A market opportunity for journalism

11 Jun

Dave Davies at WHYY makes an interesting point regarding Philadelphia’s recent horrible building collapse:English bulldog

I want those responsible for this atrocity held accountable too, but I wonder if a year from now, all the furor over slipshod demolition and shady contractors will have changed anything.

  • In 1996 a massive fire of discarded tires shut down a section of I-95, and for a weeks politicians and TV crews were all over the issue of tire disposal.
  • In 2000, a nightclub on a pier in the Delaware River collapsed and killed three people. City inspectors were immediately dispatched to examine every pier on the river.
  • And last year, the tragic Kensington fire that killed two firefighters led to a new focus on large, abandoned properties.

Davies says some kind things about the city’s most recent efforts to improve oversight, and continues:

The question is whether the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections can really do all this stuff in addition to the other burdens they carry, many of them heavier because of past disasters….

I’ve seen a lot of people in city government over the past 25 years. Plenty of them occupy the corner office while things in their departments go on as they always have.

Then once in a while, but you see somebody who has the vision, guts and managerial skill to make change. It’s not easy in the public sector, but it does happen.

It means getting better technology and putting it to good use. It means understanding the arcane civil service system and making it work. It means listening to union leaders and joining them in common purpose. It means holding supervisors accountable for getting the job done. I’ve seen it happen, and it can be inspiring.

You know what else can be inspiring? When a journalist takes hold of a story like a bulldog and hangs on for years, wringing every drop from it.

C’mon, WHYY, I’m looking at you. Make a topic page and stay on this. Check back in six months, in seven months, in eight months. Track the incremental progress/lack of progress, not just the big anniversaries or the inevitable court case. Be journalists.

Photo credit: Wikipedia.

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