Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Pity the Suffering Roads: Framing on Gas Tax and Driving Misses Important Points

Opposite today's large front page story and picture about people protesting police brutality, there's a story about suffering roads.

Front page today
Especially with the placement on the front page, it may be a little tone deaf.

The story focuses on more rural communities in Marion County and their dependence on gas tax money for roads.

But more than unfortunate page placement and headline word choice, the frame totally assumes that our present arrangements for driving are "normal" and something to which we should return as soon as possible. It's strangely mournful and only about loss, treating cars rather than people as the primary index and locus of loss.

In a daze about driving loss
But of course there are positive facts about the decline in driving. Just a couple weeks ago there was a story about the decline in carbon emissions.

There are benefits to less driving! (May 20th)
About the same time there was also a story about restaurants using the surplus street space for outdoor seating. That piece is also perhaps a little ambivalent, but it frankly recognizes the value of a "bustling cafe culture" in public and semi-public spaces, appropriately sheltered from car traffic and exhaust.

"bustling cafe culture" (May 21st)
At the very least, even if just in "he-said/she-said" equivocating fashion, these positive qualities resulting from less driving are something the gas tax piece should acknowledge.

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