The most important news of the day in New York City, according to America’s oldest continuously published daily newspaper: A homeless woman with a lot of shopping carts who hangs out in Hell’s Kitchen. Good to know!
This is not the first time the New York Post has mocked a person who sleeps outside in the cold every night on its cover, nor will it be the last. Back in July, it devoted not one but two front pages to one 49-year-old man who was arrested for public urination. (It was not by accident that the paper chose to feature a homeless man who lives on the Upper West Side, where Post editor Col Allan also happens to live.)
A century or so ago, the photographer and journalist Jacob Riis also made a habit of documenting and publicizing the lives and habits of New York City’s most destitute. Riis was interested in social change, in making the pain felt by those who lived in downtown tenements impossible to ignore for those who lived in uptown townhouses. Riis wasn’t perfect, but his impulses were noble, and his work resulted in real change. This kind of journalism can be a good thing. Homelessness is a problem in New York, and the right kind of attention drawn to it might actually help a few homeless people.
Three reporters worked on today’s cover story. Sixteen worked on the stories from July. Unfortunately for Sonia Gonzalez, the 60-year-old subject of today’s cover, and John Tucker, the man whose photo appeared next to the coverline PISSED AWAY over the summer, not one of those reporters is anything like Jacob Riis. The only concern these stories display for their subjects is concern for how unsightly they are, how annoying, how smelly, how gross.
Construction workers at a new high-rise at 10 Hudson Yards were stunned by the ultimate pack rat.
“Someone needs to call Sanitation and have that crap thrown out,’’ a hard hat griped. “You don’t want to go back to what [the neighborhood] was 20 years ago.”
If the New York Post cares about homeless people, there are plenty of real stories it could be covering, such as cuts to state and federal funding for shelters and assistance programs. But the Post doesn’t care about homeless people. Mostly, it cares about making Bill de Blasio look bad.