Kary:

This is the crime story podcast with Kary Antholis where we have conversations about how and why narratives of crime and justice are told. Today’s podcast is a conversation with David Simon. 

David and I met when he came in to HBO to pitch The Corner as a television series. The Corner is a book that he wrote with Ed Burns about the year that they spent in an inner-city Baltimore neighborhood ravaged by drug abuse and distribution. Together with his book Homicide, The Corner was the foundation for David’s series The Wire, which has been widely acclaimed as one of the great television series of all time. My aim in sitting down with David was to try to dig into where his storytelling instincts and values come from and how they manifest themselves in  his work on Homicide, The Corner and The Wire… three classics in the crime drama genre.

This is the first part 1 of a 4 part interview. In Part 1 we discuss David’s formative years as a storyteller and as a journalist.

And so with all that said, here is my interview with David Simon.

Kary:

Who was the first storyteller that made an impact on you?

David Simon:

Jim Bouton and Leonard Shecter together when they wrote Ball Four. The first time I picked up a book, I noticed the writing, the storytelling. In fact, I was in my bed reading a book that was probably over my head in some ways, but I could not put it down.

David Simon:

I wanted to know what happened to everybody in the book and there were points at which it made me laugh so hard and feel so alive that I wanted to write like that. That was the first time.

Kary:

Then when was the first inkling that you might want to be a writer? That you might want to tell stories for a living?

David Simon:

I perceive Ball Four to be journalism. I don’t know that I actually knew what journalism was when I was 11 years old. But I grew up in a household where my father had always wanted to be a newspaperman, where he loved and admired newspaper. He was a journalism major. He had edited his college paper at NYU and then he’d become a PR man. I knew him to be a writer. He was a speech writer. He was a ghost writer of books for people. He was the head press officer for a Jewish service organization, B’nai Brith.

David Simon:

So I knew him to work with words. I watched him at his typewriter, his Royal typewriter in our basement or in his office downtown in DC. I watched this parade of newspapermen come in and out of our house, have dinner with us.

David Simon:

One of them in particular was a real character and my dad’s affection for the newspaper that was on… You know, when we took every paper, we took The Washington Post, the Washington Star, the New York Times on Sundays. My dad’s affection for that was grafted in to my life.

David Simon:

Then the other thing was we were a Jewish American family, left and center, New Deal Democrats who argued, who love to argue. Argument was sport at our dinner table, and I was the youngest kid of three. Political argument was how you got attention. It was not taken personally. It never lasted more than the evening’s entertainment.

David Simon:

Sometimes people took contrary views just to sustain an argument. But the combination of talking about the day’s events and the affection for the guys who brought it. At that time, nobody… Even the TV was beginning its ascent over newspapers in late early ’60s, early 70s. The newspaper was still held in such high regard by my father.

David Simon:

It had such a place of importance in our family vernacular that I think I always just liked the newspapers. I just read them. I mean how many 10-year-olds get up and read the paper? I mean I didn’t read it cover to cover, but I remember Watergate happened in The Washington Post and I read the paper daily. I followed that like a local crime story. I did.

David Simon:

I mean it was my hometown paper who was… They were chasing a criminal conspiracy that was slowly outlining itself. I remember following it daily.

Kary:

What  was the first experience with journalism that you had?

David Simon:

Well, it’s incredibly nascent, but I edited my high school paper at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. I’d like to say that I took to it like a duck to water, but actually I don’t think I gave it as much attention. The stories were too uninteresting to me. It was like, “Okay.” They’ve developed a new Russian history course that they’re offering to seniors. That was like a front page story. It was like, “Jesus, nothing happens at this high school.”

David Simon:

The content was actually uninteresting to me. But what I did get excited about was putting out the paper, was the physicality of working with headlines, cut lines, sizing photos, halftoning photos, laying out pages. The physical manifestation of the newspaper, that occupied my time because all of a sudden I was putting out a biweekly tabloid. It was just exciting to work with the paste pots and be in the shop and learn how a newspaper came together.

David Simon:

That preoccupied my time more than actually writing stories which… I wrote editorials and we stirred some shit here and there, but the aspect of writing as a craft, I don’t think I took seriously that part of it until I got to college, until I was at a bigger newspaper with a bigger field of vision. But at least I had the fun of manufacturing the product. That was probably the first experience.

David Simon:

Then the second experience was editing a daily broadsheet at the University of Maryland.

