Dead Dam Vision: Fox23's spiked story

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Last week, a local TV station spiked a well-researched news story about funding problems for the proposed south Tulsa / Jenks low-water dam and the awareness of Tulsa elected officials of the problem before they voted to put the proposal on the ballot. The story's sudden withdrawal hints at pressure by local power-brokers, panicked that the public will become aware of the flimsy foundation of the "Vision Tulsa" sales tax proposal. Tulsans will vote three proposed new city taxes and a new county tax up or down in an April 5, 2016, special election.

An extensive 1163-word news story by reporter Rick Maranon about the Muscogee Creek Nation's refusal to commit to funding for maintenance of the dam was posted to Fox23.com last Tuesday evening, March 15, 2016, then was deleted from the website later the same evening. While long website news stories are typically transcripts of video reports airing on Fox23's nightly news cast, no such story was aired.

The story cites a letter from Muscogee Creek Nation officials to city leaders, panicked emails among city officials about the implications of the MCN letter, video of council committee meetings, and other sources of information. Reporter Rick Maranon did a solid job of connecting the dots. Here's one of the more damning excerpts from the story:

FOX23 has reported numerous time within the past year that current and past city officials have stated the current state of the Zink Dam in Tulsa is the result of a lack of proper maintenance funding, and they wanted to set up an endowment so the current disrepair of the dam wouldn't happen again.

City officials long assumed that the Creek Nation would be more than willing to pick up the tab because of their properties along the river involving Riverspirit Casino and the Flying Tee.

But after FOX23 reported that the Creek Nation was going to set up an endowment, members of the Creek Nation began to contact FOX23 saying they were not aware of the multi-million dollar commitment Tulsa officials had allegedly assumed they would be fine with.

The tribe's own internal news agency quoted Creek Nation representatives to Tulsa as saying they were not informed of the plan to set up the endowment and partner with Jenks and Tulsa on the dams.

Multiple sources close to the Vision Tulsa project who have been asked not to be identified have simply said city leaders assumed the tribe would be on board without consulting them of their plans before they presented them to voters as a done deal set in stone.

The first officials meeting to discuss an endowment happened on February 11th, and days later, the tribe officially notified city leaders they were out of the Vision low water dam plan....

On February 23rd, Tulsa City Council Vice Chair Anna America stated in an e-mail to councilors, "I think we need to make that clear to the public ASAP, and not try to be ambiguous at the press conference or in any other comments."

She went on to state in the same e-mail," I don't want to wait that long to say there won't be a south Tulsa dam if the Creeks say today they aren't participating in funding this year."

But the request appears to have fallen on deaf ears because two days later on February 25th, Tulsa city leaders launched the Vision Tulsa campaign stating that two low water dams would be built on the Arkansas River if the proposal is approved April 5th.

FOX23-Tulsa_Dam_Plan_Dead-Google_Cache-01.png

On Tuesday, March 15, 2016, at 7:58 pm CDT, Fox23 posted the detailed, 1163-word news story, headlined "Tulsa dam plan dead in the water"

The article was posted at the following URL, which now leads to a "404" page.

http://www.fox23.com/news/tulsa-dam-plan-dead-in-the-water/163489977

A person who saw the story on the Fox23 website when it was live reports that it was offline soon after.

FOX23-Tulsa_Dam_Plan_Dead-Live_404-01.png

As of Saturday, March 19, 2016, at 7:00 pm CDT, however, the story was still available in the cache of the Bing search engine and cache of the Google search engine captured by Bing when they crawled the page during its brief time in existence.

For posterity, I printed both cached versions of the story to PDF, using the Chrome browser's simplified print option.

Here is a PDF of Bing's cache of Tulsa Dam Plan Dead in the Water.

Here is a PDF of Google's cache of Tulsa dam plan dead in the water.

Other automated web-content harvesters captured portions of the story:

Places to Go in Tulsa: Tulsa dam plan dead in the water - KOKI FOX 23

KOKI FOX 23

According to multiple documents, including internal e-mails, Tulsa city leaders knew the south Tulsa-Jenks dam had fallen through, yet Tulsa city leaders not only kicked off their Vision Tulsa campaign in late February as if nothing had happened, they ...

See Full Article

Dams Infrastructure News: Tulsa dam plan dead in the water | FOX23 - KOKI FOX 23

KOKI FOX 23

Tulsa dam plan dead in the water | FOX23

KOKI FOX 23

A plan to build a low water dam on the Arkansas River in the south Tulsa-Jenks area is dead. The Muscogee Creek Nation said they do not have the funds to ...

and more ยป

So what happened? Fox23 isn't commenting on the story's disappearance, but it's reasonable to speculate based on behavior by Vote Yes forces in past big-project sales tax elections. I have reason to believe that Vision Tulsa supporters threatened to pull advertising, threatened to cut off any cooperation by city officials on future Fox23 stories, and threw some confusing but irrelevant information at station officials at the last minute -- confusing enough to convince station officials to hold off on the story until more research could be done.

Happily, the story's brief appearance online has pointed other news organizations to the sources of information that Maranon uncovered, and now Jarrell Wade of the Tulsa World has a front-page story today on the Creek Nation's unwillingness to fund the dam. We look forward to further coverage of the story, and we'll also post the full text of the relevant public documents and offer further comment here at BatesLine in the days to come.

We can hope that Fox23 management will realize that they were played by the Vote Yes forces and lost a great scoop as a result, spiking a story that reflects serious journalistic effort and investigative depth. May it only make the Fox23 team more aggressive in exposing dishonesty, obfuscation, and misdirection by public officials.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 19, 2016 9:09 PM.

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