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September 21, 2010

The Anatomy of a "Scoop"

Several weeks ago, a friend called to tell us about a story he'd heard from a business contact — Forest City Ratner was planning to raise funds for Atlantic Yards in China through something called the EB-5 Visa program. He told us to Google EB-5, which we did, and we discovered that there's a two-decade-old U.S. program that essentially trades U.S. resident alien status for half-million-dollar investments that allegedly create at least 10 jobs.

Amazed that Forest City, even with Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov's ill-gotten billions, would need or want to raise yet more money, especially through such a non-traditional and none-too-savory means, we passed the tip along to Atlantic Yards Report.

At first, Norman Oder didn't seem especially interested. After a little more prodding, he started to look into it, and when he came across this Chinese tour itinerary, he quickly became convinced that this was a big story that needed telling. The more he dug into it, the murkier it got. He started calling around, to the Empire State Development Corporation and the New York City Economic Development Corporation, who told him to talk to Forest City Ratner and the New York City Regional Center, who stonewalled him. Even motor-mouthed Marty Markowitz went mute.

Oder was prepared to publish his exhaustive look into Atlantic Yards and the EB-5 program this morning. Late last evening, however, he got "scooped" by The Wall Street Journal's Eliot Brown. Brown, one of the few mainstream media reporters to distinguish himself with his Atlantic Yards coverage, published a 434-word story that barely scratches the surface, and raises no questions about the Atlantic Yards project's ability to actually deliver on the program's "requirements" for job creation.

It's clear to us that Forest City Ratner, while brushing off inquiries from Atlantic Yards Report, scrambled to leak the story before Norman Oder could publish. It's now up to the mainstream media to dig deeper, and toss a wrench or two into Forest City's spin-control operation. Oder's done all the hard work — let's see if they can pick up the ball and run with it.

Posted by eric at September 21, 2010 11:07 AM