“Politics Makes for Strange Bedfellows.”
- Origin, William Shakespeare, who wrote
“Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows”
from The Tempest, per Politics Web.
“There’s Nothing in the Middle of the Road but
Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos.”
- Jim Hightower,
- former Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner,
George Soros is a foil in this article, who will be used as an example of both virtue signaling and the difficulties faced by the contemporary mainstream media, perhaps most notably, locally owned newspapers.
Mention the name ‘Soros,’ and those on the left and right will cheer or jeer accordingly.
Yet Soros, who plainly calls himself a progressive and does virtue signaling himself, has at times publicly stood for causes that the political right or fans of President Trump might find themselves surprisingly supporting.
Rephrased, people – Soros or others – are often more nuanced than many want to believe. But that understanding would only occur if what is said and done by a personality or organization are examined objectively, on their own merits.
All too often today people or sources are supported or opposed merely based upon presumptions. In the example of Soros, he is for X on the political left, but when carefully examined, he might hold a Y view favorable to the right on something else. Indeed, to some industry colleagues who loathe Soros and much of the media, let me say that if you keep an open mind you’ll walk away with some food for thought about him, and the mainstream media too.
Thus, while he is a foil of sorts in this, there will be two ways that Soros is specifically connected to our segment of the affordable housing industry, and how this relates to the mainstream media.
News media faces several challenges in our era. Among them, in no specific order of importance:
- there is a polarized electorate. Try to play it objectively down the middle, and you may get the Texas Jim Hightower treatment view that leaves only dead animals and admits to yellow stripes that occupy the center of the road.
- There are the economic pressures of consolidation on news organizations.
- It is true that much of the nation’s independent media has steadily vanished since the days of the internet, but not solely for that cause.
Consolidation is occurring in much of America’s industries and professions. Indeed, it is happening in other nations too. Friends of ours who are MDs have sold their practices to larger institutions, as but one of dozens of examples. Consolidation is occurring in our manufactured home industry at a steady pace.
And as noted, for decades, consolidation has taken place in mainstream media.
As a disclosure, for a brief time, this writer worked for a major metropolitan publication that in its market was by far the #1. It was around the dawn of the internet era. With credentials like my educational background that included a journalism scholarship, awards in history, a perfect 4.0 in business management, Dean’s list, plus years of successful business experience and some web background, it wasn’t hard to get hired. But in those days, I was impatient to get to where I wanted to go next in my career. I stayed long enough to see how things worked from the inside. Concerns over the impact of the internet on the news business was feared even back then by media. In hindsight, perhaps rightly so. After all, how do you charge for a newspaper and then compete against a “free” world-wide web?
Which brings us aptly to the challenges faced by what remains of the independent media in America.
What Happened In the News-world Earlier This Week
It was a blip on the radar that most of the nation never noticed.
But nevertheless, perhaps hundreds of thousands did see and read a letter to the editor that made its way into some 7 Florida newspapers, even though the letter was only submitted to one newspaper. That tale is found at the linked text-image box below. It is an example of the intersection of media, consolidation, affordable housing, and manufactured homes role in U.S. society.
Hopefully, you’ll take 5 and read that now, because doing so will make more sense to fully grasp what follows it. Don’t worry, this article will wait that long…
Surprising Demo – National Association of Realtors Reveals Manufactured Homes Living Less Costly Than Renting | Manufactured and Modular Housing Industry News
Imagine, for the next few moments that the headline on top was part of a series of headlines and reports that accurately told the true story about manufactured home living. That would be real news, wouldn’t it? First, let’s note that the headline is accurate. If you are a new …
…finished? Okay, let’s proceed.
Here a bit further below is the actual letter to the editor I sent to the Lakeland Ledger. Note to those outside of the news business, when sending a letter to the editor, you might suggest a headline, but they have the right to change it, which if you read the above and compare it to what follows they did. That’s not a complaint, but rather a statement of fact for non-media to grasp. I respect our area publisher quite a bit. While we’ve never formally met, we’ve messaged. I have a hunch that he understands us and our two trade media platforms better than many might, and we strive to understand and certainly respect his publications too. It was a courtesy for him to have published that letter, and this is a pubic thank you.
