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Media Watch

Fare Hike Coverage: We Know the Effect, But What About the Cause?

Ben Kabak at Second Avenue Sagas is on a roll critiquing media coverage of the MTA fare hike, which went into effect yesterday. Last week he questioned the coalition-building skills of transit advocates. Today he goes after the reporters:

Instead of focusing on the whys and wherefores of the fare hike,instead of explaining how Albany has left the MTA out in the financialcold, it’s far easier to find people outraged than it is to educate.

Take, for example, Irving DeJohn and Stephanie Gaskell’s piece in the Daily News about rider reaction to the fare hike. It is chock full of quotes bemoaning the price increases, and the statements of the riders are, frankly, ignorant.

Take the first one in the article from Emmanuel Louis of Brooklyn: "You shouldn’t raise the fare if you’re not going to increase service.It's just not fair." This is where a reporter should challenge Louisand ask him how he feels about raising the fares if the alternativemeans worse service and significantly less of it.

You really can't overstate the significance of the vicious cycle at work here. The person-on-the-street MTA bashing echoes the MTA bashing you hear from legislators every time they're asked to make a tough decision on how to fund transit. If this is a co-dependent relationship, there's no doubt that the press plays the role of enabler too. Rare is the story that mentions the root causes of the MTA's financial woes. Common is the hatchet job about executive salaries or personal commuting habits.

The Daily News editorial board held Albany's feet to the fire for months during the last round of debate about transit funding. We'll be going through all of that again, very soon. Can newsrooms figure out how to keep up the heat?

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