Video Feature – Neil McFarlane Interview – Part 5

Here is the final segment in our interview with TriMet’s new General Manager, Neil McFarlane.

Today our series concludes with a discussion of TriMet’s future plans, some “big picture” issues, and… Michael’s question!

The complete list and schedule, after the break:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Part 1:
Introduction, Safety and Priorities
Part 2:
Funding, Capital Projects and Budget Concerns
Part 3:
Health Care, LIFT Service and the Fare System
Part 4:
Mode Choice, Technology and Rider Involvement
Part 5:
Future Planning, The Big Picture, and…

Correction: An earlier version of this post and video referred to “Lenny’s Question” when, in fact, the question came from Michael. Correction to the correction: An apostrophe was rounded up and placed inside “Michael’s”.

30 Comments

30 Responses to Video Feature – Neil McFarlane Interview – Part 5

  1. Michael, Portland Afoot
    July 23, 2010 at 9:49 am Link

    Hey, for the record, that was *my* silly kicker question! But I don’t begrudge Lenny the credit.

    Great job, guys.

  2. Bob R.
    July 23, 2010 at 9:52 am Link

    Sorry, Michael! Don’t know how I messed that one up, my eyes must have blurred when I was compiling the questions into a Word document. Squint real hard, “Lenny”, “Michael”, yes very similar. :-) A corrected video will be up shortly.

  3. Just Saying
    July 23, 2010 at 10:04 am Link

    Are you going to post the raw interview anywhere so we can listen to the answers in the context they were asked?

  4. Bob R.
    July 23, 2010 at 10:11 am Link

    Practically everything was included. What was removed was, tapering off, stumbles in the questions, idle chatter, pouring coffee, and very minor repetitions/redundancies.

    YouTube has a 10-minute clip limit. That, and for reasons of wishing to discuss this in digestible segments, is why the original was broken up.

    There were approx. 43 minutes of unedited video. Removal of the aforementioned items brought it to 37 minutes. After putting in our related materials from the press conferences and board meeting, B-Roll, maps, other graphics, etc., all five segments total about 41.5 minutes.

  5. Bob R.
    July 23, 2010 at 10:23 am Link

    And just to clarify: No, the raw footage is probably not going to be posted.

    Raw footage can be unnecessarily embarrassing to all involved, from coughing and nose-wiping, to stumbling over questions, to getting mired in equipment/technical issues, etc. There’s a reason it’s not a general practice to release full, unedited raw footage in any production. The same goes for print journalists who may take notes and audio recordings.

    These things are released (but really just relevant portions, not in their entirety) if there’s a serious dispute over the veracity of claims or responses, if there’s a dispute between the interview subject and the publication, etc.

    TriMet’s main media representative was in the room during the interview, and TriMet had an opportunity to view the final draft edits shortly before publication (although, Part 1 was uploaded on a Sunday evening and published on a Monday morning, but there was more time to view parts 2-5.) TriMet did give some verbal push-back on the topical appropriateness of including the Clackamas County assertions, but gave no indications that they thought the context or completeness of Neil’s interview was not presented properly.

    Lastly, the raw footage was shared with a local Portland journalist for possible feedback and possible collaboration. That journalist has participated here in discussions including the Neil Q&A.

  6. Bob R.
    July 23, 2010 at 10:44 am Link

    (The video corrected to indicate “Michael’s Question” is now live.)

  7. Just Saying
    July 23, 2010 at 11:36 am Link

    By raw footage, I mean the questions and answers, and that includes stumbles. Whether Trimet is satisfied or not is irrelevant. The fact is the answers, as presented, are out of context and incomplete.

  8. Bob R.
    July 23, 2010 at 11:48 am Link

    The answers, as presented, are totally in context and as complete as any traditional measure of journalistic editing practices would require.

    Do you similarly demand that print journalists who publish interviews release all their notes and tapes?

    Seriously, Just Saying, this was a completely transparent process. The questions were formulated by our readers in a public post, there was an open invitation to have a “transit beer” event where everyone could collate/condense the questions, although too few takers so that didn’t happen.

