Consider first that Mr. Cayetano’s “big revelation” amounted to several emails written as long as six years ago between staffers at the Federal Transit Administration that had unflattering remarks about the Honolulu rail project – emails that undoubtedly embarrass them today.
Mr. Cayetano trumpeted the emails as evidence of “lousy practices of public manipulation” by the city. If ever there truly were doubts at the FTA, its recent granting of a Letter of No Prejudice to Honolulu rail wiped it away.
Seeking to put Mr. Cayetano’s relevations in better perspective, Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) questioned Secretary LaHood in a U.S. Senate hearing yesterday on the DOT’s current view of Honolulu rail. The dialogue between the senator and Mr. LaHood is available on YouTube, including Mr. Lahood’s entire response:
It’s another matter when presumably objective reporters not paid to report their opinions either cross the line or simply fail to exercise enough professional discipline in preparing their reports on rail – discipline media consumers could once count on in local media’s objective coverage of events.
Yesterday, Pacific Business News’ transportation reporter wrote about rail in a manner that some might believe is less precise and objective than what consumers have reason to expect:
That kind of reporting would not have gotten onto KGMB-TV’s air, Hawaii News Now’s predecessor, when channel 9’s legendary news director Bob Sevey was in charge under the ownership of Cec Heftel. The Sevey newsroom demanded professional discipline, and he got it from reporters Dan Chun, Bart Fredo, Bambi Weil, Bob Jones, Linda Coble and others.
Past as Present
Following the same trend in other media that brings the past into the present, the Star-Advertiser’s page-one headline on Mr. Cayetano’s event declared “Emails suggest problems with rail,” a statement that also is false since it describes allegedly ongoing problems that in fact don’t currently exist. The FTA has green-lighted the project through several key steps.
These and other lapses and the ones yet to come deserve attention because they reveal an apparent tendency within the local media to treat Honolulu rail with undue skepticism in their supposedly objective reporting. Far too much deference is shown to rail’s critics, but there’s been far too little rigorous questioning of those who want to kill rail.
Mr. Cayetano says in fits and starts that he wants to create a bus rapid transit system if he’s elected and kills rail. Reporters dutifully report that, but there’s no evidence any reporter has pressed Mr. Cayetano – really worked at it – for details on his alleged BRT plan, including what it would cost, how it would be funded, what communities would be served by express lanes and which would not be served, bus travel times, routes and so on.
These questions and many more need to be answered by the candidate who wants to end the rail project and the thousands of jobs that would be created to build it. The primary election is less than five months way, and the media are still content to let Mr. Cayetano roll out his BRT plan at his leisure – a plan that so far may be the recycled 2000 plan that went down in flames during the Harris Administration.
That’s not rigorous reporting, and as the examples above show, what reporting we do see has much in it that’s false. Oahu media consumers deserve better and expect more.