David Simon:

I was the editor in chief of the high school paper and I was the editor in chief by my senior year at College Park in Maryland. When I say my senior year, I mean the fourth or five years, because that was a full-time job, putting out that newspaper five days a week.

David Simon:

It was between eight and 16 pages, depending on the ad stacks. You were there 3:00 in the morning, then you’d go to breakfast, all wired up after sending the paper to get printed. Then you wake up at noon having missed all your courses and then you’d do it again. I failed out I think three semesters in a row. It took me five years to get out of college.

Kary:

When you were at the University of Maryland, were there any stories that gave you a sense of what quality journalism might be?

David Simon:

I mean, I had some things that went well and I have some things I’m embarrassed about, but I remember the student union burned down at night. Not the whole student union, but the grand ballroom caught fires, big three, four alarm fire. It happened late. It happened 10 o’clock at night and we got it all in the paper.

David Simon:

We had another news day where… Oh, this is a beautiful story actually. I love this story, which we had a news day where it snowed. When it snowed significantly, they would close the campus and when they closed the campus, the ad people aren’t going to pay for the paper. They’ve paid for an ad to go in The Diamondback when the campus is open. So the presumption is campus is closed. Paper doesn’t come out. We don’t print it and that’s it.

David Simon:

Except on this day, they hired the new football coach Bobby Ross. That was a headline. That was a local headline. That plane struck the bridge, the 14th Street bridge in Washington. That plane went down on the Potomac. There was an accident on the Metro in DC, the subway, that killed several people.

David Simon:

It was just this incredible news day. We sent reporters to DC. We just had too much news and it broke my heart to think that we’re going to do all this work and it’s not going to come out. I was going to basically rob the honorarium fund and publish a four…

David Simon:

In fact, I figured out how much it would cost to publish just four pages without the ads. Just four pages of broadsheet and get all the news out. It was like, well, we’ll take about a $15,000 hit. We’ll have to pay a little less to ourselves at the end of the year for it. But I remember we were going to do it.

David Simon:

Anyway, we printed up two different newspapers. One of them was the 12-page newspaper with the ads. One of them was four pages, no ads. We didn’t tell the general manager that we basically printed up four extra pages of work and, he found out and he was pissed at me. I felt like I was doing God’s work. It was like, you know.

David Simon:

I remember his name was Mike Fibershon. We’re friendly now, but I was like, “Mike, fuck you. I’m publishing a newspaper.” That was pretty charming. I remember thinking to myself you don’t fail to publish if you’ve got stories. I just remember thinking, I get that. Why doesn’t he get that? I mean, it was that.

David Simon:

The student union thing, I remember one thing, which is a reporter from The Sun called at about 11:30 at night, and they called our newsroom in The Baltimore Sun where I would later go to work. She said, “Can you tell me what’s going on?” I remember saying into the phone, as a performance, because the whole newsroom was listening. I said, “Because Macy’s tell Gimbels. We’re publishing, you know. Come on down, you’ll find out what’s going on.” I’m busting her.

David Simon:

She was furious. She goes, “We’re not competing. Come on, help me.” I’m like, “No, Ms. Gunther. I’m sorry, I’m not.” Of course, when I got hired by The Sun, the woman at the desk next to me, when they first gave me a desk up there, was Katie Gunther, and she says, “I remember you, you son of a bitch.”

David Simon:

I mean we took it seriously and we had great pride more than we ought to have had in a campus publication. The circulation was 21,000 and that’s obviously, people picked up the paper twice and went to dorm rooms so more people… It was a 35,000 person campus and we took it seriously, and there I met some of my best friends ever.

David Simon:

Dave Mills was an editor there with me and Tony Pipitone other people. That’s where I got arrogant. By the time I’d edited that paper I walked into The Baltimore Sun newsroom and said, “I’m your stringer.” The day that I finished being editor and turns it over to the next guy for the next academic year, I walked into The Baltimore Sun with a story and just assumed you’re hiring me, I’m going to be your stringer covering College Park and PG and Montgomery counties, and there’s just no question.

David Simon:

I remember Tim Phelps, the state editor said, “That’s all well and good, but you need to show me a clipbook and you have to interview.” I was like, “Dude, I was the editor of the Diamondback. Fuck a clip book.” He went on vacation and by the time he came back, I had filed four stories. And the capper, the thing where he finally grudgingly said, “All right, you’re the goddamn,” you know, without ever getting… I think I did send him a clipbook and I don’t think he ever looked at it.

