I don’t guess anybody has ever referred to Dateline NBC as a ‘news’ program recently, at least not with a straight face, at least not for quite some time, so the more I’ve thought about it the more I’ve come to understand that this is most likely the reason why the producers of this show opted not to break any new ground when Dateline Big Dog reporter Chris Hansen aired his piece on Sunday night’s April 18 episode focused on the trials and tribulations of Detroit: “America Now: City of Heartbreak and Hope”.
Hansen has received all sorts of glowing, gushing accolades for various reporting exploits throughout his career. The one most familiar to viewers is his “To Catch a Predator” series of pieces which targeted online sexual predators. I always thought the series was more about Chris Hansen than it was about catching any predators, but maybe that’s just me. Anyway, he did win two Emmys for a piece he did in 2004 on child sex trafficking, so he does deserve some props I suppose.
Saying all this to say that when you take a glance at the guy’s track record you might get an initial sense that he is probably pretty good at what he does. And considering the fact that Hansen grew up in the Detroit area, there were some of us who made the fatal mistake of being hopeful that Homeboy Hansen might at least try to present a balanced portrait of what is going on with Detroit in his Sunday night piece. Because if that had happened then, truly, it would have been breaking news of epic proportions. Because no one ever reports the full story of Detroit. Which is why, for the past 40 years, we have essentially been reading the same continuously looping story that we have all gone to hell and there is no hope for us, the damned of the ‘D’. The ‘D’ is, in truth, Dante’s Inferno.
So even though I happen to know for a fact that Homeboy Hansen was led on a four-hour hand-held tour through Detroit by ARISE Detroit! President and founder Luther Keith, a tour which included the terrifying and appalling as well as the hopeful and the beautiful, Hansen just couldn’t bring himself to tell the whole story when all was said and done. Not even when he was presented face first, up close and personal, with both sides of the tale. Because the shocking and the horrid, after all, does offer much better visuals. Hell, why bother letting viewers meet middle and upper-middle class Detroiters who live in areas such as Rosedale Park, Palmer Woods, and Indian Village when you can show blasted out, boarded up catastrophes? Why interview the well-spoken when you can feature an elderly gentleman who shoots local raccoons for food with a rifle and then sells the meat to his neighbors? I mean, seriously, which do you think makes for more entertaining viewing?
So I get it. After all this time it’s hard not to get it. Infotainment is the best you can hope for with most so-called television ‘news’ magazines. The nightly headline news isn’t much better, local or national. But even in the cotton candy realm of infotainment I would have thought that offering up something relatively new might have some appeal. But no. Instead what we get is Homeboy Hansen pasting a new wig on top of a 40-year-old headline and then labeling it intrepid journalism.
To say that the piece was a hit job would be accurate, but it still would not completely define the damage Hansen’s little urban journalistic adventure has done to our city. Because who in their right minds would want to invest in the future of Detroit after seeing that? What Hansen did was willful and deliberate character assassination of an entire city. It’s slander. Hansen knows he and his camera crew possess the full story amidst the discarded ruins of their unused footage, but instead of writing the full story Hansen decided to construct his piece before he ever set foot in Detroit. Hansen planned this hit job well before his arrival, which begs the question why he bothered coming back ‘home’ in the first place? The man could have patched that crap together from past hit jobs – better done hit jobs – and then faxed that shit in from wherever he was on the road.
Because wherever you are today, Homeboy, there are a considerable number of us in Detroit who would prefer that you stay there and make it your ‘home’. Because if home truly is where the heart is, then it’s quite obvious your heart has been absent from the ‘D’ for quite some time. Go home, Chris. And stay there.
SHAMELESS PLUG: Read my wife’s blog @ The “D” Spot Redeux