The Audacity of Despair
by David Simon (creator of The Wire)
- arch cynicism about the public purpose of television
- The Wire is not hyperbolic about our inability to solve our own problems.
- The news media buries and forgets relevant information.
- New Orleans was not destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. An untethered barge breached the retaining wall, destroying the Ninth Ward.
- Three years later during Hurricane Gustav, another barge was unsecured in the same canal.
- “The Wire is not about sinister people doing sinister things. There’s no fun in that. There’s no drag in writing a show about bad guys and good guys. First of all, it’s not credible. And second of all, it’s not where the real evil lurks.”
- As a reporter: “Every time someone dragged out a statistic, I immediately distrusted it as [probably fabricated or] dubious [method]”
- Management: No sooner does someone invent a useful measure of institutional progress, than someone else begins to game it to the point that the measure becomes useless.
- "In my city [Baltimore], every single effort to quantify progress was an effort by somebody to advance themselves.”
- People are promoted or leave to another job before anyone figures out what they got was dross.
- Cops retire with a pension despite making zero progress in 40 years in the war on drugs.
- Why? is the only of the 5W’s+1H that matters. That could have made journalism “a game for grown-ups”.
- Bulls∗∗t US government claims about progress in Vietnam.
- More profitable for Chicago Tribune Company’s shareholders to stop asking Why?—and lay off reporters.
- This was due to their monopoly: they didn’t need top-quality journalism to compete. But the drop in quality, if efficient at the time, made the papers soft targets when the Web became big half a decade later.
- He thinks Internet reporting is less magazine-like and more frothy. I contend ∃ both.
- “Crime wasn’t going down anymore. So robberies became larcenies. Aggravated assaults became common assaults. Felonies were leached down to misdemeanors.” Robberies in southwest Baltimore went down 70%. The commander was promoted to head of CID. Next boss went in, crime went up 70%, he took the flack.
- "40% decline in crime, but the murder rate stayed constant. [red flag] The only thing that that says rationally is that they’ve opened up a gun range in West Baltimore and they’re better shots.”
- Any reporter who had any sense of his beat would know this was a huge red flag, would dig deeper into the data and call the complainants.
- "How is it that we’re able to talk about this in an entertainment medium—television—but not in journalism?”
- Curfew for Blacks in Baltimore (fallacious arrests). ACLU tries to sue, but by the time it wends its way through the courts the practice has stopped; the Mayor has become Governor.
- "If you walk into The Other America and ask people how they feel about certain things, you’re likely to hear how they feel.”
- "We stole facts from real life, but thematically the people we stole the most from were Euripides, Aeschylus, and Sophocles."