Letters to the editor routinely have limitations.
For an example that non-media professionals might grasp, I’ve not yet met a normal publication that would accept a manifesto before-the-fact of some threatened dastardly deeds akin to the tragic one penned by the El Paso shooter. Editors rightly decline those with nary a second thought.
So, letters to the editor have word limits, topical limits, and more. The letters and opinion are popular sections of many a local paper. There are typically far more letters submitted than those which get published. So again, that’s a thank you to the Ledger’s publisher and editor. That said, the link to the letter as they published it is found below.
By the way, for my manufactured home industry peers that may not know. You don’t send an identical letter to more than one media outlet. That’s a stated or unstated rule. I sent that letter ONLY to the Ledger. They apparently in turn had it published in several outlets that are sister publications of theirs. That was an additional courtesy on their part, which was not requested or expected, for which again I’m grateful.
That said, my point with that letter to the Ledger was nuanced. It meant to weave several main topics together, in a mere 300 words. The below exceed their word limit, they asked me to rewrite, which I did as shown at the link above. But what follows below is verbatim what was submitted. The header below is what was sent as my suggested headline.
How Affordable Housing, News Media, and Antitrust Intersect
The words ‘fake news’ emerged in recent years, spanning the left-right divide. Recent polling suggests the most-trusted news sources are local news and specialized trade platforms.
The sheer power of the Google-Facebook duopoly caused the News Media Alliance to ask Congress to exempt them for a few years from antitrust laws, so they can collectively negotiate with big-tech. It’s a painful irony. Local and regional media are asking for an exemption, because tech-titans – which arguably largely escaped antitrust laws for years – have so much advertising, economic, and political power – they’re crushing independent journalism.
Put differently, the less-trusted tech-giants clout causes more-trusted media outlets harm. “We the People” suffer as a consequence of growing misinformation.
The affordable housing crisis is demonstrably impacted by monopolization. Politicos push programs and policies fueling the very crisis they claim to want to solve. Common sense tells us that limiting affordable housing makes renting or home buying more costly. Meanwhile, NIMBYism – often fostered by special interests – festers.
Millions want to own, but believe they’re priced out.
Zillow research in 2016 and 2018 on housing trends showed interest in manufactured homes declined, even though it’s the most proven affordable housing. A report on MHLivingNews cites Democratic and Republican lawmakers researching the affordable housing crisis agreeing on the surprising value of modern manufactured homes over multifamily housing. Scholastica Cororaton, CBE for the National Association of Realtors, published research in 2018 “Making the Case for Manufactured Homes.” It debunks numerous common concerns, documenting how renting can be more expensive than owning a manufactured home.
Why was Cororaton’s research under-reported? Arguably, due in part to conglomerates’ power over what we see, hear, and read. These issues impact us all. Antitrust, anyone?
Now, what I didn’t submit was the point made several times on our own trade media sites. Namely, the following.
Scholastica ‘Gay’ Cororaton, Certified Business Economist (CBE) for the National Association of Realtors, published research in 2018. It was promoted on Realtor University’s own blog, under “Making the Case for Manufactured Homes.” As a minor point of what might appear to be professional pride, but more to make a point about how good research is done by someone like Cororaton, when the first version of her research was produced, it had some nomenclature and a few factual errors in it. These I personally brought to Ms. Cororaton’s attention. She responsibly double-checked with others, including Mark Weiss, J.D., the president and CEO of the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR), who along with others confirmed each of my suggested corrections.
What happened next was classy and exemplary. We all make mistakes, and as every computer programmer knows, if the input is wrong, then the output is less than ideal.
Cororaton and Realtor University not only made every correction, but the republished that entire edition of their journal. That’s very much in keeping with what the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethical Conduct calls for, so good for them.
But Cororaton went a step further, she amended the first footnote, and included Mark Weiss and myself in it. That’s classy. Hats off on all counts.
But that episode is told because it begs several questions that had nothing to do with the NAR, Ms. Cororaton, or accuracy in journalism and scholarship. Rather, it has to do with her sources of information.
Among the concerns to be explored are these.
- The Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) was cited in the first version of that report. An MHI outside attorney and an MHI vice president were among those specifically named as having assisted with the research.
