Journalist bias against single family housing and low density is rarely blatant, but the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey ran a recent column by self-described “journalism educator” Arthur C. Kamin that even turned my head. Kamin was lamenting New Jersey’s “fast track” legislation intended to expedite development review. “First,” he writes, “some background”, as if he were presenting an objective description of the program, but this is what follows: “Fast track” would give developers the expedited permits they need to build more houses and highway strip malls, ruin the environment, clog the roadways, destroy quality of life, crowd the schools and, in the process, raise municipal taxes even higher. That sounds objective, doesn’t it? This is unfortunate, becaues Kamin could have used this as an opportunity to point out the legitimate complaints (and frustrations) developers and builders face when they try to build houses people want to buy–in greenfields or existing urban areas. The Fast Track legislation may have flaws, but Kamin’s kind of careless and flippant approach does little, if anything, to fashion better public policy. I’m sure many people in New Jersey are sleeping better knowing that the news they read in the local paper is written by professionals educated at journalism schools that teach Kamin’s version of objectivity.
Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.