1. City of Chicago shuts down a local independent theater, the 3 Penny. Chicagoist, a local group blog, posts a story on the closure, singling out amusement taxes as the cause:
2. I call bullshit (well, actually, I call “lazy”) on the story around 2:30:
This post is pretty light on facts and long on speculation. Yes, taxes are unfortunate, but they are a cost of doing business. A variable cost, at that, as the tax only goes up as revenue goes up. (It’s also passed on directly to the consumer, as my Sox tickets from last night clearly show on the front.)
Also, while the city amusement tax is 8% and the county’s 3% (=11%), you fail to note that event admission is not subject to sales tax (a fact I just confirmed by calling the IL Dept of Revenue: (217) 524-4772.)
Is something a few percentage points above sales tax so onerous it’s shutting down movie theaters? Perhaps. Why not call the Music Box [another independent theater] and ask what they think? Why not follow up on the 5 year old Meridian story and find out what’s come out since? Rather than “snooping” (i.e., Googling) why not do some “reporting”?
3. The author responds to me and others an hour later:
it is not typically my take to go full-force investigative reporting, especially since i have limited space to work with here…
however, i have a call into the dept of business and licensing, i have a call into the music box, and i am awaiting a response from the owner of ICE theaters, who was previously the owner of meridian entertainment.
i’ll let you know what i find out. i also got a chance to speak with a theater employee who gave me a pretty in-depth explanation of how box office sales are broken out, so i’ll give you that info, too.
(I don’t want to nitpick, but oh what the hell: forget “full-force”, forget “investigative”, there was no reporting. This woman was locked out of a theater, did some Internet searches, and called it a day. And: “limited space to work with”? I don’t think so. Newsprint may not have scrollbars, but the Web sure does.)
4. Some time later, the story has all tax-related paragraphs excised:
5. Simultaneously with (4), I assume, the story’s title changes from “We Are NOT Amused” to — and I totally don’t get this — “Oh The Shark Bites With Its Teeth, Dear.”
I have to say, I fully believe that in the not-too-distant future, small groups with Internet savvy will give the big newspapers a run for their money in local news. But today, comparing this ham-handed approach — free from fact-checking and correction notices — to the work of real journalists shows a pretty stark contrast.