Roads Are Fine, Newspapers Are Not

More than three-quarters of the Bay Area’s roads are in fair to excellent shape – but you’d never know it by glancing at the front pages of this morning’s editions of the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle. Both papers make it seem as if Western Civilization cannot be restored unless we pave our pothole-filled streets and highways with huge amounts of cash. The Chron‘s blaring headline is “Urgent Plea for Funds to Fix Roads,” while the Trib‘s Page One reads simply: “Rough Roads.” The stories in both papers were quoting the same annual report on the state of the Bay Area’s roadways that showed that only 18 percent – or less than one-fifth — were in “poor” or “very poor” condition. So why did the papers get it so wrong?

Could it be that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the agency behind the report, downplayed how good our roads are and instead focused on the relatively small percentage of miserable ones? And why would MTC spin its own report that way? Could it be because MTC also happens to be a backer of a $20 billion bond measure on the ballot in less than three weeks to fix the state’s roads and infrastructure? C’mon, newspapers, you should be able to sniff out such obvious spin and not just report what’s spoonfed to you. After all, California’s public schools are among the worst in the nation, our crime rate is climbing again, and more and more of us are living without health insurance, while global warming is threatening our way of life – and yet the most important thing this fall is potholes? I guess nothing beats bumpy-free rides in our beloved SUVs …


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