David Simon:

But there came a moment in that first couple of weeks where I was basically writing my way in as their stringer where Ronald Reagan, who’s been president, this would have been ’82, he went out to visit a family, black family that had a cross burned on their lawn College Park, black home owners in North College Park. To his credit, president, not known for his civil rights stances, nonetheless did this.

David Simon:

I heard about it and I raced out there and I couldn’t get near the president. They weren’t going to let me. I didn’t have a White House credential but I could see the motorcade leaving and I ran up and I got quotes from the family, from the husband and wife and one of the kids, got the basic facts of what had happened.

David Simon:

I called The Sun newsroom and I said, “This is Simon, I’m stringing for you down in College Park. Do you want something on the President visiting this family that had cross burned on their lawn?” I was talking to Gil Watson, the Metro editor then. He said, “President of what?” I said, “Of the United States.” He went, “What? Hold on.” They had me on hold.

David Simon:

Well, I knew what was going on. They were calling the Washington Bureau and saying, “How the fuck do you not know? We have a 12-man Washington Bureau. You know, are you guys sitting around?” Sure enough, this one eluded them. So he’s like, “Yeah, you got quotes? Okay. I’m giving you…” They sent me to rewrite and by the time Phelps came back off vacation, he was like, “All right, you asshole, you’re the stringer.”

David Simon:

Then I had a year of writing as a stringer, writing being paid by the piece before, and then I had some other stories and some other things happening. When I graduated, finally a year late, when finally I get all my credits, they hired me. I got hired right out of college with The Sun. That’s how I got into it.

Commercial break for crimestory.com

Kary:

Before we go into the beat you covered at The Sun, tell me about the world of ideas, ethics, the shaping of your moral worldview as a kid.

David Simon: I grew up in this family. It was a New Deal Democrats. I mean when I was eight years old, the argument at the dinner table was my mother would routinely berate my father for wasting his vote in ’48 because he voted… He thought he didn’t think Truman can win so he voted for Norman Thomas, the socialist candidate. My mother went to sleep early that night and said, “You’re an idiot. Truman’s going to win.” My dad stayed up till morning to find out that Dewey didn’t win and that he had in fact wasted his vote.

David Simon:

I mean the political range was what it was. But you got to remember, I grew up despising Nixon and understanding that his red-baiting was offensive and understanding… By the way, to be fair to him, believing that Alger Hiss was innocent as we now know was not the case. Nonetheless, believing that Nixon’s worldview was wrong.

David Simon:

I grew up with a… I wasn’t a newspaper man yet, but I… I didn’t like flag-waving cant. I knew it and I could smell it as a kid. It was weird. I was a product of being in that house. It was during the Vietnam War in ’70, the demonstrations downtown, college kids from all over the country slept in my living room.

David Simon:

We opened up our house for kids who were coming to protest the war in ’70. May Day. The family was rigorous about civil rights. I mean we weren’t lefty lefty. I wasn’t a red diaper baby. I’m not trying to suggest that. 

Kary:

As I recall, you were grew up very aware of the plight of Soviet Jews –

David Simon:

That’s my dad’s great accomplishment was he was one of the first people to write about in a coherent, reportorial way and mostly for reports for B’nai B’rith that were then helped shaped the press culture about Soviet Jewry.

David Simon:

I mean his reports on the state of Soviet and Eastern European Jewry, which were basically came out of B’nai B’rith, that was from his travels to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe at a time where I remember him packing prayer books in the linings of his suitcase because they wouldn’t let him bring prayer books in Soviet Union, Hebrew prayer books.

David Simon:

That sense of allegiance with the Jewish people was fundamental in my… My dad was a professional Jew. That’s what he was. He began with the ADL in the ’50s and then he became the national public relations director for B’nai B’rith which brought him to Washington. We were a New York family and he came to Washington to take that gig.

Kary:

So there’s a sobriety about leftist totalitarianism.

David Simon: I had a good radar for it from a very early age. You tell me you believe one thing explicitly and exclusively, you’re headed for a moment where you’re going to be wrong and wrong assholicly. I mean on a grandiose level. I mean that’s the problem with ideologies.

Kary:

Assholicly. Did you make that? That’s a good word.

