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Incendiary, Irresponsible, and Interesting: The Alexandria News Weekly's "Coverage" of the Alexandria Housing Authority Audit. Earlier today, a friend of mine directed me toward the new edition of the Alexandria News Weekly, which bills itself as "the black press of America." I've read the Alexandria News Weekly before, and I've found it to be an informative community-oriented paper, typically covering positive issues relating to the African-American community. The latest edition, however, features a cover story entitled "Why Did Mayor Call For Audit of Housing Authority." The article was written by Brian Keith. I do not know Mr. Keith, but I read his story with an objective interest. I've covered the story here on the blog, and it generated quite a bit of feedback. Obviously, all of the facts are not out there, and many of the central players are not talking to the press. However, unlike Mr. Keith, I have spoken to Mrs. Brewer and a source very close to Mrs. McGee. (It is worth noting that Mr. Keith's article did not feature a single quote from anyone from the mayor's office. I believe it was incredibly irresponsible of Mr. Keith to publish this article as a "news story" without first speaking to the mayor's office. Regardless of who you believe, that's just honest journalism). Mr. Keith, if you will allow me to address you directly: your words reach many people. They help inform any entire community. They profess to speak the truth. Do everyone a favor: Trust no one. Be objective. When you quote someone as a source, make sure you research the veracity of their claims. Among other things, your article stated: - George Williams retired from the board due to a conflict of interest with his employment. Your claim is not justified by any source. Perhaps this is due to your sentence construction (It was learned that...) How was it learned? Who told you this? Did Mr. Williams? If so, why didn't you quote directly? - Lazarone resigned from the board because he no longer lives in Alexandria. Again, this may be true, but where's your source? And what is your point? Are you implying that these resignations were not prompted by internal division, but instead, by technicality? If so, why does it matter? Either way, they asked the mayor to investigate. Or do these technicalities somehow lead you to believe that these men are corrupt appointees with a racially-based agenda? Do you think that they were forced to resign and that they became angry and started pointing fingers? If so, what facts lead you to this? If this is true, believe me: it's legitimate news. But as your story stands, it's simply gossip and speculation masquerading as fact. And like it or not, it also seems like your sources are those with their own ax to grind. - You claim that the mayor has absolutely no authority over the Housing Authority EXCEPT to appoint four of its five board members. Well, that IS authority. -You source the lawyer for the housing authority, Ms. Brown, as an objective source. She's the lawyer! Honestly, I don't have anything against Ms. Brown, and I believe that this story, by its nature, requires her contribution. But still, Ms. Brown is the lawyer representing the interests of the housing authority (not exactly an objective source of information regarding an investigation of the housing authority's alleged improprieties). She may be able to shed some light, but it's important to understand that her allegiance is to her client. -You claim that Brewer's bid was for $600,000, Alpha Title's bid was $200,000. You also claim, using the housing authority's lawyer as your source, that because HUD allocations for the project were capped at $150,000, Brewer/McGee's bid went down to $108,000 and Alpha Title's went down to $102,000 - You report that the board approved Alpha Title's proposal because they were from New Orleans and they knew how to relocate people. - But one problem: You also report that Brewer/McGee was certified to relocate people, and Alpha Title was not. - You quote the housing authority's lawyer as saying that Mrs. Brewer attempted to pull political strings by acknowledging her connections to Mayor Randolph. - You claim the reason Mrs. Sanders was awarded the contract is because she had worked with Alpha Title and had done "a great job." - You refuse to acknowledge that there is little difference between Mrs. Brewer's "political connections" (which you specifically reference using the housing authority's lawyer as your source) and Mrs. Sanders' connections to both the city attorney and the housing authority's attorney. Instead, you focus an entire paragraph to Mrs. Brewer's husband's insurance work with the housing authority. You also imply that Mr. Brewer was ripping the housing authority off. Did you talk to Mr. Brewer about this? His phone number is listed in the phone book, Mr. Keith. Look, I'm not trying to defend any certain party. I'm just saying that when you're writing a news story, you should work your sources. Otherwise, you look like someone's pawn. -And now allow me to quote directly: "They ('residents' questioned by Mr. Keith) question why there was no investigation called for during Carrol Lanier's administration when residents complained all the time about the facility being run like 'a modern-day plantation'" "We also talked with people in the community to get their comments about the alleged conflict. Karen Little said, 'The problem is those white folks don't want Black people making any kind of money. They are greedy, and we know they are in a position to manipulate the system. If the lady (Sanders) was on welfare, they would be saying 'get a job' or 'she's lazy,' but she did something on her own. Now they don't want that to happen either!' Another resident of the community, Gerald Glenn, said, 'The problem is that the Black people are not supposed to head anything, and when people like the mayor and Brewer can put doubt in the minds of the public, that's what they will do. All they're trying to do is put doubt in the people's minds about how Black people run business. If the mayor and Brewer want to be right, tell us- in a majority Black city, why does the City of Alexandria spend $160 million a year, and only $400,000 with minorities. This includes white women, so just think what the Blacks really get!'" My commentary: Try not to use these people as the voices of "real" residents, because their statements are not based in reality or fact. They're doing a disservice to the causes of unity and progression by perpetuating racist stereotypes about the agenda of "white people" (as if all white people speak with one voice. And for that matter, your article implies that all "Black people" speak with one voice. C'mon, that's ridiculous). You offer no objective information on these remarks, such as "The City of Alexandria spends $160 million a year on all people, $400,000 of which is specifically earmarked for minorities." (I doubt these are accurate numbers, but you should find out. This is a fairly divisive statement planted at the end of your article). If you're really committed to the future of Alexandria, Mr. Keith, if you really want to serve the cause of unity, then begin to recognize that the future of our community is not shaped by an "us versus them" struggle for power. While it is definitely true that some white people in our community continue to perpetuate racism, most of us, the ones who think and act, understand this "struggle" isn't really about racism; it's about power. And many of us in the community, both black people and white people, recognize that we can wield the greatest power by working together. So let the white racist types stand in the sidelines and whine about "blacks taking over" and let the black racist types stand in the sidelines and whine about "whites taking over" while the rest of us are out there are forming a dialogue and working together. Mr. Keith, I am looking forward to your follow-up story. Your newspaper claims to speak for an entire community. Based on your latest article, I don't think it does. Your newspaper claims to provide objective information. Based on your latest article, I don't think it does.Again, I repeat: Trust no one. Follow your sources. Get both sides of every story.