This is a newsletter featuring local journalism produced by Gordon Chaffin, an independent reporter in Washington DC. I cover transportation, development, infrastructure, energy, and urban planning in DC, MD, & VA. In Street Justice reports, I explain what’s happening in public space, why it’s happening, who has a stake in it, and how facts of the matter may point in one direction more than others. Sometimes, I cover national and international trends.
Street Justice is produced in DC’s Edgewood neighborhood (ANC 5E01) and published weekdays with a Sunday morning digest to free sign-ups.
Mission and Goals for Street Justice
Show up and report back daily. Attend the community meetings, hearings, and events that residents can’t usually read about if they miss. Our focus goes to the issues WaPost, WAMU, and local TV news cover only if, and after, the situation goes viral.
Hold power to account, but challenge the privileged most. Our stories cover stakeholders not used to skeptical media attention. We should offer leniency and a learning curve to the subjects and issues with least privilege. On the other hand, we must apply tireless scrutiny to the folks West of the Park and the similarly situated Bobos in Paradise.
Instill an understanding and inspire support for local journalism. Street Justice fails if we don’t get enough people to pay for it. Another year at this full-time reporting, plus three side hustles and I’ll need an IV drip of adrenaline. More than business imperative, the words of Street Justice reporting and the actions of its journalist(s) should convince a small community of committed readers that local journalism is important — worthy of attention — and incredibly precarious — needing of their financial commitment. Reporting tied to a community, a shared destiny, is imperative to the vibrancy of a place.
Honesty and transparency. To the extent I beg for your money, I’m going to be open about it. This is a public service organization, not an investment vehicle.
Partiality to the facts. Good journalism is interesting and produces dot-connecting narratives grounded in empirical truth. Scooters are ridden on sidewalks because people don’t feel safe in the road. Making it easier to park gas-powered cars is not a wise long-term policy decision given scientific understanding of the Earth’s ecosystem. Balancing between sides is irrelevant. Facts exist, they create significant context to the news, and they should be stated where scope allows. Much less of everyday life is up for normative debate than “down the middle” journalism suggests. Most isolated incidents are path-dependent and public policy is a complex system.
I’m an experienced transportation and infrastructure policy analyst. A lot of the reporting out there comes from career journalists who change beats every few years. I have a Masters Degree in Public Policy. I have the skills and expertise to compare power’s claims against research. I understand the jargon and I ask tough questions.
I produce audio and video well, but writing is what I do best. I’ve done digital marketing and communications in many jobs, and I know how to tell stories about complex subjects. Urban planning gets in the weeds, but my reports won’t put you to sleep.
Mondays: Paid Subscriber Edition
Wednesdays: Paid Subscriber Edition
Fridays: Paid Subscriber Edition
With three reports per week, I will try to cover a DC issue(s) with one, a MD issue(s) with one, and a VA issue with the last of the three. At most, two per week should be DC. I have many MD and VA subscribers.
Saturday Mornings: Community Service Project and/or Office Hours
I set up in public spaces, like Lucy’s advice booth, and hold office hours/tabling. Or, I do community service projects where subcribers can join. E.g., cleaning the Florida Ave NE bike lanes of yard waste. Let me know if you have an idea for this!
Sundays, 10 AM ET: All Subscriber Edition w/ excerpts and maybe a short free-for-all story
Paid Subscribers at $5-$10/mo or $50/yr Get:
Thrice-Weekly Editions. Supporting subscribers get the 3x/wk editions with my full analysis and reported details, plus my photography, infographics, and audio/video content. Free subscribers receive a weekly digest with only text excerpts from the previous week’s editions.
Community-Focused Reporting. I go to 5-7 community meetings every week. I don’t write spoon-fed, re-written press releases. I don’t cover trends because they popped up online one day. I don’t solicit and share quotes from each side of an issue to flaunt fake-objectivity. I’m partial to the facts and data.