Tuesday, December 14, 2010

NYT's Nagourney on Omission 
of Homeless L.A. Voices

Yesterday's front-page of the national print edition of the New York Times ran a story by Adam Nagourney, about the Los Angeles region's efforts to reduce homeless people living on the streets. Plenty of politicians and nonprofit executives were quoted and allowed to opine on what's best for the homeless folks. Since I'm acquainted with Adam, I sent him a note asking why not one homeless person was quoted in his piece.

Here's his reply:

If I had set out to do a in-depth profile of the homeless community in LA – an absolutely legitimate and important story – I would have no doubt quoted many homeless people, and spent a lot of time moving around with them, to get a sense of who they are now, how they became homeless, why they are here. That is very well a story I might do here at some point; but that was not this story.

This was a story about how at a time other communities have made significant progress in finding housing for homeless, LA has not: that it has by every measure the worse homeless problem in the country. The story is intended to look at why that is, how it’s happened, how come it’s so intractable here and what LA is now trying to do about it. A profile of the community itself – in particular, the number of homeless veterans – is a separate but also important topic, that in my opinion should be addressed in future stories.

I grant Adam's his points regarding the focus of his piece, and I have no issue with him giving space to homeless experts and such, but there is still a legit reason why members of the affected homeless population should have been allowed to weigh in on the LA proposals. After all, the plans will directly impact that population and their situation.

My view is that just as I would expect Adam and the Times to quote a gay person or a Democrat if the story were about gay liberation or control of the U.S. Senate, I want them to include the voices of homeless people in related articles. Let's hope the future stories he mentions soon appear.

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