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Thursday, December 20, 2007


Fair and balanced news coverage

There's a major struggle going on in New Orleans over the impending demolition of thousands of public housing units. If you watched either CNN or MSNBC coverage today (no, you don't need to watch FOX to get "fair and balanced" coverage), you would think there was a near-riot as demonstrators tried to storm City Hall. But why were they doing that? You wouldn't have a clue of what was really going on:
Protesters said they pushed against the iron gates that kept them out of the building because the Housing Authority of New Orleans had disproportionately allowed supporters of the demolition to pack the chambers.
Not that the AP coverage (just quoted) doesn't have its own "fair and balanced" problems. Try this sentence on for size:
The City Council voted Thursday in favor of demolishing some 4,500 public housing units, a milestone in the city's effort to balance its heritage and its hurricane rebuilding efforts.
Where the "balancing act" is isn't clear. "Heritage" would seem to require saving existing housing, and aren't there thousands of completely demolished homes that can be rebuilt with having to intentionally demolish even more? Later on, we read:
There is no consensus on what's best for New Orleans' poor, even among public housing residents. Redevelopment would diminish the public housing stock and drive many into less stable voucher programs. Repair of brick and barracks-style projects badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina would keep intact poor but close-knit neighborhoods.
And what's wrong with keeping close-knit neighborhoods, poor or not, intact? Does someone think that diminishing the public housing stock is a better idea? That's rather hard to believe.

In the AP article, and in all the TV coverage, I only heard a single mention (from an opponent of demolition) mention that the proposed "redevelopment" was going to result in a net loss of thousands of housing units. Keira Phillips on CNN, for example repeatedly talked about how nice it would be to replace "crime-ridden" housing with nice new housing, as if there was going to be a one-to-one (and instantaneous) replacement.

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