The value of a two-newspaper city, Part II

Yesterday, I showed how the same story was presented by two different newspapers. Today, I get to do it again.

“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” recently came to Medfield, Massachusetts to work their one-week miracle on the Johnson family. And in their never-ending quest to find the most heart-wrenching families possible, this one has a five-year-old son with spinal muscular atrophy. They remade the house to be far more friendly to the boy whille he and his family were on an all-expenses-paid vacation.

The Glob’s account is a true “thumb-sucker” of a story, playing up the good-news aspect. The only shadow over the whole thing are a couple of complaints from neighbors, who whose lives were a bit disrupted by the whole thing. Overall, though, it’s “the feel-good hit of the season.”

Leave it to the Boston Herald to look at the same story and find actual substance in it. They recall the Oprah Winfrey Car Giveaway fiasco (where audience members were given new Pontiacs, then later found themselves on the hook for taxes on it — a hook many of them couldn’t afford) and look into just what these new “houses” will end up costing these families.

Apparently, when you tear down someone’s house and give them a far nicer one, you tend to increase the value of that house. And by an odd coincidence, that tends to affect their property taxes, too. And in the case of the Johnsons, it looks like their tax bill will more than double. Toss in higher heating and utility bills for a house with about 250% more square footage, and they’re gonna be forking over a lot of money for their new “free” house.

Robert Heinlein coined what he called the TANSTAAFL Principle — “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.” ABC built it for them in exchange for a heart-warming episode of a hit TV series, and the rights to broadcast the family’s most heartfelt emotions on some Sunday night. And the Johnsons might have gotten the house for free, but they’ll be paying dearly to keep it.

I hope they can, and I hope they knew that going in.

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  1. plum October 9, 2005
  2. John S October 9, 2005
  3. McGehee October 9, 2005
  4. buzz October 9, 2005
  5. steve sturm October 9, 2005
  6. Thomas Hazlewood, Hawaii October 10, 2005
  7. Barbara October 23, 2005