ST. LOUIS CONVENTION EFFORT BLASTED BY FRIENDLY FIRE
The city’s disastrous crime problem has become a self-fulfilling prophecy
St. Louis’ fragile civic ego was wounded once again over the weekend with the news that Dot Foods, an Illinois-based company with a strong local presence, was moving its large annual trade show out of town after two decades of hosting it here.
The St. Louis Business Journal had the scoop Friday, noting that the decision to move the show to Denver was “prompted by crime concerns.” The story was published last Friday, four days before the show was set to open at America’s Center.
The story quite reasonably included context about downtown’s crime problems, especially recent issues. It included, for example, a reference to the widely reported, horrific car crash in February that resulted in a 17-year-old volleyball player here for a competition at America’s Center needing both of her legs amputated.
But there was this glaring omission: The decision by Dot Foods to move the show was made in March 2022 and conveyed to local convention officials at Explore St. Louis nearly a year before that accident happened. That context was lost.
Also not mentioned: Dot Food’s expected attendance of 2,800 for this year’s event will be up significantly from last year’s total of 2,600, despite the crime concerns. A reporter emailing the company had referenced the 2022 figure, but that context wasn’t included when the Business Journal reported the 2023 total.
And there’s this: until the terrible crime in February, there had not been a single event of serious violence perpetrated against a convention or trade-show visitor in the 46-year history of America’s Center. At least not one that has been reported.
I suppose we cannot be sure that a terrible crime wasn’t swept under the rug. But I founded the Riverfront Times four months after America’s Center opened in 1977. I can assure you that we would have reported the news if we’d heard about such a thing.
On the other hand, we would not have reported this sort of non-breaking story about downtown crime four days before a trade show opened. I’ve never been one to manage news, but the decision to move the show in 2024 was made more than a year ago.
It would have been better to wait until the show was here to interview attendees about the decision to move the show to Denver. Getting first-hand accounts from visitors regarding their view of St. Louis – including crime concerns – would be informative.
Instead, Dot’s nervous visitors today might as well have been welcomed with a greeting like this: “Please visit the mezzanine level and pick up your show packets and complimentary Kevlar vests.”
There’s a bit to unpack here.