Friday, October 14, 2005


I came across Crime Scene KC a couple of days ago and I briefly subscribed to its RSS feed. It's one of the Star's first ventures into the blogosphere, along with Aaron Barnhart's TV Barn.

I guess TV and Crime are relatively smart subject areas for a big newspaper's early forays into blogging, though my sense is that politics is the wisest (the St. Louis Post Dispatch has a pretty good one, managed by the best political reporter in the state, Jo Mannies).

Personally, I don't like either as a subject for a blog, so I won't be subscribing. This is probably a good sign for the folks at the Star. I tend to stand apart from the masses (and the money). With TV, all I watch is PBS and C-SPAN, so I'm not much interested in what old Aaron has to say. And on the crime front. Well. I think this blog is just another force driving our community deeper into the subdivisions of hell.

I'd rather see us all broaden our understanding of crime. It's so easy to focus on violent crimes, and property crimes. They're sensational. They get your adrenaline-laced fear flowing. But they're still anomolies of urban life, for the most part. They don't really affect most people. Even in so-called high crime areas, in the midst of so-called crime waves, the overwhelming majority of people won't be victims of crimes. That's my sense as a resident of a so-called bad neighborhood.

But more than that, these incidents are really just symptoms of deeper ills. And that's where the true crime resides. In the systems and institutions. And I mean these in the broadest sense. I'm not talking solely about back-room conspiracies to keep communities divided and unequal, and to steal from a blind public, to bilk the poor and the powerless, though that's part of it. I mean collective notions of spirit and community as well. As such we all have responsibility -- from the richest and most powerful sons of privilege to the poorest daughters of share croppers.

What's weird is that the author of this Crime Scene KC blog would seem to have his finger on this pulse of underlying injustice. If I'm not mistaken, Greg Reeves used to be theStar's database reporter. He was part of what was supposed to be the new wave in investigative journalism: Computer Assisted Reporting. That's where you sort through all the data the government collects and find statistical proof of unfairness and wrongdoing.

At its best, this style of reporting can produce the kinds of stories that make for bestsellers that have the power to challenge our assumptions and even help us to come up with better strategies for shaping our communities. I fear that a half dozen crime posts a day will only serve to deepen the divides in Kansas City, and it will prevent us from tackling the big issues that actually fuel the crime.

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