David Simon:

You know, it works. I don’t know that you will find it in a dictionary. Ideology is one of the… Listen, having some sense of a general principle on which you live your life is… I mean certain things are…. But if you’re exclusively libertarian and the government is always wrong, you’re about to say something or propose something idiotic. If you’re exclusively organizational in structure and they ought to pass a law for everything, you’re about to pass an awful law.

David Simon:

That’s pretty much… If you’ve ever been a newspaperman and you’ve walked from issue to issue, as all newspapermen have to, you have to be an inch deep and a mile wide, you will find that whatever presumptions you bring in can only last as long as you actually examine what’s happening on the ground.

David Simon:

For me, that laboratory, in a very clinical way, was Baltimore when I got there as a reporter. But early in life, it was the front page of the newspaper and the arguments around the dinner table.

Kary:

What about film? Were there any movies that made an impact on you?

David Simon:

I didn’t find film, you know. I didn’t go to the movie theaters very much. I mean my parents would drag me to see the kid films. I remember the first time I saw a film and it fucked me up in a good way, which was I watched Bridge on the River Kwai when it was… You could probably date it. It had its first network… It was on the network. It had won all of these Oscars.

David Simon:

I liked war movies. I watched it thinking it was a war movie, and it was something very different from a war movie. Also, the whole notion that William Holden doesn’t want to go back. I mean he really doesn’t want to go back. It’s not like has to be talked into it. It’s like, no, they got him by the balls and he has to go back.

David Simon:

Then the idea that to the very last, when he gives his life, he has no regard for the mission. Like, “Oh, oh, antihero.” At that point, I was ready for I was ready for Altman. That was a moment where afterwards I was like, “What’s next?”

David Simon:

I remember finding Strangelove, another non-war movie, war movie and watching Strangelove and being like coming out of it energized by the humor but also scared shitless. I didn’t study film. For somebody who ended up making television, I had… I was about periodicals, nonfiction, books, history. I loved history.

Kary:

What were some of the books you remember making an impact on you?

David Simon:

I remember when I, Claudius came out, you could date it to that year. I read the Graves. I read I, Claudius and Claudius the God. I remember being fascinated by that because I didn’t think I would be, I was not a student of antiquity, but for whatever reason I picked it up. I remember reading about the Holocaust in various books.

David Simon:

I remember a history of the rising of Treblinka and the Uris novels about Mila 18 and Exodus, which now is a problematic book in some respects. But nonetheless, obviously, it had an effect on me. I remember reading Shirer…

Kary:

Yeah, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich?

David Simon:

Yeah. I was fascinated by the O’Donnell book, The Bunker about Hitler’s last days and also… What’s his name? I mean I read all that stuff. I became a student of the Holocaust for awhile. I read the Arms of Krupp. I read… What’s his name? He was in Spandau Prison, the architect. Speer. I read his memoir. Then I read all of these… Jesus, I read all the strategy books. I still do. I’m the guy who buys-

Kary:

Interesting.

David Simon:

I’m the guy who buys Rick Atkinson’s trilogy of the World War II and reads it.

Kary:

Did you read any of the new journalism, Capote?

David Simon:

Yes. I read it In Cold Blood in high school and like other people who were about to be journalists wondered how much was legit and how much was a cheat. I remember in high school I discovered… I should credit the high school journalism teacher for throwing them in front of us columns by Breslin or Royko.

David Simon:

I remember a particular Breslin column that had a real profound impact on me. I looked it up later in life. He put one in front of us when Daley died. Breslin wrote-

Kary:

Mayor Daley.

David Simon:

Yeah. Breslin went to Chicago and he wrote this. I think it was him. I don’t think it was Royko. I think it was Breslin.

David Simon:

I remember this column of… He used the metaphor of a… He had all these quotes from people talking about how Daley was this, Daly was that, , he was bigger than life. The people waiting outside to view his body. Then he ended with this metaphor that was fair and unfair in the same breath. Truthful but probably made up is, you know.

David Simon:

Who knows if it was… Who knows if he actually saw it? About some dead dog on the Dan Ryan, on the expressway that was blocking the lane, just a dead carcass a dog, big dog and the lanes are blocked. The guy tries to move the dog. He can’t move the carcass of the dog. So he’s got his car door flayed open in the lane and finally he just has to drive around it and move on.

