Category Archives: Urban Issues

The Baltimore Sun – Light for (Almost) All


Image courtesy: Me, myself, and I

I’m a big fan of the Baltimore Sun, at least until it was bought by Tribune Media, which owns the Chicago Tribune.

Needless to say, an article that starts out with the sentence above is not going to be too kind to the topic at stake.  Not even close.

The Baltimore Sun has promised “Light for All” for as long as just about anyone can remember.  And until recently, I thought that was exactly what the Sun did as well.

The Baltimore Sun website recently got a face-lift, making it more visually appealing to the reader, and presumably easier to access via a mobile device.

Below is an older version of the Sun website above the newer version.

Throughout the article, right clicking and opening the images in a new tab with enlarge the image to improve visibility.

newbaltsun

Ultimately, it was not the aesthetics that caught my eye, it was a new feature of the website that debuted a little farther down the front page.  Titled “Your Neighborhood,” the drop-down menu provides the reader with news for their specific area, including community events and crime news.

By “Your Neighborhood,” the Baltimore Sun is including towns like Aberdeen, Bel Air, and even as far west as Mount Airy and as far south as Laurel and Annapolis.  In short, the Baltimore Sun is reaching beyond Baltimore.

baltsun_neighborhood

baltsun_whitehoods

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The new feature seemed excellent, and a great way for Baltimoreans to get local news down to the neighborhood level.  Except, the one glaring flaw of the new feature.

The “Your Neighborhood” feature does not include many Baltimore neighborhoods, and the ones it does include are the most well off.  The areas in Baltimore City that are included are the likes of:

  • Canton
  • Charles Village
  • Federal Hill
  • Fells Point
  • Harbor East
  • Locust Point
  • Mount Washington
  • Owings Mills
  • Roland Park

All valid neighborhoods with valid needs and valid concerns, but not exactly Baltimore’s more economically depressed or in-need neighborhoods by any stretch of the imagination.  Missing from the list were the likes of Park Heights, Middle East, Irvington, Patterson Park, even Highlandtown and Coldspring and dozens and dozens of others.   For shit’s sake, even Homeland missed the cut, HOMELAND!!!

Baltimore is a city of neighborhoods (and this map proves it [link]) and picking and choosing a few that are “easier” to cover is not only disrespectful to the ones that are left out, but to all citizens of Baltimore City.

But, there was one apparent saving grace of this “Your Neighborhood” debacle.  In the list of neighborhoods, “North Baltimore City” and “South Baltimore” were included.  At least those the Baltimore Sun had donned as the “lessers” could have their news covered, if even within a small fishbowl with dozens of other neighborhoods.  The kind of fishbowl with grime on the sides, and not the one from Finding Nemo.

However, when I clicked on “North Baltimore City,” I was not enlightened with news from neighborhoods that had been left out of the original list, but either news from all the chosen neighborhoods complied in one place, with news tidbits from a few others (Park Heights was not among them).

I did find one thing I was looking for, though….

HOMELAND!

baltsun_northbaltcity

I might be coming off as a little harsh.  It is not that I do not think that a middle-schooler winning a contest with “Lily’s Legwarmers” is not a big deal, but in a city like Baltimore, who has not seen a yearly homicide count lower than 170 in about three decades, it seems that there are more pressing matters this city’s newspaper might need to be attending to.

That is not to say that the newspaper as a whole is not focusing at all on the neighborhoods in need, because there is one section of the Baltimore Sun that deserves to be lauded.

“The Darkroom”, the Sun’s home for visual journalism has a series named “Neighborhoods of Baltimore,” in which journalists/photojournalists Mr. Matt Bracken and Ms. Kalani Gordon document quite accurately the neighborhoods of Baltimore City and County, from Park Heights to Greektown to Abell.  The series was started earlier in 2014, and seems to be producing one report for each month.

The reports provide a story of what the neighborhood is going through now and what its storied past includes.  Each project includes interviews with residents of the neighborhood, many of whom are on neighborhood committees, lifelong residents, individuals dedicated to the neighborhood’s prosperity, or all of the above, and offers an optimistic view of the future while highlighting the neighborhood’s most pressing issues.

While the Baltimore Sun is raising my eyebrows with its implementation of the “Your Neighborhood,” drop-down menu and news sections, it is at least comforting to know that the issues and triumphs of Baltimore are still being portrayed through “Neighborhoods of Baltimore,” even if the reports are tucked away in a corner of the Sun website.  After all, the problems of inner-cities, especially Baltimore, have always been just that: tucked away in the recesses of most American’s minds.