- There are indications that the MHI outside counsel and vice president were presented with the draft by Ms. Cororaton. Why didn’t they see the same factual and terminological errors? Why didn’t they ask for the corrections before or after that journal was published?
- Furthermore, beyond asking for corrections that Ms. Cororaton apparently asked them for before publishing, once Realtor University published that important research, which included numerous other sources of information, why didn’t MHI then publicize NAR’s highly useful, third-party research?
Please hold those thoughts. Because it is part of what is going wrong in the manufactured housing industry, and thus in affordable housing too.
But furthermore, it arguably exemplifies another challenge that mainstream media faces in general. Namely weaponized or inadequate sources of ‘information.’ With smaller staffs being asked to do more, newsrooms count on a source for accuracy. As the example above documents and demonstrates, one can’t blithely trust MHI for accuracy, sorry, but it is what it is and we’ve documented that several times on a range of issues.
Manufactured housing is widely misunderstood. That understood, the NAR, widely respected, was giving MHI on a silver platter perhaps the best third-party research in years. Yet, MHI did nothing with it, as the screen captures below reflects. Why didn’t MHI at a minimum publish Realtor University’s useful research on their own website?
But that isn’t the only example of a purported fumble or missed opportunity by MHI in a matter akin to Cororaton’s “Making the Case for Manufactured Homes.” There are numbers of such third-party research that span at least 2 decades. Let’s me share just one more example of an MHI miss to make the point.
Lisa Tyler earned her Ph.D. by doing a doctoral dissertation on this topic. “Examining Community Attitudes Toward Manufactured Housing.” The potential value of a Ph.D.’s dissertation on that topic are numerous to a normal trade association. Among the benefits is the fact that a doctoral dissertation had to be peer reviewed by experts. Tyler’s dissertation, I’m told, also had to use only scholarship or data found in the last 5 years from the date it was produced. Certainly, other research might have been mentioned, but it had to be grounded on recent and qualified research.
Tyler’s and Cororaton’s research were ground-breaking. So, why has MHI failed to promote either one?
Manufactured housing is widely misunderstood. That impacts millions of manufactured home owners, and tens of millions of others who might be an owner, if they just understood the truth from outdated data.
So, why hasn’t the MHI trade group – that claims to represent all segments of factory-built housing, including HUD Code manufactured homes – use their best opportunities with possible tools like that kind of research to support their own case for why the public should be embracing more manufactured housing?
Rephrased, why would MHI fail to cite third party research that could help public officials as well as the home seeking public better understand and respect manufactured homes?
Hold those questions in mind, as we press on. Because all learning is accomplished in stages. Eyes are opened to new realities in stages, although there are at times a genuine ‘epiphany’ or ‘aha!’ moment.
What Mainstream Media, and Trade Media Share in Common…
At this point, some who don’t know this writer and my own expertise in this matter might think that what follows sounds like a conspiracy theory. Indeed, that is the allegation made by some industry detractors.
But mainstream media professionals know all-too-well that they cannot please everyone. Journalists know about detractors and ‘straw man’ arguments. They know that as soon as they report – even as factually as possible – on an issue, they will step on toes. It is one of several challenges that mainstream media faces, beyond the pressures of Google-Facebook, big tech, the web, consolidation, dwindling ad revenues, and more.
We know what mainstream media goes through first-hand experience. Because even as the manufactured home industry’s biggest and most-read, as soon as we publish on a topic – no matter how well researched and documented – we get cheers and jeers too. The jeers you can imagine or where already alluded to, but we’ll share examples cheers below.
Objectivity, Fairness and Soros
We remind our readers of the ancient principle of separating the wheat from the chaff, because in fairness and objectively speaking, most souls are a mix of what is good and what is less so, this writer included.
Soros, like him or not, has established a platform to promote open markets, a nonprofit dubbed the Open Market’s Institute that has an antitrust bent. While we don’t agree with all of their recommendations or analysis, the concerns they raise about the monopolization of the marketplace and the harm it has done to tens of millions of Americans is real and well documented.
Give each the credit they are due. That’s part of what a truly just society looks like.
