So begins a post yesterday in the personal blog of Real Change publisher Tim Harris, and it’s easy to understand why. Apparently the Weekly is getting set to print a story next week that “exposes” Seattle’s homeless newspaper as employing, among its 250 vendors, a few people who are not entirely homeless, and even a handful who, by working countless hours, can make as much as $20,000 a year (without benefits)! The horrors!
Please don’t misunderstand. This sort of thing doesn’t piss me off because I once wrote for a paper with the same name. (I almost wrote “the same paper,” but, well, it’s not.) I don’t even care that Managing Editor Mike Seely would rather take personal potshots at me than address the indisputable fact that most Seattleites I hear from feel like his paper is now a pile of shit. I don’t know the reporter working on the Real Change story, Huan Hsu, who only came to Seattle two months ago. (Raising the question of who in the Weekly food chain thought up this story; the paper’s new owners, Village Voice Media (ne: New Times), have a history of kicking the homeless in some of their other cities.) I really don’t care about personal history or personalities here.
What pisses me off is when anyone – anyone – tries to make a buck or ingratiate themselves (e.g., with dimwitted readers) by pissing on the powerless. It’s one thing to lampoon the idiocies of Seattle liberalism; I might not agree with it (or think it’s well done), but it’s fair game. But trying to manufacture a “scandal” involving one of the few activist-initiated social service projects in town that truly does help people and change lives, all the time, is pure bullshit. Or, in Harris’ words, “What the Fuck”?
I guess the idea is to create buzz for the “new” Weekly by being bold and provocative (and irresponsible). Whatever. What Hsu and the Weekly will find is that Real Change’s vendors are often the downtrodden and powerless (“92% homeless or formerly homeless. 63% reporting a disability. 83% over 40. Illiterates. Addicts. Felons. Disabled people. Mentally ill people. Etcetera.,” writes Harris.) But Real Change as an institution has a lot of admirers in this community, and for an obvious reason: it has a better track record than any other media outlet in town (including the Weekly, and during my tenure there as well) in walking the talk and making this a better city.
We’ll see what the Weekly’s story is next week. But if it follows the arc that Tim Harris anticipates, Seattle Weekly will have only succeeded in further marginalizing itself.