My wife and I are Netflix fans. We had been told some time ago we had to watch The Wire, available in all five HBO seasons from Netflix; finally we took heed, and once we got started, we were hooked. We watched the final episode last night, then the DVD commentary. It's a brilliant study of urban decay and urban corruption, brilliant in its characters and their realism, brilliant in the realism of how various subcultures behave. Baltimore is the setting, the backdrop, and an ever-present character. Its urban decay is stark; its social dilemmas profound.
In the final commentary, creator David Simon expresses the wish that the show might somehow make a difference, partly in the world of journalism, and partly in the larger way the city runs. It's a heartfelt wish. He really doesn't care for the behaviors of the urban world that his series mirrors so well; he wants something better. But where might this come from? Can it come from the daily newspaper as it used to be, an honorable civic institution? Can it come from the sort of politics his series portrays?
I don't think so. Newspapers at their best can tell daily stories about urban problems. They cannot, of themselves, create the social change that their cities need. Urban health takes something more than a spirit of knowing and fixing problems. It also takes a spirit of "creating success."
When we're trying to create success, we ask ourselves different (and better) questions: "What else can I add?" "What else can I do right?" "Who else can be part of the solution?" "Are there additional success factors that we haven't yet thought of?" "What do we know about best practices? Who can we copy?"
That's our challenge now. Imagine ourselves not just as problem solvers but as success creators. Take integrity at scale as our standard and imagine cities of tomorrow that live by that shared standard. It'd be a nice way to honor all those who created The Wire.
Steven Howard Johnson