Baltimore Beat editor-in-chief Lisa Snowden-McCray interviews Real News senior editor Paul Jay on what’s next for The Real News in Baltimore
SNOWDEN-MCCRAY: What are some of the things that you guys want to tackle next? I feel like things are still, just from working here, it feels like this is a very fertile place to just kind of say, “I want to do this,” and go for it. Like, are there any big goals that you guys have set out for yourselves?
PAUL JAY: Yeah. In terms of Baltimore, the goal is to find out in what way do we deliver the news in terms of format, storytelling, engagement, that will really break through to a mass audience, ordinary audience, so we’re picking an area of Baltimore, sort of the east side of District 14 and maybe a little bit around there, which is black working-class. Not black super poor where we want to do some work, but some of the areas that have really been devastated, it’s very hard for people to start watching news and getting online and getting engaged in this stuff. So, while we do some work, like Eddie Conway does a lot of work at Gilmor Homes where Freddie, in that area Freddie Gray grew up, and we’ve held town halls there, but we’re focusing on a black working-class area and we’re going to ask people, you know, really go and we’re starting it. You know, asking where do you want us to do, you know, what do you want us to investigate and what kind of storytelling will people engage with? When we first got to Baltimore, we held sort of a meeting on the front porch of a street that was about three quarters boarded up, …
SNOWDEN-MCCRAY: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
PAUL JAY: … which is very typical as you know in many areas of the city. There were a few families living there and four or five women came over and talked to us. We said, “Okay, if you were our editorial committee, what would you ask us to do?” It was fantastic. Like, immediately it was who the heck owns all these boarded-up houses anyway? Number two, these houses, some of them have been boarded up for years. Why aren’t they turning them into low income housing? Even if they’re going to gentrify someday, why are they sitting empty for like decades? The third was interesting. She pointed to a house on the corner. Said, that house got new electricity, new plumbing, new drywall, and two weeks later they boarded it up. Why?
It’s a great set of questions that lead to an investigation of how land, houses, real estate are owned. The plans for gentrification, the plans for what I think, I don’t think it’s unfair to call ethnic cleansing, I mean, the policy of poor blacks should just get the hell out of the city, which I think is one of the underlying, deliberate policies. The role of Johns Hopkins in this because they’re one of the largest owners of real estate. Certainly, the city owns tons of real estate.
PAUL JAY: We need to engage with what people want to know, both in terms of how did we get here and really understanding the dynamic. Like, all the public money that went into the Inner Harbor development, how much of that really came back into the community? How many real jobs sustainable? Why did poverty get worse over the last few decades even though there was massive public investment in projects like the harbor and other things, like these big … Do these [tiff 00:29:58] tax breaks, do they really lead to development that improves lives for people or not? Or do the banks and developers just make a lot of money? Then, we have to go the other step. If this stuff isn’t working, and clearly it’s not, because poverty is worse in Baltimore, not better. Unemployment’s worse. Conditions for people are worse. I’m going to just add, it’s not an accident.
PAUL JAY: Poverty’s a profit center. You know, if you need cheap labor, poverty’s great. If you make money out of the mass incarceration industry, poverty’s great. If you want more overtime as a cop, poverty’s great. A lot of people make money out of poverty.
PAUL JAY: Then, we’ve got to talk about, then what do effective solutions look like because even if you can explain how we got here really well, if you leave it there, then so what?
PAUL JAY: You just explained it better how screwed everything is and people are getting a little tired of that.
PAUL JAY: We hope to build in the next year or two, a mass audience and with a real target. Within one area, particularly can we change how people vote because in the final analysis everyone has to ask themselves, you have a majority black city, you have a majority black city council, you have a majority of people who work for a living or who are poor, why are people voting for candidates and policy that’s not in their interest and how will that change? So, in a big way, that’s our objective. We’re not going to tell people who to vote for, but we do want people to understand what kind of policy might actually help them and only vote for candidates that actually follow that and clearly this kind of neo-liberalist economic policy, you know, give tax breaks and that kind of stuff, it’s not working. Situation’s not getting better, so what will and start voting for that.
Then, let me just put the other one. Climate change is a very big priority for us. Maybe number one because, you know, in 20-30 years there won’t be much of a Baltimore to talk about.
SNOWDEN-MCCRAY: Alright, well thank you so much for sitting down with me. I really appreciated it and thank you for watching The Real News Network.