"Back on the Beat," Kelsey Whipple, July 12, and "Flash Point," Melanie Asmar, July 5
It is a welcome change to see investigative journalism alive and well. For the past two weeks, Westword has had detailed and comprehensive pieces on crime and justice in Denver that no one else has matched.
First there was Melanie Asmar's "Flash Point," about Denver's years of gang violence. The piece gave a detailed history and also showed the groups that have tried to solve the problems over the years, with or without police help. The article brought up many memories of what has been an ongoing problem. It also gave small fragments of hope.
Denver Police Department
Next, Kelsey Whipple's return to the Alex Landau case continued to demonstrate how much things stay the same. Halfway through the article, I had the bitter taste of disappointment that the Denver Police Department talks the talk but does nothing else. How many administrations must it take to discipline bad cops in the system?
There was a time when investigative journalism was the standard, not the exception. I'm glad to see Westword promote and propagate this dying art. Please continue the good work.
I perused "Flash Point," Melanie Asmar's gang article, closely enough to see that the direction of the content was of an illusive direction rather than in-depth leadership. That is the viewpoint of reporters writing on poverty: Talk to the experts who get a big paycheck off of poverty and its violence.
While I am sure that asking the officials dealing with gang violence enlightened many readers, to fully understand gangs, one must ask the members. Yes, I understand the fear that doing so might open you up to violence. But what is the story on not recording the words of the poor?
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I would love to see an article that goes to the source: the gang members! Would the young gang members say they belong because of poverty? Or being unloved? Or would it be some other human reason, like not feeling like a number? I am not a member of a gang. But if I were trying to make a point — if society wants to avoid flash points — I would not talk to social workers and cops. I would talk to those who have the answers: the ones immersed in the reality that is being written about. Are the grants to end violence created after speaking to gangs to learn their needs? I believe not.
Just like answers to poverty come from those who make a living off the poor, the reality of those gripped in the nightmare of poverty is hardly ever written about. An article from a gang member or someone paid under a livable wage of seven times the monthly rent cost would be award-winning material. Melanie's article informs, and this is good. But until we treat gang members and the 85 percent of the underpaid population as human, until editors carry the words of those who know the answers, we as a society are busy playing in the mud, without a clue. Melanie's article is great as a college essay. It falls short as a problem solver. The question is, would Westword or any media print a problem-solving text?