David Simon:

Obviously, a metaphor for Chicago and Daley and what the machine had become. And it was a brilliant metaphor. Was there really a dead dog in that lane of the Dan Ryan? Only Jimmy Breslin knows for sure. But I remember reading it and thinking you can do a lot with a fucking newspaper. I remember thinking you can be as smart as shit in this vernacular of daily journalism and I can write better. At some point I’m going to have to learn how to really do this well.

David Simon:

You read something like that where guys are playing with metaphor or wit and you think, just the facts, man, is one thing. But if you have something to say and you can be smart about it, you can have some fun and you can speak to the world and just be a newspaper man.

Kary:

Do you remember the first piece of long form journalism … In other words a book… Then had an impact on you?

David Simon:

Ball Four, Ball Four not only had a profound impact on me when I read it when I was 11 years old. But to this day, I think it’s one of the finest examples of processed journalism of I’ll spend a year somewhere and I’ll tell you what life is like.

David Simon:

That books about way more than baseball. That’s about the transition of the country at a culturally pivotal moment in 1970. It’s everything from dissent. The ball players are basically a microcosm for the American public. And organized baseball was institutional America, which was having a hard time dealing with what was happening in the country ’68, ’69 ’70. I think it’s the ’69 season, ’70 season or something.

David Simon:

It’s funny, it’s loving, it’s savage, it’s angry. That book is so brilliantly written that when it came time years later for me to write a book proposal, because they were going to let me into the homicide unit for a year in Baltimore, I referenced that book right up front in the book proposal.

David Simon:

I said I don’t know what’s going to happen in a year, but they’re letting me in the homicide unit in a place where they’re going to have 200 homicides at a minimum next year. They’re letting me in a January 1. They’re not going to kick me out until December 31st. I’m going to follow a shift of homicide detectives.

David Simon:

I expect it will be a book that follows the calendar year, but it’s about much more than the casework. It’s about the culture of the city and about…

David Simon:

… the case work, it’s about the culture of the city and about the assembly line of violence and retribution. And I would model it after Ball Four, a book by … and I reference, I explain Ball Four in the piece. That’s in my book proposal. That book had … and Bouton just passed away a couple of months ago.

David Simon:

My wife, also an ex-journalist and a novelist, she knew how much that book meant to me and she got a later edition of it, one that included a later afterword by him about everything that had happened since they published the book, signed by him to me. It’s something I hold with pride.

Kary:

What was your path to that homicide assignment?

David Simon:

I’d been a police reporter at this … I got hired, I spent that year as a stringer and then at the end of the year, I guess this bears mentioning, the basketball coach at Maryland where I was still the stringer covering the campus, the basketball coach Lefty Driesell, he had an extraordinary Me Too moment. This is well before Me Too. I don’t mind telling it to you know because I think they just put him in the ACC Hall of Fame. Driesell was a son of a bitch, he was an empty soul bastard and we all knew it from having dealt with him.

This would have been 1983. I was just about to get out of college. And by the way there came a moment after these Driesell stories where the Metro editor, Steve Luxenberg said to me, “We’re going to hire you on a temporary basis to fill in for a reporter who’s on leave right now. He’s going to come back, you’re not going to have a job here, you’re going to have to go work at a smaller paper, but you have a six month job when you graduate. But you have to graduate.” He goes, he actually said, “I’m not going to be the Lefty Driesell of journalism. You’re going to have to get your degree before you have this gig. So promise me that.” And I think it was the last summer session of ’83 I finally got the last nine credits.

David Simon:

But before then, what convinced Steve I think, I had about 100 bylines and the union, the newspaper actually came to him and said, “He’s writing too much. This is a full time … the guy’s got three bylines a week, he should be a reporter.” They wanted to inquire as to how much I was writing and he said, “We’re going to hire him.” So they knew, but they hadn’t told me yet. (Clarification: David was noting that Luxenberg was going to hire him anyway, and was reassuring the union on this point.) But then the last, the final straw was Driesell had this player, I kind of want to name the player because the player got way more of a raw deal than … not a raw deal, but he doesn’t need his name now.

David Simon:

But he was at a party and he grabbed a girl, a co-ed and he picked her up and he carried her up to a bedroom, he threw her on the bed and he sort of … a little bit of tussle and then he heard, “No.” To his credit, the player heard no and so it didn’t go further than whatever that level of assault is. Certainly not sexual assault at that point, although she was kind of embarrassed. The whole party saw her go upstairs on this guy’s shoulder. Anyway, she made a complaint to the campus jud board and the player was held out of the ACC and nobody knew why , because of course it was all private. So the tip came from the news room and they said, “Can you find out?” And within about four hours I’d found somebody who was on that jud board panel and I found a faculty person who I tricked into confirming it. Classic.