    Now, when the final videos are released, you (and nobody else) declare “agenda” and “out of context”.

    If the interview subject, or any of the people featured in the clips, or their representatives state that there are problems with completeness or context, that’s a different matter. But that hasn’t happened.

    (I do respond to genuine editorial issues — In fact, in this very thread, Michael pointed out a clear error of attribution, and a new version of the video was placed online in less than an hour.)

    [Comment edited to refer to other commenter via preferred pseudonym.]

  9. Just Saying
    July 23, 2010 at 12:13 pm Link

    “The answers, as presented, are totally in context ”

    No they aren’t. The real context in which the questions were answered has nothing to do with your additions. Chris was correct when he said what you did is called “creating context”. But its not the actual context, its a context invented to give the answers the meanings you took from them.

    “Do you similarly demand that print journalists who publish interviews release all their notes and tapes?”

    No, its the same standard I would demand of anyone providing me with information. Print journalism is part of the advertising industry – the use elements of “reality” to build audience. Traditional journalism is based on the notion of scarcity. That is why it appears to be a dying institution. If want to tell a story in 30 seconds on TV, you have to edit it.

    But that is beside the point here. If you have 37 minutes of useful video (and yes taking out the coffee breaks is appropriate) then there is no reason you shouldn’t post it in its entirety, without your editorializing.

    ‘Now, when the final videos are released, you (and nobody else) declare “agenda” and “out of context”.’

    You don’t think Joey thinks the videos served his agenda? If not, why is he going to share them with his transit riders’ group? Is that group when viewing the videos going to remember that to the extent their concerns are not addressed, it is the fault of the video producers, not McFarlane or Trimet? I don’t think so.

    Its hard to remember that McFarlane may have had something entirely different in mind when answering when there is an introduction that frames the answer. In fact, its not possible. In fact, I doubt at this point even you can do it as your suggestion that the context you provided is the only possible context demonstrates.

    Yeh – this is way off transportation issues. I was just hoping to be able to see his answers. I will live without it.

  10. Michael, Portland Afoot
    July 23, 2010 at 12:13 pm Link

    Now that’s what I call service, Bob. Thanks.

  11. Bob R.
    July 23, 2010 at 12:29 pm Link

    But that is beside the point here. If you have 37 minutes of useful video (and yes taking out the coffee breaks is appropriate) then there is no reason you shouldn’t post it in its entirety, without your editorializing.

    All 37 minutes of the useful video are included in the videos as posted.

    Whether or not you particularly care for the “editorializing” (which is really the wrong word here, no opinions were expressed on the part of the editors) is your business. The additional footage adds to the piece (to its detriment, you seem to feel, to its benefit, I feel).

    You seem most upset about the footage in the first video which leads up to the first question.

    Here is a transcript, word for word, of what David asked:

    So, uh, lately, safety has been stated to be a priority. We’ll ask more about that later, but, what other priorities are you hoping to focus on?

    Here’s the text of the narration which was included in the final piece:

    We started off our interview by asking, “In addition to safety, what Neil’s other priorities for the agency would be.”

    So there you have it. That’s about the most radical of a change I can find between the actual word-for-word question asked and the final narration. If you think that totally sets up Neil with an agenda-laden trap, you’ve got a better imagination than me.

    And why did we lead off with safety? Because TriMet held a freaking press conference that morning on the topic of safety.

  12. Bob R.
    July 23, 2010 at 12:30 pm Link

    So I now open the floor once again to discussion of what Neil actually said on the topics of future planning, the big picture, and Michael’s question.

  13. R A Fontes
    July 23, 2010 at 2:17 pm Link

    Exceptionally well done series. Thank you.

  14. Daniel Ronan
    July 23, 2010 at 3:15 pm Link

    Very informative. Thanks so much for your work on this!

