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Writer/Producer of “The Wire” laments the decline of newspapers, predicts the rise of corruption

March 28, 2009

The Guardian has an interview with David Simon, the co-writer and producer of the acclaimed HBO TV series, The Wire. In it, the critically praised author and former newspaper reporter for the Baltimore Sun, predicts that the decline of the American newspaper business will result in, among other things, a rise in political corruption:

Fictional corrupt politicians are a mainstay of The Wire, David Simon’s celebrated television series about life on the Baltimore streets. But the show’s creator says he fears a real-life explosion of rampant corruption in American political life if the newspaper industry, in which he worked for more than a decade, is allowed to collapse…

“Oh, to be a state or local official in America over the next 10 to 15 years, before somebody figures out the business model,” says Simon, a former crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun. “To gambol freely across the wastelands of an American city, as a local politician! It’s got to be one of the great dreams in the history of American corruption.”

I am a self-confessed Wire junkie and I’ve been taken with Simon’s work, and his cranky realism, since I first saw the show. I’ve heard him make similar comments about the failure of the American newspaper industry before. (And, if you saw the fifth season of the Wire, you saw Simon dramatize many of the problems plaguing that industry today.) The corruption angle is new, but certainly believable. The Woodward and Bernstein model of reporters making their reputation by exposing corruption was a significant component of the popularity and importance of big newspaper journalism. Who now will keep an eye on the politicians? Who will have the access and familiarity with the political process to be able to ferret out misdeeds? One line from Simon’s interview makes plain his opinion that blogs and web page writers are not adequate to the task,

“The internet does froth and commentary very well, but you don’t meet many internet reporters down at the courthouse.”

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