The AJC Pretends to Care
This morning the AJC ran a brief article on how Atlanta is eating Dallas’ dust. In it they reference transit and how the Atlanta area now trails Dallas. Which got me thinking, what could be some of the reasons why Atlanta transit hasn’t quite moved forward. Hmmmmm…….
I try to like you, I really do. I think journalistically, you can be a great paper. You do great in depth journalism on not just local events but also world events. I also like this series that you are about to embark on to explore ways Atlanta can improve itself and catch up with competitors over the next few years. It shows a sign of concern for your region without pandering to it and lying that everything is perfect, unlike some newspapers I know (that’s for you Charlotte Observer).
But this morning I saw a little piece on how Dallas is blowing Atlanta out of the water. I like comparisons, especially when the two are in the same realm and can use each other to gauge themselves and improve. There was one part I had a problem with: “Mass transit? The Metroplex now has four times more miles of transit track than metro Atlanta has.” Now if I am reading this correctly, your fine publication is passively laying criticism at the feet of Atlanta for letting Dallas surpass us in mass transit. Ah, if only I had never read your newspaper, I would have been fooled into thinking that you cared about mass transit in Atlanta. But I have, and you don’t. You are more concerned about pandering to your suburban car dominated audience. Yes you have reported fairly well on TSPLOST and how it relates to cities like Denver, but prior to that you spent your existence waiting for a MARTA slip up.
I have had the pleasure of reading about you criticizing MARTA for not running buses during what was one of the worst ice storms I have seen since living down South. But you could bet your ass that if they put a bus out there that got in an accident you would have criticized them for putting customers in danger. I’ve read about you criticizing operator behavior and attitude while not investigating what may drive some of these incidents. And just on a side note, that’s what constitutes good journalism. The ability to recognize one point, while thoroughly vetting the counterpoint to ensure you are representing a reasonable and valid argument.
I have read about crime that has taken place in a privately owned and operated parking deck belonging to an apartment complex, yet using the headline “Kidnapping and Carjacking Near MARTA Station.” I have read about a purported bomb threat at a very well known federal building but still using its relationship to a MARTA station as your headline. I have read your horrible misreporting on the Garnett Station mugging, while later choosing not to apologize or retract your previously blatantly incorrect and non researched article. Instead you offered a small amendment, blaming your “source” for misinformation rather than your poor attempt at journalism. I have read your misleading headlines in terms of fiscal responsibility that a neighboring city media outlet had to call you out on. I have read this and so much more.
But do you know what I haven’t read? I haven’t read about MARTA keeping their trains running during the ice storm, serving as nearly the only mode of transportation in this city for a few days. I didn’t read about the countless customers who were appreciative of the trains still running so they could go and get groceries and other necessities. 11 Alive did, and I thank them for that. I’ve never read about how MARTA orchestrates a massive Christmas toy giveaway to underprivileged children, or it’s sponsored Easter Egg hunt for some of the same children. I have never read about their large blood drive, or a journalistic piece on their Charity Club. I have never read about how on major events they have kept unnecessary traffic off of the roads and provided a safe alternative to driving. I have never read about the scores of professionals who have abandoned their automobiles in favor of living in the city and using mass transit. And most importantly I have never read an article that stops holding MARTA to an unattainable standard that no other system in this world, let alone this country could achieve.
I want to believe that your concern in Atlanta’s mass transit system is sincere, but it is hard to when you spend all your time trying to tear it down. It is hard to get support behind expanding the system when you spend the time scaring your suburban readers into thinking that MARTA is something that it’s not and would be a plague on their county. It is hard to believe you are sincere when writing stories lobbying for wider roads and altered on ramps while slamming any kind of rail proposal. It is hard to believe when you want to assault the financial inefficiencies of mass transit, but will never explore the fiscal inefficiencies associated with building and widening roads. And it is even more difficult to believe when you will tear MARTA down compared to other systems, but will not help push for the one thing it lacks in comparison to all the systems you draw upon: dedicated state funding.
I am not asking for you to write candy coated journalism that only displays the good. That is not acceptable journalism either. I am asking you to be fair. I am asking you to not unfairly assault a single entity while placing its expectations on a pedestal. If you are so concerned about this region, and where it stands in regards to transportation in other cities, then you will find a way to report the news and report how we can improve it while still supporting the backbone of whatever Atlanta’s mass transit future may hold. This is an effective means of moving Atlanta’s transportation future forward and keeping us competitive with other regions.