  15. Just Saying
    July 23, 2010 at 3:53 pm Link

    “Whether or not you particularly care for the “editorializing” (which is really the wrong word here, no opinions were expressed on the part of the editors) is your business”

    Well, yes they were – you just don’t recognize them as such.

  16. Bob R.
    July 23, 2010 at 3:56 pm Link

    Name one opinion expressed in the videos by the editors.

  17. Steve S.
    July 23, 2010 at 5:29 pm Link

    Just Saying,

    Why don’t you place whatever concerns you have in whatever context you care to create and simply make some points?

    I, and apparently like everyone else but you, think the video interview project was well done and reasonable.
    I would have preferred some addional follow up on answers and couple additional questions but that’s usually the case with any interview by anyone.
    So H/T to Bob and Dave etc.

    Having said that, what exactly is your beef?

    You seem to be suggesting that your impression, and therefore viewers at large, is not fair or accurate because Bob has somehow skewed the context.

    Apparently you don’t like the message (content)
    and are grasping at straws to blame the messenger (videojournlist/editor).

    Why are you not just saying what is bugging you?

    Or maybe you did and I missed it?

  18. Bob R.
    July 23, 2010 at 5:38 pm Link

    Steve –

    Thank you for your comments. As you know, you and I have had some very heated disagreements in the past, so I do appreciate that you’re taking a moment to make a comment in the video’s defense here.

    As for Just Saying’s interpretation of the videos, I’m probably overly-defensive of my “baby”, but mainly I’m just perplexed because I did strongly endeavor to do something which was fair, representative, and agenda-free. It’s also perplexing because I tend to agree with a large percentage of the things that Just Saying has written here over the past few months. Oh well.

    On most days I do have an agenda (most people with any kind of drive or motivation do) related to transit, TriMet, etc., but I don’t think it’s that particular agenda which Just Saying is perceiving in the piece.

  19. Just Saying
    July 23, 2010 at 7:40 pm Link

    “I did strongly endeavor to do something which was fair, representative, and agenda-free. It’s also perplexing because I tend to agree with a large percentage of the things that Just Saying has written here over the past few months. ”

    I think you are reading too much into what I said. I believe you tried to be “fair, representative, and agenda-free.” But that isn’t possible.

    To start with is “safety” even an issue? No. Trimet has no more or less emphasis on safety than it was 10 months ago.They are just talking about it because there has been an accident. I am sure the accident has made it higher on people’s minds. I hope McFarlane is treating it as a PR problem, because that is all it really is. So while you might think it will be on of “his first concerns”, that is opinion, not fact.

    Second, with the editing this is not an interview with McFarlane. It is a video based on those interviews. There is a difference. Interviews create their own context and order. From the little I watched, it looked like a jumble of clips were pasted together. Whether that reflected McFarlane’s organization of his comments or yours is not clear.

    Third – your decisions about whether and what clips to include from a TriMet board meeting are agenda setting. Its not clear either comment represents anything other than the eccentric concerns of the speaker. You could just as easily have set the context with quotes from people complaining about the train whistles in Tualatin or the “smelly” homeless people on the bus/Max. Or about being passed by buses. Or rude drivers. Or … the list is endless.

    Your decision to include those comments elevated them to “challenges” the agency faced, as opposed to more of the almost endless kibitzing that has gone on for the last quarter century as Trimet expanded both MAX and bus service. There hasn’t been a single MAX line whose financing wasn’t criticized. Why would Milwaukie be any different? And every fare increase has brought criticism. As has every change of service.

    So did you “place it in context” or did you invents a context based on the current news narrative. I think the latter. And that is what I am complaining about.

    I am not making specific criticisms of the video, because I haven’t watched more than the first few minutes of the first one and even then I tried to skip ahead to the interview only to find it was never going to be shown, just the clips you excerpted.

    Which is why I asked if you were going to put out the actual interview. I want to form my own opinion of what McFarlane said without you defining it first.

  20. Bob R.
    July 23, 2010 at 7:55 pm Link

    I believe you tried to be “fair, representative, and agenda-free.” But that isn’t possible.

