Buzzing Over The Wire
Jeffrey Goldberg and David Plotz take readers' questions about HBO's hit urban drama.
Slate deputy editor David Plotz and Atlantic national correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg were online at Washingtonpost.com on March 6 to bring readers into their ongoing conversation about the hit HBO series The Wire. An unedited transcript of the chat follows.
David Plotz: Hi Wireheads,
I got some WMD! WMD!
Jeffrey Goldberg: Hi, Jeff here. I understand Plotz is selling WMD. My favorite all-time brand-name was Greenhouse Gas, from early this season. "Greenhouse gas is hot!" someone yelled from a corner. Anyway, nice to be here. A lot of good questions, I see. Plotz will take the hard ones.
Columbia, Mo. (grew up reading Kansas City Star, by the way): This season of The Wire has introduced us to a Baltimore Sun newsroom that borders on racist, at least from the management perspective. The paper willingly chooses to focus on a serial killer of white men, while barely mentioning serial killers of the black community (Marlo, Snoop, Omar, etc.). The paper's management constantly favors the young white reporter over the experienced black city editor (unless he has another white editor as backup). My question is: Is this type of institutionalized racism common in American newsrooms today?
David Plotz: I've never worked for a daily newspaper, so I can't claim to be an expert. I don't think that newspapers are institutionally racist in any systematic way. I think they favor the spectacular and new over the routine, and the drumbeat of drug violence in Baltimore or DC is routine, while a fetishistic serial killer isn't. That said, newspapers are always more interested, and more plugged into, the communities where their own reporters live, so the Washington Post covers Cleveland Park better than Petworth.
Lynhaven Hood: RIP Omar Little. I have really enjoyed your comments in Slate. I read them religiously, almost as religiously as I watch The Wire itself! My biggest problem is, how am I going to go on without The Wire? How will we all survive? Further to those questions, are you aware of any upcoming related projects, or other work by David Simon?
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Wire is your religion? You're probably better off joining a religion that won't have such an abbreviated last season. You know how I survived the end of The Sopranos? I started watching Season 1. And that's what I suggest here. The first season of The Wire is fantastic. The second you could probably skip.
Laurel, Md.: My favorite two product shout outs of all time: When Carcetti was running for mayor, "got that election day special two for one!" During the holidays, "got that mistletoe!"
David Plotz: Jeff just mentioned a great one, too: Greenhouse gas
Arlington, Va.: No matter what the fallout, I'm completely behind Greggs going to Daniels about the "serial killer." She's the one who had to question and console the families of the homeless "victims," she's the one who was pulled from a triple homicide for this investigation, and she has enough sense to know that a scheme this sloppy was going to get out; far better to give Daniels a chance to get ahead of it.
I'm expecting some degree of a coverup regardless, but there can and should be consequences for McNulty and the sadly tarnished Freamon. Also, a question: Does anyone know if there will be a D.C. area screening of the finale? I don't have HBO, and while I have an invitation to "borrow" my aunt's TV, I'd much rather see it with people who love the show like I do. (Getting to and from Baltimore on Sunday night is pretty much out of the question.)
David Plotz: Jeff and I have been arguing about just this point, in the dialogue and in person too. I totally agree with you that Kima did right, and that her snitching was the moral act. Jeff—well, Jeff will answer for himself, but he overvalues loyalty. One great achievement of The Wire is to create in oneself these fights. Is it LOYAL for Bunk not to rat out Jimmy? Or is his loyalty just hurting the people of Baltimore?
Jeffrey Goldberg: I overvalue loyalty? It's a hard thing to do, overvalue loyalty. Granted, we have some recent, federal-level experience with this (although Rumsfeld is no longer feeling the loyalty now) but I tend to think of loyalty as a keystone of character. And I can't help but have hard feelings about Kima's actions. I understand the questioner's point—Kima actually had to sit with those parents. And that does make her actions excusable. I'm just telling you how I feel, and to paraphrase Slim Charles (Washington's own!) I'm just writing what I feel.
Upper Marlboro, Md.: I could have used some WMD after Sunday's episode, when they dropped that this week's episode wouldn't be On Demand. I always nod out to The Wire at midnight On Demand. What's up with the change? Many Wire heads know what's ahead. Why make people wait now?
David Plotz: For the obvious reason: To build suspense. They want every Wire fan in the country gluegunned to the couch Sunday night.
Arlington, Va.: Did you all watch the episodes a week early, as available "On Demand"? The one-minute teaser they used to let the early watchers know they had to wait another week for the finale (a montage of Clay Davis and his catch-word) was inspired.
David Plotz: We generally watch them late in the week, on preview DVDs that HBO sent us. I haven't watched the finale yet, though. I missed the Clay Davis montage—drat
Carrboro, N.C.: Given the occasional references and homages to The Godfather, do you see a possible parallel between Michael in The Wire and Michael Corleone? Both are clean-cut kids who reluctantly joined the life of crime; both are more intelligent than the average thug; both express a certain amount of regret for their actions. In the imaginary next season of The Wire, I can see Michael taking over the business like Michael Corleone did in Godfather II. Your thoughts?
Jeffrey Goldberg: That's an interesting question. Also profane. I mean, there's the Corleones, and then there's everything else. Maybe because the Godfather stands alone for me I didn't see the parallels, but now that you point them out, I see your point. Though it's an inexact comparison, and not only because I don't recall Michael Corleone expressing much regret about anything, after he was punched in the nose by Sterling Hayden.
Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for the Atlantic and the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. David Plotz is Slate's deputy editor and author of The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank.