Seattle isn’t Dead Yet: KOMO’s Biased Reporting

The tea on their bad reporting

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Is Seattle dying?

On March 14, the KOMO special “Seattle is Dying” aired locally, but has since spread far and wide across the U.S. with over 3 million views on YouTube. KOMO news anchor Eric Johnson narrates over images of the homeless population, with ominous warnings: “Chasing a drug that in turn chases them. Damage they inflict, on themselves but also on the fabric of this place that we live” as well as labeling Seattle “a post-apocalyptic landscape”.

Viewers would be forgiven if they assumed that things are terrible.
Because they are.
It is terrible that we have stooped so low as to blame the homeless for the cards they were dealt. To prove their cherry-picked points of the homeless being a dangerous group, they show a video of a woman standing alone on a sidewalk, speaking, then screaming at herself. A few minutes later they describe these living human being as merely “a drain on our resources.”

they describe these living human being as merely “a drain on our resources. ”

The story reduces Seattle’s homeless population to subhuman, rather than people that have fallen on the hardest of times.

But we must ask ourselves, where could they go?
Three blocks from our college, there is women’s shelter that won’t be able to take new people until next year. Basic housing is even further beyond the reach of those exiled by their families and community. The cost of housing in Seattle has gone up 93 percent since 2012. In 2009 there were over 5,000 homes for sale, now there aren’t even 1,000. The population has increased 15 percent in that time, but the lack availability and more expensive living. While we’re on the topic of numbers, remember that Seattle is 52.8 percent more expensive than the median cost of living in the U.S. The homeless couldn’t find normal living even if they wanted to, just look at the cycle of poverty. Those who have suffered the most are now expected to pull themselves up by bootstraps they don’t even own.
Yet every statistic, film clip, and grim narration would make viewers think that “Seattle is Dying” is well researched. This, however, is not the case. Robert Champagne, a man used as an example in multiple clips, is portrayed as a homeless man taking up space where is isn’t wanted.

The only issue is that Champagne hasn’t been homeless in three years. Crosscut.com first came out with this information back in March, asking him why he was sitting in the street; they learned that he has medical condition relating to his spine. Is it really that strange that a man with sciatica would be sitting?
No, but that wouldn’t exactly fit their narrative. Each piece of this story, every interviewed person, is used in a way to lead the viewer to see through the lens of bias.
Champagne was distraught when he saw himself on the screen, being made to, as he says, “Look like a waste of space.” Unfortunately, the bias does not stop there.
When KOMO was given anonymous feedback from law enforcement officers, they chose to only show responses about how the police force should have more power to arrest them for good. Just three quotes out of the numerous responses they received were read on air, and each of them made the homeless out to be criminals that deserved permanent jail time. On this topic I must ask you: isn’t jail supposed to be for rehabilitation? Is giving them a large mark on their record the only way to help?

Sara Rankin, Director of the Homeless Rights Advocacy Project, has a different idea: Permanent Supportive Housing.

Rooms no bigger than what you would expect from a motel, with a small bathroom and kitchenette.
“In Seattle, there are approximately 1,900 permanent supportive housing units, which see a 98 percent utilization rate, and 99 percent success rate at keeping people from re-entering homelessness.” said Rankin in an article for The Urbanist.

With assisted living and help getting jobs, they have seen progress, and Seattle isn’t the only city to try this either, Los Angeles started a program like this and their $4 billion dollar investment has brought a large reduction to the amount of homeless people on the streets for the first time in almost 40 years.

If Seattle is dying, there is still hope.
Five minutes into the special we hear the words “People are angry, people are furious about the way we are living.” Well, here is a point that we can agree on. There is an anger here, but this presentation only shows a side that wishes to blame the victims. To be angry at venom and ignore the snakes that brought it is the height of irresponsible journalism.

The minds of those who have decided to hate for hate’s sake cannot be swayed.

The only thing that can be done is to present facts and to shed light. So here is one of those facts: On May 2 of this year, the Seattle Times reported that the homeless population has actually gone down for the first time since 2012. With projects like Permanent Supportive Housing, things are truly on their way to getting better.

I would implore you, and everyone you know, to be a little more kind. The world is hard enough without TV news segments calling for thousands of living scapegoats.