The Wire’s David Simon is a former reporter for the Baltimore Sun and famously wielded his journalistic eye as creator of the critically acclaimed series. Though he officially turned in his reporter’s notebook years ago, Simon was moved to do a little freelance reporting for the Washington Post in reaction to a frustrating lack of accountability in the Baltimore Police Department. No one escapes his wrath here: the cops, the journalists, the bloggers.
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.
In response to such flummery, I had in my wallet, next to my Baltimore Sun press pass, a business card for Chief Judge Robert F. Sweeney of the Maryland District Court, with his home phone number on the back. When confronted with a desk sergeant or police spokesman convinced that the public had no right to know who had shot whom in the 1400 block of North Bentalou Street, I would dial the judge.
I’m looking forward to Treme, Simon’s new show about New Orleans, but after reading this, I wouldn’t be too disappointed if he picked up reporting again instead.