This headline in my newspaper prompted me to write the following memo to all media – not just to my newspaper, but to all newspapers. Whether the story is on the front page, the fifth page or the 50th page.
And not just all newspapers, but…
To All Media:
Whether you’re online, on the phone, on the fax, on TV, radio, iPhone, iPad, that wrist computer thingy that nobody uses, and every other way you put the news out there:
Please stop saying “City paid.”
Or “County paid.” Or “State paid.” Or “Federal government paid.”
Because neither the city nor county nor state nor Federal governments pay for anything.
We, the taxpayers, do.
Just imagine how different a story would be if it was accurate:
|“Just a decade later, that number has ballooned to more than $67 billion and the state is picking up the tab.”||“Just a decade later, that number has ballooned to more than $67 billion and the taxpayers are picking up the tab.”|
|“The Federal government distributes around $530 billion in funding each year to states and localities.”||“The Federal government distributes around $530 billion of your tax dollars each year to states and localities.”|
|“…which states and the largest U.S. cities use their own revenues to fund low income rental housing programs, separate and apart from any federal funds they receive.”||“…which states and the largest U.S. cities use taxpayer dollars to fund low income rental housing programs, separate and apart from any federal funds they receive.”|
Think about it. How often have you heard something along the lines of, “The Pentagon expects to pay $94.6 million for each F-35A fighter jet”?
This somehow lulls us into thinking, “The Pentagon sure is paying a heck of lot of money for one fighter jet!”
As if “the Pentagon” was some amorphous thing “out there” with its own checkbook.
The Pentagon has NO money except for what we, the taxpayers, give it. Same for every government – city, county, state and federal.
So, members of the media, going forward, please tell your stories accurately. At every level, for every expense, be clear about where the money comes from.
Maybe then we, as taxpayers – and voters – will pay more attention to where it’s going.