No News is Not Good News

April 20, 2012
The political climate has made tensions high and many people only hear what they want, but that doesn't mean we don't have to keep trying.

Pull quote: "If you're idle, so to will be your buses or trains."

It's primary day for me today. Maybe that means the end of the calls from supporters and pre-recorded messages for awhile?

And I can't wait for the day where I can scroll through Facebook without the barrage of political sparring.

Unfortunately I imagine that won't be the case for quite some time.

And unfortunately for the ones spreading messages to convert the non-believers of their position, the sides have gotten so extreme that the messages have created an automatic shut-down to people not listening. Or worse, have created automatic opposition.

With the ideological overlap between the two parties increasingly diminishing, it seems the passionate debates are less frequently coming to a consensus.

As Congress has been working at creating a transportation bill, It's not hard to see the impact of this my-way-or-the-highway ideology.

I just looked at a poll of "when will Congress pass the transportation bill" and about 47 percent said within this extension and 40 percent said they foresee extensions into 2013. The two options between those? July-November had 3 percent and during the lame duck session had 9 percent.

Seems fitting that the responses would also be "polarized." It's almost as if people have become completely optimistic or pessimistic on things. No middle ground.

Recently when out with several other journalists, we were talking about the political climate and while there are so many reasons as to this shift, the one we were focused on was the media.

Technology changes fast and trying to keep pace is a challenge ... something we know first hand at "Mass Transit." When I look back even two or three years ago to what I spent my day doing to what I spend today doing, it's amazing how different it is. And while those have been some great changes, it's created its share of strain.

Editors and journalists are asked to create more content, generate higher numbers in viewers or subscribers or readers or followers, etc. And as some of the media have evolved into something more akin to well-marketed lobbyists and online news is intermingled with op-ed blogs, people are getting their facts from sources that may not be intending to be unbiased news ... even though that's what they are perceived as.

It's definitely gotten people revved up to take their stands and stick to their views. And they are out in full force. I admire their organization in the amount of ground they're covering, though I find it amusing when I get auto emails that include op-eds saying how my readers will want to know how furthering rail [or bus, or transit, etc.] in this country will cost more than we can afford and facts on how it isn't utilized in the cities that have it.

Apparently they didn't sort their spreadsheet and didn't see who our readers are.

I'm fortunate enough to be in a position where every day people are sending me news and stories about the number of jobs created or the amount of greenhouse gases decreased or the amount of money saved by people in the community.

Yes, of course I see the bad news, too. But when you're visiting different agencies across the country and running into the variety of people working there, you're constantly reminded of the people in this industry that are choosing to be in this industry.

When Larry Jackson at Long Beach Transit was telling me about wage freezes and increased employee contributions, I can imagine there must have been some very tense times for LBT staff, but the bus operator I had to my hotel in Long Beach was very friendly and helpful. And the folks in the call center were joking around with us, even with the boss in the room.

With all the negativity going around during these times, it's so beneficial when you're out sharing your positive stories. One of my favorite lines I heard at a show recently, regarding talking with legislators and sharing your story, "If you're idle, so to will be your buses or trains."