Thursday, June 14, 2012
Unsettling Development in Local Television News: Anchor Uses Anti-Rail Talking Points in Newscast, Plus: More about Who’s Included in Rail Surveys
Something happened a week ago tonight on Honolulu’s top television news station that deserves a second look.
Joe Moore, the former sports reporter and anchor at KGMB-TV and KHON-TV who was elevated to the news anchor job three decades ago, has been caught with his professional best-practice down.
At the end of Thursday’s report on the latest round of contretemps between the three mayoral candidates, Mr. Moore said: “The rail plan is budgeted at more than 5 billion dollars, with most experts saying the real cost will be 7 billion or more and that rail will not relieve traffic congestion.”
That sentence is essentially an anti-rail talking point that, we’re told, was not in the reporter’s script for the story but was added by Mr. Moore a short time before the 10 pm newscast.
The $7 billion figure was made up by the team that wrote Governor Lingle’s financial study on the Honolulu rail project in 2010. The study satisfied Ms. Lingle’s anti-rail perspective by predicting a higher construction cost than the $5.2 billion figure supported by both the city and the Federal Transit Administration.
The second dubious assertion in that sentence is something you frequently hear anti-railers saying – that rail will not relieve traffic congestion. This whole issue of future traffic congestion requires more thought than anti-railer-in-chief Cliff Slater and other opponents want you to give it.
Of course congestion will continue to grow on Oahu after rail is built if the population increases by 150,000 to 200,000 in the next two decades as forecast. There will be more of it than what we experience today, but by using the “will not relieve traffic congestion” phrase, anti-railers imply rail will be a failure.
Beyond the opponents’ slick turn of phrase, the statement is itself false. Rail will reduce vehicle hours of delay (caused by congestion) in the urban core by about 18 percent in 2030, compared to what traffic would be like if rail were not built. Even Mr. Slater acknowledges the truth of rail's contribution to reducing congestion.
Why It Matters
Mr. Moore is the highest-rated newscaster in Honolulu and has held that distinction since he supplanted KGMB-TV’s Bob Sevey in the 1980s. What he says is Gospel to many who’ve watched him for decades.
His use of anti-railer talking points in a presumably objective newscast is simply unacceptable and raises the alarm among rail supporters. No professional journalist should be caught doing the bidding of one side or the other in this ongoing debate – whether it was deliberate or not.
More about Polls
Civil Beat’s latest public opinion poll on the rail project was yesterday’s Yes2Rail focus, and we’re raising the issue once again about whose views are reflected in these opinion surveys.
Since Civil Beat’s surveys contact only likely voters, we’ve concluded previously that they’re missing at least half of the electorate due to Hawaii’s remarkably low voter turnout – around 40 percent in the 2010 primary election.
But this issue goes even beyond that comparison. Reporter Michael Levine says only about 65 percent of age-eligible residents 18 years old and older are registered to vote.
When you do the math, it’s obvious that only about a quarter of Oahu’s adults are in the group being sampled. We’re guessing (with some justification in the data) that the non-voting and eligible-but-not-registered adults are less affluent, less financially secure and more dependent on public transit than those who do vote.
Governments serve all citizens, so until someone does a poll that includes a representative sample of the 75 percent who’ve previously not been surveyed, we won’t know rail's standing among all citizens, including the segment that likely would be heavily dependent on on rail.