We may not like the vexing reality that mainstream media often misuses or intermixes terminology in a fashion that arguably is at odds with what the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) says should occur in their code of ethical conduct.
But in self-analysis, we don’t follow the AP or Chicago stylebooks very closely ourselves on MHProNews and MHLivingNews. So, we hereby again cop a plea and admit to a point that some of our readers sometimes jokingly, sometimes severely, point out. Namely, that we get typos. True enough.
But as mainstream media have had their staffs whittled down and asks each person to do more, typos even in large platforms across the left-right media divide – say the New York Times or Fox News – are popping up. My favorite example of a typo is the one word billboard below. After I contacted them with this photo, not long afterward, it was replaced with a corrected spelling.
Fake news or agenda-driven missteps do indeed occur. But some errors are a result of time and financial pressures. If the public wants better local or national media, that must come as a result of financial support. Furthermore, as has been noted, local media – and specialized platforms (like this) – routinely gets higher confidence among reader surveys.
The closer people and professionals are to the facts, the harder it is to spin them.
In our own defense, and a point that publishers outside of our industry might respect and understand, we’ve never based our business model on the need for ad revenue alone. We do professional and expert services, because we know this industry and business from the ground up, not from some ivory tower. and that from the start has been our bread and butter. I’m not sure if many in mainstream news business could adopt a similar business model, but as trade media that has worked for us for almost a decade. Ads from sponsors have been almost a lagniappe, the French notion of a bonus or ‘something extra.’ For the parent firm of MHProNews and MHLivingNews without that client revenue our adversaries that we call to account in what we’ve dubbed the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis would have successful driven us into the financial ditch years ago, perhaps mildly akin to what the Google-Facebook duopoly are arguably doing to so many mainstream newspapers.
That is said because an article like this one, or the reports that Soheyla does, are not the only things that we do. We’re busy with professional services, plus we ‘have a life.’ So, just as mainstream media have errors, we get typos too. But on facts related to our industry, there are few if any sources that can claim a stronger track record for accuracy. Perhaps that is why our readership has surged, even in the face of controversial positions that hold industry leaders to account.
Our opponents know that to be true, and that is why all sized firms read our publications, not just the independents. The so-called ‘big boys’ follow us closely. Who said? MHI’s outside attorney, among others. He put that in writing, as part of a not-so thinly veiled threat.
Which begs the question, why doesn’t MHI just do their self-proclaimed job as advertised? Why do they even bother trying to intimidate a publisher that they and their leadership previously praised for years?
Which brings us to toward this close. Our industry suffers in part due to the monopolization of information, money, and power. Many, but not all, in the mainstream news business arguably suffer from something similar. As the above hopefully outlined, we understand mainstream media’s challenges.
There are natural ties there. Natural alliances.
- 111 million Americans rent, says the Apartment List in 2019. Per several surveys, about 80 percent of them would rather own.
- Some 20 million Americans live in a pre-HUD Code mobile home or a post-HUD Code manufactured home. They are widely misunderstood. Why? In some measure because the powers that be in manufactured housing – for whatever motive one might wish to ascribe – routinely fail to protect their image, interests or those of the small to mid-sized independent businesses.
- As fine as some of the points made in this mainstream video below are, it too is laced with terminology errors. That said, it is a useful bit of reporting.
Professions and industries across the spectrum are being slowly monopolized. There are those who argue for regulations on the giants like Google-Facebook. Sorry, but that’s sheer double talk, self-delusion, or logical nonsense. Regulations are the friend to many big businesses, because they create an additional moat that they can endure that smaller firms cannot long abide.
In our industry, people like Warren Buffett have literally fueled through donations and behavior the problematic image of our industry. They’ve done so in a variety of ways that the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis and their allies have been invited by me personally to publicly debate before a live crowd on video the evidence, but they have repeatedly declined for some 2.3 years. We have also invited them to submit written rebuttals to our research. Silence. Keep in mind, if you are a new reader here, that for years, MHI and those same big boys responded promptly to our inquiries for some 7 years.
The right to free speech has as it corollary the right not to speak when it might become self-incriminating. We respect those God-given, constitutionally safeguarded rights.
