Hogan's Alley

Monday, September 19, 2005

NY Times Rediscovers Poverty

In the Metro section of today's NYT Anthony Ramirez reports on a fire that left 70 people homeless, at least temporarily. As the story itself reports:

"In the last 10 years in New York City, according to the Fire Department, there have been nearly 317,000 of what are known as structural blazes, including apartment fires. Nearly 1,400 people have died in these fires, and tens of thousands have been dispossessed."

The Times however reported on barely any of them. So in one of its infrequent expeditions into the foreign territory of far away Washington Heights it examines the immediate aftereffects of an apartment fire.

The stories headline appears to have determined the tack the story would take. It reads, "Homeless After a Fire, And Feeling Overlooked in Katrina's Shadow."

If read carefully, the story reports that victims feel anxious about their belongings, identification, public assistance benefit cards, etc., which is perfectly understandable. They, or the reporter, are also worried that the Red Cross will not be as responsive as it otherwise would be because of its involvement in Katrina recovery. However, the local manager of the Red Cross, the State public welfare officials assert that all their immediate needs will be met within one day.

Of course, like anyone who experiences a tragedy, the victims wish that in the best of all possible worlds they could be made whole tomorrow. Sadly that can never be the case when disaster occurs. While it is also true that the poor need more help from government and NGO's than those who suffer a fire in the West Village, those forms of assistance are here and are available.

The entire piece is a non-story prompted, it seems, by the reawakening of the Times to the presence of poverty in Manhattan. Or perhaps the editors were in part motivated by a review of the weekend edition's advertising and the Arts, Bookreview and Style sections of the paper, which pander to its principle clientele, the very comfortable citizens of Manhattan and its tonier suburbs.