I am writing in response to an article posted in the Sunday June 20 edition of the Baltimore Sun. The article was brief, but spoke of the recent misfortune of Jenna Bush Hager and her husband as they had their bicycles stolen out of their garage from their home in Federal Hill ("Two bikes are stolen from Jenna Bush Hager's garage").
I would like to be very clear up front and say that I am sorry for their loss, and this is not a letter criticizing them, their father's politics, or anything personal in nature whatsoever. In fact, I would be writing the same letter had the article been written about Gov. Martin O'Malley or Cal Ripken for that matter. Rather, my letter would like to simply ask the question of since when are stolen bicycles newsworthy?
The story originally caught my eye, not due to the fact that Ms. Bush Hager's name was attached, but instead I was intrigued by noticing a story about stolen bicycles. You see, I truly feel the pain Ms. Bush Hager and her husband must have felt to have their bicycles stolen. I too live in Baltimore City and have had not one, not two, but five, yes five, bicycles stolen from me in just five years of living here. Some from my house, some from Penn Station (I commute to work every day on my bicycle, it is more than recreation for me, it is transport). Thus, the article did tug at the heart strings, knowing the feeling that someone else was going through what I have gone through five times now.
The question then becomes why then, would this story about one stolen bicycle make The Baltimore Sun, and here I sit, out five bicycles, yet no one has contacted me? Now, I am not so naïve as to not know the true answer. Yes, I am fully aware that this is only a story since it was Ms. Bush Hager to whom this happened. But this points out the challenge we face today.
In journalism, it is the name that draws the attention. I did have five bicycles stolen. My neighbors have been held at gunpoint in their own garages. My friends have had their front door smashed in and houses ransacked, but I still have yet to see a word in print on any of it.
And it extends beyond journalism. I was happy to hear that not only the Baltimore City police were looking into the case but the Secret Service were as well. For my part, it took no less than seven calls to the police to report the theft of my stolen bicycle. Like Ms. Bush Hager's bicycle, my bicycle too was valued at over $1,000 and served as my transportation to get to work. When the police finally did arrive 10 days after the first call, the actual response I received from the officer was "Seriously? You brought me out here for a stolen bicycle? You want me to do a police report for this? I have more important things to do with my time." Perhaps I should have called the Secret Service.
Or maybe, yes maybe I should have been a Bush or a Ripken or an O'Malley. Maybe I should have lived in Federal Hill instead of Pen Lucy. Maybe my life should have been noteworthy.
My point? My point is this. Just because a person has a name which draws community attention, does that make them more interesting? More important? More worthy of headlines? Or more importantly, more worthy of my tax dollars? Baltimore City in the past has been criticized as being a city of inequalities, a city of disparate treatment, and a city of segregation. Based on what I have seen and experienced, in this little representative discussion on stolen bicycles, I am struggling to disagree.
Paul Rebman, Baltimore