    It isn’t 100% humanly attainable but it’s worth striving for. You’ve indicated, right from the start, that you think we went in the opposite direction, as being unfair, unrepresentative, and having an agenda.

    Shorter “Just Saying”:

    Your inclusion of a representative sample of what people actually said at the actual board meeting is an endorsement and/or over-representation of those people’s opinions, and is therefore editorializing and an agenda.

    Your inclusion of Neil’s own comments on safety at a safety press conference on the same day as the interview is therefore editorializing and an agenda.

    I haven’t actually watched the videos, but I just know you chopped up and changed the meaning of the interview, despite the fact that you’ve stated that the interview is largely complete.

    I demand you post the raw footage, because I don’t trust you because you have an agenda and are editorializing. QED.

    My own characterizations of the concerns of those speaking as “eccentric” and my complaints that they were included is not editorializing and not representative of any kind of agenda.

    The fact that the interview subject was present at the board meeting, was aware of the filming, was alerted to the discussion thread in advance of the interview, and had a media representative present in the room during the time of the interview, doesn’t change the fact that he’s a victim of your editorializing and agenda.

    Once you post the undedited raw footage, I will either claim that you actually faked it and left something out, because I don’t trust you and you have an editorializing agenda, or I will claim that your selection of a subset of the questions submitted by readers represents an agenda, or the lighting was bad (it was), or something…

    OK, maybe not “shorter”.

    We are aware of all Internet traditions.

  21. Just Saying
    July 23, 2010 at 8:51 pm Link

    “Your inclusion of a representative sample of what people actually said at the actual board meeting is an endorsement and/or over-representation of those people’s opinions, and is therefore editorializing and an agenda.”

    Representative of what? Why do you think it is important that everyone who wants to hear what McFarlane has to say also hear the comments from one board meeting, even if representative of that meeting?

    A short Bob comment:

    “I don’t trust people to make their own judgments about McFarlane’s interview without me providing them with my own version of the context in which they should be considered. And if you complain, I am going to accuse you of acting in bad faith.”

    You keep claiming you don’t have an agenda, and yet you insist people hear your selected facts if they want to hear McFarlane. Why is that?

    Bob: “My own characterizations of the concerns of those speaking … is not editorializing and not representative of any kind of agenda”

  22. Just Saying
    July 23, 2010 at 8:57 pm Link

    And to be clear – I haven’t accused anyone of doing anything in bad faith. What I think you have done is what every gonzo journalist does, made it about you, your vision and your creative talents.

  23. Bob R.
    July 23, 2010 at 9:06 pm Link

    You keep claiming you don’t have an agenda, and yet you insist people hear your selected facts if they want to hear McFarlane. Why is that?

    I insist upon no such thing. You have a computer. You have a mouse. You can skip past the portions you don’t like.

    And your beef is entirely about the inclusion of portions you don’t like. Everyone was aware I was filming the board meeting. I was quite conspicuous. Neil was there. Mary was there. I went to two press conferences prior to the interview. If people were heaping relevant praise, I would have included that, too.

    Beyond that, I’m making an assumption that you own a telephone. You can arrange your own interview with anyone any time you like. You can include or exclude whatever you like.

    What I think you have done is what every gonzo journalist does, made it about you, your vision and your creative talents.

    Pretty amazing since I don’t appear and am not heard anywhere in the video. Pretty amazing because my own personal opinions are not present anywhere in the video. Pretty amazing because you contradict yourself in two sentences: Making it “about me” would indeed be acting in bad faith.

    Pretty amazing because you’re critiquing a video you haven’t watched.

    Reminds me of the time I took my mother to see “The Last Temptation of Christ” and a priest, who hadn’t seen the movie, sat on the hood of my Buick to prevent us from leaving the theater parking lot until we heard his diatribe. He hadn’t seen it, but he was just sure of the motives and actions of the producers, not to mention the content.

    (Paraphrasing “shorter” me) My own characterizations of the concerns of those speaking

    I didn’t characterize anybody. That’s the point.

