The recent reporting by two of Baltimore’s local print periodicals was telling of the role of the media in attempting to educate us or cover up and allow political corruption. The examples are the reporting on the 88-acre Johns Hopkins expansion in East Baltimore by The Daily Record and The Baltimore Sun. The Daily Record’s reporting (“EBDI gets $2.5M to raze houses”. 12/12/2013) on the additional millions granted to EBDI (the development proxy for Hopkins and the city) assured us that the government continues to finance a private corporation’s expansion through funding demolition of property (from which more than 800 African American and low-income families were displaced) for construction of market-rate housing. This housing is necessary to accommodate the families being attracted to assure gentrification of the rebuilt area. Two days later The Baltimore Sun’s (“East Baltimore development moves to next phase”, 12/14/2013) report of the same plan for demolition forgot to inform us of the source of the funding for this demolition. Instead it focused on the ‘progress’ made by EBDI in building affordable housing. It did not elaborate as to who the existing homes were affordable to.
Two days ago another report by the Baltimore Sun informed us of the opening of the new school, Henderson-Hopkins, as part of the Hopkins expansion (“East Baltimore students start new year in new school”, 1/2/2014). It informed us about the progress made by this expansion and again forgot to inform us of the school’s use as a magnet to attract a certain race and class of people: white and middle and upper-class. It forgot to mention that no outreach was done with local residents to assure timely application for school enrollment. It failed to tell us about outreach to the Hopkins East Baltimore campus’s students and employees who were given information well in advance of the deadline for application. It also failed to tell us about the two new retail businesses in the expansion area which caters to the ‘new’ race and class of people Hopkins and the city is seeking to attract to this school: a 7-11 which does not accept food stamps and a Walgreens whose prices are so expensive that local residents report they have to continue to trek all the way to North avenue’s Walgreens for the same item at lower costs.
But this bias in news reporting is not new to any of us familiar with the now 12-year rebuilding process of Middle East Baltimore. From the start this $1.8 billion project’s vision has been consistently directed by the Johns Hopkins University, Martin O’Malley and his administration at the local and state levels, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. To date the majority of local and national media sources have been lacking in transparent reporting to aid the public in holding this heavily publicly-subsidized project accountable. Most have long histories with the powerful stakeholders who individually and together, directly and indirectly, control the finances and therefore the action of the people, organizations, programs, and enactment of policies, and laws of the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland.
Still, the role and future of journalism is defined exactly at moments like this when truth-telling stands up to power and editors and journalists reach for a higher standard and do not fear for their careers or being popular with the elite. The highest journalistic integrity suggests principles such as truth, accuracy and factual knowledge. The public relies on this highest integrity to inform us of truth and/or corruption that we can determine how and when to act for fair government and transparency to the people. Shall we remain hopeful that the new year will bring forward more courage, facts, and truth-telling in journalism in Baltimore and beyond?