Monday, August 23, 2010

The Media and the Homeless - Part 3

Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress.

Last week I touted the comprehensive reporting of the Fort Collins Coloradoan in documenting the nature of the problem of homelessness in their community, and what is being done.

This included an excellent story on the state of affairs in Grand Junction, and I hoped aloud for the local papers here to continue the spirit of their previous reports on the homeless with renewed fervor and commitment.

Yesterday, the Daily Sentinel put forth quite the story on Page One.

Amy Hamilton's profile of local activist Jacob Richards was a comprehensive, objective, and excellently written exploration not only of the individual, but of the cause for which he has become most associated with. I was personally surprised to see so many column inches devoted to the story, and I wondered out loud if the front page photo really had to be that big.

I believe that the story meets the Sentinel's responsibilities of service to the community by trying to objectively profile one of it's more active members who has made an impact in calling attention to a significant issue, in a way that is bringing people with very different perspectives on that issue to the table. Ms. Hamilton's reporting includes interviews with several other key stakeholders in the issues surrounding homelessness. Some of these people have genuine differences with Mr. Richards' opinions and approaches to problem-solving.

Ms. Hamilton also excelled in chronicling Mr. Richards' less than conventional journey from life as the son of a local government official in Pitkin County, through the criminal justice system as a convicted burglar and member of what many in the Aspen area called "The Dirty Dozen".

We all have one thing in common - we are all flawed human beings who have made mistakes, and we will all make more in the future. That shouldn’t prevent us from striving to co-exist and collectively work to solve those problems that transcend economic, social, or political boundaries.

Mr. Richards will be a polarizing figure in the Grand Junction community no matter what he does. I've been critical of him in previous posts here, but I personally find it heartening that he has learned to work with the processes in place, and has tried to partner with those in a position of authority or established service.

Another thing I find heartening is the (mostly) civil discourse from multiple viewpoints in the Sentinel's online comments section, especially given the vitriolic nature of the comments on homelessness that have been seen there previously.

The activist approach of Mr. Richards and his associates has indeed changed the way that our government and non-profit community is looking at homelessness. I don’t see calling attention to injustice as a radical concept, but I hope that Mr. Richards doesn’t see the need to again resort to overly controversial or illegal means to get his point across.

Thanks to the Sentinel and Amy Hamilton for a great job. Keep it up.

Have a great week ahead.

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