I love reading the daily newspaper. But some days the Inquirer is so mediocre, I seriously consider giving it up.
Take Paul Nussbaum‘s reporting for example. Nussbaum is the Inquirer’s transportation beat reporter who does almost all of the SEPTA reporting. His SEPTA coverage, unfortunately, is a bit underwhelming and uninspiring. Frequently, his stories are simple reprints of SEPTA press releases–although occasionally, he does call over to SEPTA HQ for a quote.
By my count, Nussbaum has written 42 stories about SEPTA for the Inquirer since the end of March 2008. 10 of those stories were brief regurgitation of SEPTA press releases that did not appear to involve any independent reporting and did not include any interviews.
Who gets quoted for the other stories? 27 of those 32 stories featured interviews with SEPTA management. Only 6 stories featured interviews with SEPTA riders.
SEPTA management was quoted 111 times. Riders were quoted only 19 times. Regional Rail riders were quoted more than twice as often as bus, subway, or trolley riders (13 vs 6).
Let’s put that another way: In the past seven months, Nussbaum has given the microphone to SEPTA management almost six times more frequently than SEPTA riders.
That’s like writing stories about the housing crisis but only talking to realtors and not home owners. Or writing stories about the presidential election without talking to voters.
Sure, it’s important to get SEPTA’s party line on an issue, but is it that hard to get out and actually talk to riders about our concerns and what we’re dealing with every day?
UPDATE: Be sure to read the thoughtful (and extensive) response to this story from Matthew Mitchell (of DVARP) in the comments section below.