For those in public office, public officials, or media that have the chutzpah to push back against such monopolistic trends and purported bad behavior, here is my advice and invitation. We’ve learned that public pushback pays off. We challenge the system and its giants, much like the SPJ’s code of ethical conduct demands. We play by the rules, we label our reports as news, fact-checks, and analysis. We lay out the evidence that any diligent researcher could follow.
Indeed, antitrust and other attorneys who have looked at this report linked below have found it to be compelling.
Literally 1/3rd of America is arguably harmed by this bad behavior. Most of the other 2/3rds are harmed too, only their harm is oblique, as the report linked below reflects and cites the research that makes that claim intelligible.
We believe that there is already evidence that affordable housing will be a top 5 issue in the 2020 elections. That issue can’t be grasped in a vacuum. The most affordable form of permanent housing, per the NAR, is modern manufactured homes. Thousands in our industry get it that the ‘big boys’ are consolidating the industry because that will in time make the fabulously richer.
Thousand in our industry get it that the industry and millions of our homeowners know all too well that manufactured housing is misunderstood.
Decio’s firm – which is now known as Skyline Champion (SKY) and Legacy Housing are competitors. They are both MHI member companies. But think about that second quote below from Legacy’s co-founder, said in a recent conference call with investors.
What some have a hard time getting is just how rigged the system is. When voices as far apart as Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and President Donald J. Trump all say that the system is rigged, then more should sit up and take notice. What that claim demands is a closer look at how the system is rigged, and how that rigged system can best be addressed or the sake of the majority of honest Americans.
This is not a left-or-right issue. Democrats and Republicans who have studied affordable housing and manufactured homes role in that problem understand the value and its pressing need.
What this outline logically does is lead to this pair of bullets.
- Who in public office will act? Who will investigate these issues to see what laws may have been broken? Because we believe there is ample evidence of restraint of trade, deceptive trade practices, and arguably monopolistic practices that violate antitrust laws.
- Who in the mainstream media will plumb these issues seriously?
The Lakeland Ledger gave this discussion a nice initially push. We thank them for that anew. It is now time to take it to another step, and another, until the pressures that challenge much of mainstream media and the similar pressures that weigh down manufactured housing are clearly met by antitrust and whatever other legal actions are required.
Knowing something about human nature, let me encourage all of those who read this to now circle back to the linked reports above and below. The more you read, the more you will experience a light bulb going off.
Who says? Public officials, investors, industry professionals, and homeowners who have read these reports, reflected on the evidence, and keep coming back for more.
We have public officials on both sides of the political aisle reading these concerns. They’ve found reasons for concern. How about you? Perhaps more important, is that residents who have been impacted by the ‘bad behavior’ that often spring from mainstream media reports like the one below are finding the research to fit the facts that they experience too.
While it admittedly took us about 6-7 years to figure out what was really going on in our industry, my thanks to all who have made this possible for almost a decade of successful publishing.
Having taken the blows for daring to publish articles like this that none other in our industry’s trades will publish, having pushed back on the challenges, dotted i’s and crossed t’s – thanks to numerous sources, tips, visible and sometimes invisible sponsors – we’re as ready as can be for what’s next.
We don’t get marching orders from sponsors, nor does our supporters necessarily agree with all that we’ve said. That’s not unlike mainstream news too. No two people will see everything the same.
That’s a sobering, challenging, and hopeful look at “News through the lens of manufactured homes and factory-built housing” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © (News, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. See more below the byline, notices and sign up for our free x2 weekly emailed headline updates.) ## (News, analysis, fact-checks, and commentary. See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them. Third-party images and content are provided under fair use guidelines.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHProNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and won the Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he also studied business management. He has earned multiple awards in manufactured housing and in history. He’s a managing member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.
Office 863-213-4090 |Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
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Manufactured Housing Institute Fine New Manufactured Home Industry Promoting Video, Insights & Usefulness
Manufactured Housing Institute, MHI, Logo, New, Manufactured Home, Industry, Promoting, Video, HUD, Secretary Ben Carson, Brian Montgomery, Richard ‘Dick’ Jennison, Brian Cira, Joe Stegmayer, Mark Yost, Cavco Industries, Skyline Champion,