Do we need a hero? Well, we have one in Jeff Gianola from KOIN-TV.
Sometimes, these days we wonder whether a journalist is really tough enough to step out and tackle the hard issues. Over the last two nights, we have seen that this phenomenon can still exist, as Jeff Gianola took on TriMet management directly, asking questions challenging the integrity of TriMet.
Actually, in all honesty, he grilled him.
When Neil McFarlane got on board bus 3051 to do an interview, I'm sure he had no idea what was about to hit him. I'm not the kind of person who likes to see someone get shot down, but seeing Neil squirm in his seat as he tried to answer questions without making the agency sound like a bucket of total corruption was rather pleasing. This is because, for once, management was forced to address the things that we riders and bloggers have been calling for them to address for a long time. And his answers were very, very weak.
Jeff worked long and hard to analyze numbers from multiple agencies in order to see where TriMet falls short. It's true that TriMet has the advantage in some details. But it is the issues that really matter, such as base fare for a short distance bus trip, that makes TriMet fail epically. Jeff brought these to light, and didn't shy away from attacking them head on. One could easily tell that Jeff personally cared about this story, which is what greatly affected the impact this story had as a viewer.
Some people (i.e. Joseph Rose at the Oregonian) had issues with some of the numbers. To those people, I'm sorry you feel that way. They are correct. But regardless of what you feel about the numbers, the main point is very clear. There are things that are wrong in the agency, and we can no longer sit back and watch them go untouched and unfixed. It is work like what Jeff did that makes these repairs possible. But it's not only skill that one needs to do such work; it takes a lot of guts and a real passion for change. Kudos, Jeff. You have done well.
My hope, however, is that this is not the end of the heroism. This is only the start. It's going to take the talents and fortitude of more people to turn this boat in the right direction. Look for opportunities you have to make an impact. Because the more people there are fighting, the closer victory will become.
At the end of the interview, Neil asks the question, "What is broken with TriMet?" Apparently, Neil isn't seeing clearly. He isn't seeing it from the viewpoint of the rider, who in reality, is the only reason TriMet exists in the first place. I hope not going forward Neil opens his eyes to see what is wrong. And if he doesn't, then we might need a change.