The journalism-by-press-release story I blogged about two weeks ago was covered on National Public Radio's Morning Edition last Saturday (Commuters Ditch Cars For Public Transit In Record Numbers).
The press release that originated the non-story was released on March 10. Why did it take Morning Edition 12 days to do nothing but retail---adding a few soundbites---the misleading contents of the press release?
Randall O'Toole follows up on the bogus story today (Hoodwinking Reporters) and asks, "Don’t NPR reporters check their facts?" O'Toole links a March 20 Washington Post op-ed by transportation experts that questioned the story two days before the NPR puff-piece. Apparently the Washington D.C.-based NPR doesn't read the Washington Post.
This is about hoodwinked reporters and lazy editors.
The phony story fit the anti-car bias in the media that wants to believe that driving and cars are on the decline in the country and that public transportation and cycling are increasing dramatically.
San Francisco got a textbook illustration of journalism by press release last December, as the local media based their stories on the city's annual bicycle count on nothing but a press release and statements by city officials and cycling advocates. Not a single skeptical voice was included.
Paul Krugman provides an explanation:
When I was young and naïve, I believed that important people took positions based on careful consideration of the options. Now I know better. Much of what Serious People believe rests on prejudices, not analysis. And these prejudices are subject to fads and fashions.
Serious People in the media think that bikes and trains---high-speed rail!---are in and cars are out in the United States. That's why not a single local reporter has written anything about that UC study---published way back in December, 2012---that found that San Francisco was radically under-counting cycling accidents in the city for at least the last ten years. It was able to do that by, incredibly, ignoring all the accident victims---1,377 by my count---treated at San Francisco General Hospital, the city's primary trauma center, and relying entirely on police reports.
That's why the city's annual Collisions Report is now six months overdue. This report provides the numbers every year on accidents, injuries, and fatalities on city streets. (Ed Reiskin refers indirectly to the UC study in this email exchange.) The implications of the report raise an important question: If the city has been under-reporting cycling accidents, has it also been under-reporting pedestrian and vehicle accidents and injuries? Just how safe/unsafe are city streets?
Answers to these questions will surely be painful for our local Serious People to answer. If riding a bike in the city is a lot more dangerous than City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition have been telling the public, where does that leave the city's anti-car, pro-bike traffic policy?
Labels: Anti-Car, Bicycle Coalition, City Government, Cycling and Safety, Ed Reiskin, Media, Muni, Traffic in SF, UC Study