Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The ‘Beat’ Goes On: Star-Advertiser Headline, Story Inaccurately Highlight Rail Routing Costs

Let’s go first to a fact buried in the seventh paragraph of today’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser rail story. That paragraph reports a statement by City Transportation Director Wayne Yoshioka about the cost of adjusting the route’s alignment near Honolulu International Airport. Here’s paragraph seven (emphasis added):

“City Transportation Director Wayne Yoshioka said yesterday that the estimates given in the April 7 memo are outdated and have since been cut by more than half. The added cost of altering the airport route is now estimated to be $29 million, Yoshioka said.”

A $36 Million Error

Back at the top of the story, the Star-Advertiser’s six-column headline on page B-1 reads: $65M to shift rail route The story begins:

“Diverting Honolulu’s planned elevated commuter rail line to avoid interfering with air traffic at Honolulu Airport could cost the city $65 million."

Despite the story's reporting that the City’s transportation director said the $65 million estimate to adjust the alignment is outdated and was cut by more than half to $29 million, the reporter, editors and headline writer(s) highlighted the outdated estimate in the headline and story lead.

We wondered for more than a week about the new Star-Advertiser's rail coverage and whether “view with alarm” journalism would be a newsroom holdover from the now-defunct Honolulu Advertiser. Now we know: The beat goes on.

Elsewhere in the Paper....
The Star-Advertiser's editorial page continues support for the rail project that was consistently delivered by both the Advertiser and Star-Bulletin. Today's "Don't stall review of rail" editorial urges the Governor to not conduct a financial review of the project, since such a review already has been conducted by the approving agency for rail's Final Environmental Impact Statement, the Federal Transit Administration. The editorial concludes:
"It's long past time to move beyond that point. A study dealing with a project this massive should be combed and discussed, but that discussion should stick to the issues that are still relevant, rather than going over old ground again."

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