WISH could move the MyNetwork affiliation from WNDY 23 to WISH 8, but I am beginning to think they may prefer to put together their own lineup of syndicated programming instead. While much of it would be "reruns" from broadcast or cable, that's pretty much what the MyNetwork does these days anyway. So since WISH has the choice, they may want to customize their lineup by choosing programs that they feel will garner better ratings in this market.

  5. The Pedcor debt is from the CRC paying ~$23M for the Pedcor's parking garage at City Center that is apprased at $13M. Why did we pay over the top money for a private businesses parking? What did we get out of it? Pedcor got free parking for their apartment and business tenants. Pedcor now gets another building for free that taxpayers have ~$3M tied up in. This is NOT a win win for taxpayers. It is just a win for Pedcor who contributes heavily to the Friends of Jim Brainard. The campaign reports are on the Hamilton County website. http://www2.hamiltoncounty.in.gov/publicdocs/Campaign%20Finance%20Images/defaultfiles.asp?ARG1=Campaign Finance Images&ARG2=/Brainard, Jim

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