Friday, March 06, 2009

David Simon, reporter

I was/am a huge fan of The Wire, but that newspaper story in the fifth season was a little bit too angry and not specific enough about the effect of failing newspapers on an American city. Wire creator David Simon recently put his old reportorial skills to work on a police shooting in Baltimore, and the result is a much more succinct description of why we need well-staffed daily papers. (Wash. Post/Kottke)

In the halcyon days when American newspapers were feared rather than pitied, I had the pleasure of reporting on crime in the prodigiously criminal environs of Baltimore. The city was a wonderland of chaos, dirt and miscalculation, and loyal adversaries were many. Among them, I could count police commanders who felt it was their duty to demonstrate that crime never occurred in their precincts, desk sergeants who believed that they had a right to arrest and detain citizens without reporting it and, of course, homicide detectives and patrolmen who, when it suited them, argued convincingly that to provide the basic details of any incident might lead to the escape of some heinous felon. Everyone had very good reasons for why nearly every fact about a crime should go unreported.


Anonymous said...

The reason prose gets to this point and the fifth season of the Wire does not is simple -- The Wire was depicting a newspaper that was paper-thin and inherently disconnected from the actual news and issues of its city. It was, in effect, proving a negative by showing the absence of journalism that mattered, and further, the obliviousness of the institution to its own shortcomings.

This piece says exactly the same thing. It's no less angry than The Wire's tale, but it tells us what it's about as a matter of direct argument. In film, the only way to state an opinion so bluntly is to have a character hammer it with dialogue directly, which would suck on a lot of different levels.

If you rewatch The Wire again, note what happens to the schools project and education coverage in the wake of the paper-thin, but hyperbolic attention to the homeless. Or note how bad their coverage is of the police department once they buyout their veteran reporter.

It's there. But it's proving a negative. You are watching an explanation for the absence of something.

Simon Crowe said...

Thanks for the good comment, and you know I do agree with you up to a point but I think the argument could have been dramatized a little more effectively with the examples you give. The amount of time spent on the story of the reporter who was making things up seemed a little out of proportion to what else was going on in the newsroom.