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Behold, the journalism world turning itself into a pretzel.
So, there’s a show on HBO called The Wire. It’s pretty good, and one of the reasons why it’s pretty good is because it’s pretty accurate, and the main reason it’s pretty accurate is because it was created by a journalist, author and former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon.
One of the key settings of The Wire this season is the newsroom of the Sun, and one of the plot points this season (you might want to stop here if you’re not keeping up) involves a reporter who appears not to be entirely above-board when it comes to accuracy. Because the show is watched and loved by a lot of journalists, media folk have been speculating about who the real-world model is for the reporter. The consensus is that it’s Jim Haner; you can see this 2000 story from the Baltimore City Paper for details as to why. Gist: A story in Brill’s Content voiced allegations that Haner “embellishes quotes and fabricates events, and that his editors protect their star reporter instead of disciplining him.” The main source for the magazine story was Simon.
Bill Wyman, a former assistant managing editor at National Public Radio, found a way to bring Washington City Paper into all this today. Wyman’s not a big fan of The Wire this season, partly for reasons involving Bill Marimow, an editor both he and David Simon have worked with. (You can learn all about that here. Welcome to the excruciatingly small world of journalism, kids! While we’re being parenthetical and insidery, I can add that for about a year Wyman improved my copy, a decade back when I was a freelancer for SF Weekly and he was arts editor there.) Having discovered the Haner connection, he came across Huan Hsu‘s 2006 Artifacts story on Haner. As for what Wyman makes of it, well, it’s simpler if Wyman tells it:
I think I know what enrages David Simon about his former colleague.
It’s a feeling certain journalists have about certain other journalists. You can be a serious, highly ethical professional and not feel it, but those that do know the feeling know what it means.
Curious? I am happy to be able to provide a test you can take at home. It’s for entertainment purposes only. Five years after the Baltimore stories cited above, Haner wrote a book about his experiences as a kids soccer coach. The Washington (D.C.) City Paper, which is not related to the Baltimore one, published a short feature about it. The test resides in the first paragraph of that story.