Mike Rowe Clashes with Baltimore City Paper and The Wire’s David Simon

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Mike Rowe clashes with City Paper and David Simon
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Recently, Dirty Jobs‘ Mike Rowe, The Wire‘s David Simon, and City Paper‘s Baynard Woods had a sort of Battle of the Blogs. It was funny! It was awkward! Everybody had their say! There’s a slim chance they’re all going out for a beer soon!

Here’s what happened.A week ago, Rowe wrote a blog post to publicize a Baltimore-themed episode of his show Somebody’s Gotta Do It and to look for suggestions of “anonymous people who love what they do” to be featured on the show. He titled the post “Rewiring The Wire” and characterized the episode as an attempt to undo Baltimore’s unsavory reputation, which he blames solely on David Simon’s The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Street.

Then Baynard Woods wrote an article at City Paper in which he called Rowe’s one-dimensional characterization of The Wire “insulting” and challenged the purported “authentic[ity]” of the Baltimore that Rowe hoped to present in SGDI. Woods also quoted a response from David Simon in full, in which the writer defended the motivations behind the show’s narratives which he and others “undertook to tell…as best we could in the hope that they would be honest and relevant to the whole of our city, to our divided American society and to the fundamental necessity that is our shared future.” Simon also made it clear that he considers “civic boosterism” a “laudable purpose.” Though he implied that Rowe’s original blog post showed a lack of “understanding and respect for the role of storytelling as a means of offering dissent and opening civic and societal debate.”

Then Mike Rowe responded somewhat smirkingly to both Woods and Simon and argued that his television work was inherently more honest than The Wire. “David Simon controlled every single thing that happened on screen,” he wrote. “I controlled nothing. On Dirty Jobs, I presented real people precisely as I found them. On The Wire, Simon showed us exactly what he wanted us to see.” He closed with offers to buy Woods and Simons each a beer when he’s in town.

That sparked a typically thorough and thoughtful response from Simon on his blog. As always, well worth the read. Simon expounds on his position and pointed out premises implicit in Rowe’s position that he finds “disturbing: That an undeserving portion of Baltimore has been chronicled at the expense of a Baltimore more deserving of attention, and that the America left behind by deindustrialization, poverty and the depredations of the drug war should just quiet the f— down while we sell more of the America that has not been so marginalized.” He goes on to argue persuasively that “[t]elling only the pretty, affirming stories has a cost, too.”

And maybe that will be the last word?



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  1. […] Despair, against claims that it has tarnished Baltimore. For background on the feud, here’s a good snarky place to start.   The thing I appreciate about Simon’s blog, apart from his exceptionally well-written […]

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