  24. EngineerScotty
    July 24, 2010 at 6:33 pm Link

    If Bob were to hire an actor to go to the next TriMet board meeting, inform all present that TriMet is doing a GREAT job, and splice that into the video… would that make folks happy? :)

  25. EngineerScotty
    July 24, 2010 at 9:41 pm Link

    Actually, let me be less snarky, in an attempt to understand where JS is coming from.

    Over at http://www.dailykos.com, the liberal political blog, there has been an ongoing debate/flamewar between two factions ever since Obama took office. One faction are critics of the President from his left flank, who have been disappointed (and in some cases, disgusted) with the performance of the Obama Administration and the Democrats in congress. The other faction are the president’s defenders, who allege that the first faction is damaging prospect for any reform, and that harsh criticism of the party (including threats to withdraw support in future campaigns and elections, even if it results in a GOP return to power) is giving aid and comfort to Republicans.

    TriMet, in the past few years, has been subject to more intense-than-usual criticism–and indeed, the agency is adrift in a “perfect storm” resulting from a combination of things–the economy, the recent accident, and several questionable decisions by agency management (decisions which predate Neal McFarlane, but which he “owns” now as GM). Some of the criticism comes from those hostile to the agency in any case (libertarians, conservatives, auto interests)–but increasingly, some who ought to be allies of the agency have been taking it to task. And in at least one respect–opposition to rail expansion–many critics from both sides of the political spectrum seem to be singing the same tune.

    I think that JS is upset that this site–arguably a pro-transit blog–has, allegedly, given a platform to the agency’s critics–and is such, is engaging in friendly fire (much as some of Obama’s supports get ticked off by leftist criticism of the Pres on DKos). I don’t agree with JS on this–I don’t consider the video an endorsement of either OPAL or Steve Schopp or their respective positions. (I suspect also that given JS’s pro-rail positions, calls from both sides of the political spectrum to cancel or delay Milwaukie MAX are equally disturbing…)

    As an aside–its worthwhile to point out one important editorial difference between dkos and portlandtransport. While criticism of Obama from the left is tolerated on DailyKos, conservative criticism is not–the site has a stated progressive bias and bans right-wingers and their opinions. This blog has a more tolerant attitude towards ideological transit critics–guys like JK and Schopp and others are permitted to participate here (provided they play nice).

  26. Dave H
    July 24, 2010 at 11:38 pm Link

    I’ve had a busy two days, but since I was willing to appear in a video I feel I should address a few things:

    By raw footage, I mean the questions and answers, and that includes stumbles.

    Almost every stumble that was removed or edited was mine, or the question Bob asked where it would have screwed up the flow to have someone off camera ask it. Neil’s words stayed the same.

    Due to the press conference that morning other than the question about crime rates near CTC there were no safety related questions that it felt we’d bother getting a “new” answer to, so they would have been a waste of the limited time we had. We put it near the beginning as a transition from the press conference footage.

    The fact is the answers, as presented, are out of context and incomplete.

    As the one asking the questions on camera I would have asked Bob to re-edit things if I felt that was the case. I was present for the filming, and on a separate day agreed to do any voice overs.

    I’ve disagreed with Bob and Chris on policy here before, and I will again. Part of why I was so willing to assist Bob with this was because I know I contradict some of the views taken by the blog sometimes, and I felt that would help show that the views of Chris and Bob would have no influence over the bias of questions asked.

    I’d never have agreed to this if I felt we were not representing Neil’s answers in a fair manner, even to questions asking on behalf of ideas I didn’t agree with.

    there was an open invitation to have a “transit beer” event where everyone could collate/condense the questions,

    Thank you for mentioning that Bob. I should also clarify that Bob and Chris allowed me to get involved in planning for the interview. They took my feedback on ways to avoid bias quite seriously. It was a concern related to why many questions were paraphrased.

    To start with is “safety” even an issue? No. Trimet has no more or less emphasis on safety than it was 10 months ago.