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Urban Issues: What is the Crime Gap?


Image credit: http://townhousecenter.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/img_1751.jpeg

We’ve heard of the gender gap and of wealth disparity in the U.S.  Besides those and the gap that is the U.S. falling behind in education benchmarks, what else is there?  Cue the crime gap, an epidemic seen in many large U.S. cities today.  Crime has been decreasing (link) ever since the early to mid-90s, pretty much across the board.  There were about 10.2 million reported crimes across the U.S. in 2012, compared with nearly 15 million in 1991.  The 10.189 million crime rate we saw in 2012 was the lowest since 1973.

So, crime is going down, huh?  That’s what nationwide statistics say, that’s what the media says (link), so it must be true.  Cue the crime gap.  It’s a phenomena where despite the fact that crime becomes lower for a city over time, there are certain neighborhoods that actually become more dangerous, hence creating a gap between these neighborhoods in crime rates.

Only nine of Chicago’s seventy-six neighborhood districts saw an increase in violent crimes from 2011 to 2013.  Despite that, Chicago was recently named  “Murder Capital of the United States” a couple years back for it being the city with the most homicides (link) by the raw number; it had 506 in 2012.  However in 2013, Chicago’s number of homicides reached lows not seen since 1967, and the media quickly dubbed this as Chicago being an improved, safer city.  And for those seventy-six neighborhoods, it was.  But, as the media moves away from giving Chicago the crime limelight, about twelve percent of its neighborhoods continue to suffer, seeing astronomical increases in violent crime over the past two years.

Is Chicago getting safer in reality?  Overall, yes.  But certain neighborhoods, the ones that are the most impoverished and resource denied, continue to suffer from soaring crimes rates.  Chicago, you could say, is a very modest example.  There are about a dozen cities in the U.S. with violent crime rates that blow Chicago away in terms of per-capita violent crime.  Think those nine neighborhoods in Chicago, except in the case of cities like Baltimore, St. Louis, and Detroit the epidemic is city-wide.

 

The violent crime epidemic that continues to plague numerous inner-cities across the country is largely ignored by the national media.  In fact, when is that the last time you saw any coverage on the violent crime epidemic in Baltimore or St. Louis, much less a discussion on how to combat it.  I believe the general population remains ignorant of it, not because they’re selfish or don’t care about inner-cities, but because many of them have no idea what the state of inner-cities are. If the national media corporations were to post these two graphics I posted and explain the crime gap in layman’s terms, what hurt could it possibly do?  Make the corporations gain 1.5 million in profit today instead of $1.67 million, $575 million this year instead of $600 million? (link)  In the end, isn’t that a small price to pay for eradicating the disenfranchisement of inner-city citizens?

Intro: ‘Urban Decay’ Is Not a Cosmetics Company


Featured Image credit (link)

So, I think I’d forgotten one roadblock about running a news site about news that is neglected is that you’re unlikely to find any articles about it on the likes of Google News, much less trending .  But a quick Google search gave me just the results I was looking for:

I mean, cosmetics, amirite?  (Here is my unintentional product endorsement for the week)

ummmwhat

But is urban decay just a cosmetics company?  Far from it.

Ironically enough, the only search result in my Google search that was about the real urban decay was the  reputable Wikipedia page (link).  So, I guess I have no choice but to quote Wikipedia, for those of us unfamiliar with the concept or urban decay, and to clear up misconceptions, or to clear up anything that wasn’t cleared up by Urban Decay’s beauty products:

“Urban decay (also known as urban rot and urban blight) is the process whereby a previously functioning city, or part of a city, falls into disrepair and decrepitude.”

 The reason behind urban decay?  A continued lack of funding and support for inner cities are their infrastructure, and a switch of that focus of funding and support to the suburbs.  A visual example, for those of us who are visual learners:

When’s the last time the cul-de-sac looked like that?

Pretty large discrepancy, right? Well, before I conclude this introduction, another term “urban renewal” ought to be under everyone’s belt.  It’s one of the solutions of the future, not to be confused with “gentrification”.

Wikipedia, take me home!

“Urban renewal is a program of land redevelopment in areas of moderate to high density urban land use.”

Or, urban renewal, for visual learners:

And for those of you who read this article solely for my accidental fashion endorsements, ‘Urban Renewal’ is apparently a clothing line by Urban Outfitters, too.