Russian journalist Naida Azizova just moved into the upper ranks of scholars on the urban ills of the United States. There’s just no one better out there at identifying the problems of our big cities and describing them. She even knows how the people of a rough-and-tumble city speak. Even before meeting them!
Earlier this week, the Baltimore City Paper posted an item that essentially republished an e-mail that had come from Azizova, a reporter with RT (formerly Russia Today). She was seeking to do a story on Baltimore and wanted help — contacts — with her project. Some highlights of her request:
So, here is what I need: ideally some black family surviving on food stamps with no prospects for a brighter future (no money to send the kids to a college, no money to buy a descent house). Or, in other words people on the edge. I basically would need those, who are a third generation living in the US, probably with some criminal records (for stealing, selling drugs, violence, prostitution etc). I mean, the guys who has little option to prosper due to them being born, as they say, “in a wrong family.” Also a social worker, who knows the situation on the ground, who meets with the people on daily basis is needed.
Azizova subsequently hit the ground in Baltimore and went about finding out what ailed it. The result was this glorious piece of immersion journalism.
In a twist that should have every metro newspaper in the country offering a plum job to Azizova, her hunches about Baltimore proved 100 percent accurate. Just look at some of the examples from the text of her story:
On the way back to DC, I was thinking about the misery I had seen there: a big family surviving on food stamps, a bunch of young drug-dealers, a hardened criminal in his early twenties. So what does America have to offer these guys? Do they have any perspectives? Or is it just a myth that the USA is a country of opportunities?
The answer came suddenly from an old black lady sitting next to me, who I was talking to.
“The majority of us will never be rich… we were not born into the right family” — she said.