    We were feeding off what the press and local populace were discussing about TriMet. We had footage from that morning’s press conference to lead into it, and we were actually talking about it while TriMet’s PR person present was trying to eat lunch. (Sorry about that, again!)

    That was a hand-written question on the back of my notes that I used to start things off to transition after the press conference. I also wanted to get any discussion of safety out of the way so we could nail down on the stuff the readers of this blog typically care about which is the financing, bus/rail topics, future plans, etc. Still, not bringing it up at all would have been kind of strange considering he had a press conference about it that morning.

    You could just as easily have set the context with quotes from people complaining about the train whistles in Tualatin or the “smelly” homeless people on the bus/Max. Or about being passed by buses. Or rude drivers. Or … the list is endless.

    While they get brought up occasionally, we had better uses for our time. A topic being heavily discussed seemed worth covering. That’s partially why the question about if people should be worried about new LRT construction was asked.

    We did have some fare related questions that I personally would have loved to ask, but time didn’t permit it. Time cut off a bunch of stuff.

    This blog has a more tolerant attitude towards ideological transit critics

    It’s a big part of why I come back here. We tried to include questions from across the community of users of the blog, and to address their concerns. Some questions that I wish I had rephrased were dropped because there was no time to go back to the rephrased questions.

    And also to be fair to Bob, he pretty much gave me a list of questions and let me ask the ones we had time for. He did almost all the prep, editing, etc, but probably 90% of the questions that were or were not asked I’ll take the blame for. Sorry if this is a long answer to the thread so far, but as the guy who sat there asking the questions I feel I should address some of the criticisms brought up.

    Thanks to all those with compliments. I think Bob did an amazing job, and I’m proud of what I was able to help contribute to.

  27. AL M
    July 25, 2010 at 4:58 pm Link

    Personally I think Dave Hogan and Bob Richardson did a great job on this series, thanks for your efforts!

    I agree it would have been nice to see the raw footage also, maybe without the coughs or stumbles if that sort of thing bothers the people involved.

    The Portland Transport video series are unique in that this is the only place that is giving any of us transit “geeks” a look at the new GM of Trimet.

    Personally I am pleasantly surprised about Neil.
    There is much more to this guy than what I had imagined based on the few times I got to hear him at a board meeting.

    I like his “face of Trimet” much more than I liked Fred’s.

    Talk is cheap of course, lets see what he actually does, or maybe he can’t really do anything anyway but follow the policies that have been put into place.

    Trimet is a behemoth institutionalized bureaucracy, and anybody with any knowledge of government knows that nobody is actually in charge of these sprawling bureaucracies.

    Job well done, please keep covering this sort of thing, we need the information!

  28. Just Saying
    July 25, 2010 at 7:47 pm Link

    “While they get brought up occasionally, we had better uses for our time.”

    Exactly my point. How did you you decide which opinions expressed are “better uses of our time”. Because it really is the viewers time you are taking.

    “Some of the criticism comes from those hostile to the agency in any case (libertarians, conservatives, auto interests)–but increasingly, some who ought to be allies of the agency have been taking it to task. ”

    May I point out that AORTA was a vocal opponent of North-South Light Rail. Sisters in Action took on Trimet almost ten years ago over youth fares. That is just two examples, and there are plenty more. There have always been critics of Trimet on the left, as well as the right. Are there more now? Or is it just that the media’s narrative includes more of them?

    What I objected to, is the unnecessary repetition of that narrative as an “introduction” to something billed as an interview. And lets be clear, the reason people think that narrative lacks an agenda is because they have largely have adopted that narrative as their own view of reality. To the point, that they consider any suggestion to the contrary to be fanciful and insulting.

  29. Bob R.
    July 25, 2010 at 8:13 pm Link

    I’ve said all I have to say about it, especially to people who didn’t actually watch it. The piece stands on its own.

  30. al m
    July 25, 2010 at 9:07 pm Link

    Just saying;

    It’s better than nothing, wouldn’t that be an accurate statement?

    Al

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