Business Idea #128 – A Newspaper that Really Talks about the Inner City

by Byron on July 2, 2012

The Problem:

The news of the inner city often does not get reported.  In Baltimore, that means countless crimes (sometimes violent crimes) are never shared as news.  Some may be content to leave it that way.  I am not.

The Business

A newspaper (online newspaper; series of blogs; online information aggregator; etc) that shares the real news of the inner city.  All the news of the inner city.

Doableness

You would need substantial citizen journalism.  If you could figure out a way that happen, this might be doable

My Thoughts

I drove right into the middle of a gunfight in Baltimore City.  It happened  almost exactly a year ago.  Instead of driving up President street at about midnight on a Saturday, I drove up Caroline.  I drove right into the Perkins Homes.  Two men were chasing another man into an intersection, where they shot him.  My wife thinks they shot him in the leg.

I handled the situation as best I could.  I screamed at my wife at the top of my lungs: “GET THE FUCK DOWN.”  I ducked under the wheel and made a left onto Pratt Street into oncoming traffic.  Fortunately, there were no cars coming.  I called 911.  The operator could have cared less.  She was indifferent because I didn’t have an address.  (I looked up the intersection when I got home.  I wasn’t certain until I drove through in the daylight.)

But this is where it really got interesting.  My wife works at Shock Trauma.  She called.  No one had come in with a gunshot in the last few hours.  He might have gone to Hopkins.  We were closer to Hopkins, after all.  I emailed Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton to find out more.  He told me that it hadn’t been reported to the police.  I got the impression there was no chance this was going to become a story.  I was incredulous.  For someone who was in the middle of it, it was a big story.  What about the people who were in the middle of it everyday?

“Is this it,” I asked Fenton.  Does anyone give a shit?  He emailed me back.

“I’m not sure what you mean by “this is it.” This is how it works and has always worked. Baltimore police report a crime to us, and we decide whether it is newsworthy or not. If it is not reported, we might find out through a citizen like yourself, and will look into it and, again, then deem whether it is newsworthy or not. I am not the only one covering crime in Baltimore, but in any given week in Baltimore, there are 4 or 5 homicides, 8 to 12 non-fatal shootings, 6 rapes, 70 robberies, 125 burglaries. Only a fraction of the crime that occurs in the city is reported.

With your incident, I’m wondering if police ever located a victim. Shootings in which there is no tangible victim typically do not get written up as a shooting because there is no proof that it happened, no complainant and no aggrieved party.

Also, Perkins homes is in the Southeast District. I’ll check around.”

I just don’t think that’s right.  My problem isn’t with Justin Fenton or the Baltimore Sun.  Best I can tell, they are part of the solution, not the problem.  My problem is with the world that has made that reality.  My business idea is a news source that corrects that reality.

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