|Romeo & Juliet, Frank Dicksee, 1884|
My newspaper habit with the Washington Post these days amounts to a quick perusal of the Sports section, working the crossword puzzle, and reviewing the Metro section. They actually do some pretty good investigative journalism on local issues. Their national and world news is so biased and sensationalized it is not worth my time. I usually read the BBC to keep up with international and national headlines and then dig deeper for items that I find interesting or pertinent.
So I was sorely disappointed to see The Post give so much coverage to DC Councilman Vincent Gray's "inspection" of a local Safeway store. Really? With all the issues facing Washington DC, Councilman Gray felt his time was best spent harassing a private business because he thinks the produce and meats are not fresh enough and the store hours are not long enough? And of course he alleges that the Safeway corporation is doing this in order to unjustly discriminate against his Ward 7 constituents.
Councilman Gray assumes that if he goes to any Safeway in a more affluent neighborhood he will not find moldy strawberries or meat that has aged to a brown color. He did not actually visit another Safeway to verify that. He just asserts that is true. If you read the comments to the article you will see that there are lots of patrons of suburban grocery stores who have found similar produce and meat. That is consistent with my experiences as well.
And in truth, Vincent Gray has no standing to micromanage Safeway's business. There are no city regulations that require a grocery store to have specified cashier wait times or be open during certain hours. There could be numerous non-nefarious reasons that Safeway is choosing to do business as it does. For example, maybe it is too difficult to find employees who want to work the late night shifts due to security concerns. Maybe customers do not want to shop during the late night hours due to security concerns. Maybe the cost of security during the late night hours makes it cost-prohibitive to be open later.
If Safeway is leaving open an unmet need in Ward 7, another grocery store is free to open up and meet that need. The fact that no grocery store has seized this opportunity indicates that there is something about the business climate in this area that is not conducive to profitable operations. Perhaps rather than standing there with a finger pointed at Safeway, Vincent Gray should be looking at what are the factors that have created this inhospitable business climate and what can he do to fix them. Instead, he chooses to grandstand and whip up outrage among his constituents and let them know he is on their side without really doing anything to improve the situation.
And the Washington Post played right into his hands. Where was the journalistic discernment that considered whether this was really news or just another politician pushing propaganda? Why did the Washington Post follow Vincent Gray like a little lap dog and blindly give credence to his publicity stunt? Why didn't a reporter raise the issues I just raised? Why did they just accept his narrative without question? Is it because they are not really an objective news organization but an agenda driven promoter of a specific ideology? Their new tag line is "Democracy dies in darkness". Darkness descends when critical thinking is missing.