Charles Dickens, Star Reporter:
So-Called “Dickensian” Themes and the
News in The Wire
Sara Hendricks
n Season Five of The Wire, James Whiting, the
executive editor of The Baltimore Sun, makes a
rather bizarre request. He wants his newspaper to
read more like fiction, saying, “The word I’m thinking of
is ‘Dickensian.’ We want to depict the Dickensian lives
of city children and then show clearly and concisely
where the school system has failed them” (5.02). This,
of course, is easier said than done. The school system
is hardly the only thing faltering in the withering city of
Baltimore. As someone in the newsroom points out, “A
lot of things have failed these kids. They’re
marginalized long before they walk into class.” But the
fact remains that Whiting wants to pinpoint something
simple and easy for the public to metabolize. He says,
“What do you want? An educational project or a litany
of excuses? I don’t want some amorphous series
detailing society’s ills. If you leave everything in, soon
you’ve got nothing.” This convoluted less is more (or,
perhaps, “more with less,” a slogan that comes to be
Whiting’s catchphrase throughout the season)
approach to journalism comes to define the fifth season
of The Wire. Whiting’s hyperbolic wish for a fictitious
but palatable paper is realized via a reporter for the The
Baltimore Sun, Scott Templeton, who creates his own
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