Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Crime reporting in Baltimore sums it up

A friend sent me an amazing article that ran in the Washington Post entitled In Baltimore No One Left to Press Police. It is by David Simon the man who created one of the best TV series ever made, The Wire. In the article he reflects on when he worked as a crime reporter and how much things have changed since then.  He use the case  of a police officer shooting an unarmed man that went nearly unreported in the baltimore sun. 

In the Article he writes:

There is a lot of talk nowadays about what will replace the dinosaur that is the daily newspaper. So-called citizen journalists and bloggers and media pundits have lined up to tell us that newspapers are dying but that the news business will endure, that this moment is less tragic than it is transformational.

Well, sorry, but I didn't trip over any blogger trying to find out McKissick's identity and performance history. Nor were any citizen journalists at the City Council hearing in January when police officials inflated the nature and severity of the threats against officers. And there wasn't anyone working sources in the police department to counterbalance all of the spin or omission.

I didn't trip over a herd of hungry Sun reporters either, but that's the point. In an American city, a police officer with the authority to take human life can now do so in the shadows, while his higher-ups can claim that this is necessary not to avoid public accountability, but to mitigate against a nonexistent wave of threats. And the last remaining daily newspaper in town no longer has the manpower, the expertise or the institutional memory to challenge any of it.

My first reaction was that he summed up the the situation bang on. My view is that if you are a citizen journalist (or professional) this should be a call to step up to the plate and get serious about what you do, learn the technique, dig, prod, and be tenacious. 

More recently I saw a video of David Simon speaking that aired on democracy now.   

I think this gave me a better sense of what he was getting at.  He thinks journalism is a proffesion not a hobby. I would like to think that there are enough people out there who can do deepdigging and solid journalismwith passion as their main motivator, but it is true that finding the time and institutional memory is as large a challenge as devloping the nessesary skills.  futhernmore how do you get access to regular and costistant audiance.

I still feel that commited citizen journalists can step up to the challenge of doing seroius journalism. But there are a lot of questions Davis Simon poses that I don't have ansers for. What is clear is that anyone who wants to have journalism flourish in the furute has their work cut out for them.

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