David Simon:

By this time I knew half the … there was plenty more tricks to learn, but I already knew the trick of you add stuff into the story that you’re about to, you claim you’re about to put it in the paper. And he did this and he did that and the guy basically says, “No, no, no. Don’t print that, it was only this.” And you go, “Right, right. It was only that.” And now you’ve got your second source. So I called back within four or five hours and I had it. And everyone was chasing it. The Post was chasing it, The Sun was chasing it, so I had it.

David Simon:

And then Driesell lost his mind because the second thing was Driesell called the girl at her dorm room screaming into the phone that, “If you go ahead with this, if you keep going with this complaint …” He’d done this already and he lost his mind and he said, “Your reputation’s going to be ruined, you’re going to be trashed, you don’t want to do this.” And she called the head of the jud board who went down to her apartment, picked up the phone the last time, so that guy heard Driesell screaming at her, Gary Pavela. And I got that story, that was my second day story, that Driesell had done this. If you hear it today, in our vernacular today of Me Too, he should have been fired. The truth was, and this taught me a good lesson for journalism, Lefty Driesell was … they had a half a year investigation, they quietened it down and then the day of the press conference where they were going to decide what to do with him, you could go watch the players at practice and they were all slapping their wrists. They knew.

David Simon:

They gave Driesell a five year contract for more money than God and said, “He was only trying to warn the girl.” By this time she’d transferred to another school. 

Kary:

This is about three years before Len Bias died, right?

David Simon:

Right. And then they finally had to fire him after he was cleaning up the drugs in Len Bias’s room, you know? Driesell was a piece of shit. I mean the things he yelled at this girl. And to tell you how much of a piece of shit he was, his players … as the story broke his players fanned out and I sat across from three of them, three active members of the varsity basketball team including Chucky Driesell, his son, who was the 15th man on that team. While they enumerated all of the sexual improprieties that they wanted to tar this young woman  with, knowing they were … it was not for attribution, but they wanted us to know before she came to Maryland from Clemson she’d slept with the whole wrestling team.

David Simon:

It was all bullshit and we actually sent a reporter to Clemson because at this point the girl’s reputation was what the story hinged on. But his own players were running around campus telling everybody that she was a whore. I mean it was the most incredible  performance by a man who was ostensibly a faculty member and an intercollegiate coach at a division one school. It taught me something which is I control the narrative on the page. What happens after you write the truth, they may come behind you, they may pass a law, they may pass a bad law, they may pass the wrong law, they may fuck up the world worse, they may give Lefty Driesell a five year contract for being an asshole. You can’t control that…

Kary:

It’s interesting as a metaphor for what would happen in Baltimore after The Corner and The Wire.

David Simon:

Yeah.

Kary:

But we’ll get to that.

David Simon:

Yeah, you’re right. I mean you like to think as a journalist that you’re going to change the terrain for the better and sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t. But your job is on the page.

David Simon:

The Driesell thing gave me an ethos that I never was trying to cook it. There’s a whole culture of Pulitzer grubbing and prize grubbing where you report what you think is the affront to society, maybe you shave off the parts that make it complicated, you just keep the part that you want people to react to. So if there’s a controversy with six sides, you only need two facets to make it an outrage. So you shave off the complications that maybe somebody has an explanation for part of it. And then you report the shit out of it for a year, afterwards you report the shit out of the reaction to your five part series on whatever. The Baltimore Sun did this, The Baltimore Sun did that and they passed a law, they did this, they held committee hearings, the governor said this. And you hype that and then you submit the whole package for a public service to the Columbia School  of Journalism and they give you a Pulitzer.

David Simon:

That was the Gene Roberts school in Philadelphia. And I saw it upfront and I learned to have real contempt for it. Because guys would cook, you know, “Governor, isn’t this an outrage?” “I guess so,” he blasted. And they would play that game and I had really low regard for that game from Driesell on because it was like tell the truth, tell the whole truth, keep on the story if it still has legs, don’t quit, but where it leads and what happens to society afterwards, that’s not how you judge yourself because then you’ll start cheating. And I saw a lot of guys cheat.

End of part one of David Simon interview.