The AJC ran a story Friday morning about poll results that conclude that transit riders have a greater sense of connection to the Atlanta metro area than non-riders. A lot of questions could come to mind on the way through this story - What exactly do they mean by “connection?/How did they measure it?/Did they poll an equal number of riders and non-riders?/Are there any other factors (age, income, location, social life) that could influence the results? - and never quite get answered. But, then, out of nowhere, comes this:
"Many metro Atlanta residents fear they might become crime victims on the bus or the train – a view that may be enhanced because crimes that occur on MARTA trains or buses or near stations often become high profile.”
That sentence is written as if the crimes “become” high-profile on their own, rather than as a result of the way they’re reported on.
“There’s too many incidents at the train stops and the bus stops of people getting harassed and asked for money,” said Michael Shields, 64, of Kennesaw. He worries that these incidents can quickly escalate into violent confrontations.
MARTA statistics show that actual crimes on its properties are relatively low. An AJC review in 2011 showed overall crime on MARTA property had dropped by 42 percent between 2000-2009. It was led by a decrease in property crime, but violent crimes were up slightly. And, in 2011 FBI statistics showed 117 aggravated assaults on MARTA, a 75 percent increase from the 67 MARTA reported for 2010.”
Why are those three crime-related paragraphs rammed in there just before the end of the piece? In a crime story, they’d make sense, but it’s not clear what purpose they’re serving here.
During the recent presidential campaign, a lot was written about how hard it is to correct myths and misinformation. The difficulty lies in the fact that, in the process of trying to correct false information, reporters tend to repeat it, which exposes more people to it.
Dropping the claim that “[m]any metro Atlanta residents fear they might become crime victims on the bus or the train…” into the story just serves to reinforce the MARTA = crime association, especially when followed by a quote from a man who “worries” that panhandling “can quickly escalate into violent confrontations.” Who is this person? Does he use MARTA? What’s his concern about “violent confrontations” based on? The reader has no idea because that information was left out.
We’re left with a story that omits relevant information about the topic being covered, but which goes out of the way to remind us again that some people think MARTA isn’t safe. As if anyone ever gets a chance to forget that.