Delaware Wilmington

What the News Journal Misses — Wilmington

We all know that The News Journal has been hemorrhaging staff — due to some financial performance-driven downsizing and bringing on some talented, younger but not Delaware (or Wilmington) experienced staff. This is not meant to be an insult to the new reporters, but it is increasingly evident that the people reporting on us don’t know much about us or our communities. If these reporters are purporting to tell us about power and inequity here, they have to start breaking down or highlighting the “Delaware Way’ and all of the other ways those in power here get away with sometimes destructive actions. They have to get beyond their requests for data and documents and start paying attention to the detail on how we came to be here. Ideas:

  1. Wilmington improperly gave out federal dollars. Should residents be on the hook for it? (Subscriber-only content, sorry)

This story narrates the detail around mistakes found in a HUD audit, the City’s confirmation of some of those mistakes, and their options for fixing some of these. Important to this story is that the HUD program the city had problems with is a program that builds affordable housing in the city. Inexplicably important to this story is the demand by Councilwoman Shané Darby and other Councilmembers that the developers who received these grants (as if the developers didn’t have to apply for and pass the city’s + HUD’s requirements first) to build housing pay back the money the city gave them. The City provided plenty of detail on the issues and the potential fixes in a press release and via Department of Real Estate and Housing Director Bob Weir’s testimony in committee.

What’s missing here? One of the non-profits that got a grant to build is reported as Our Youth, Inc. Our Youth is one of Norman Oliver’s non-profits, but when did they start doing development and construction? Or, more likely, the construction was done by one of the NOR Enterprises subsidiaries. However, the NJ missed that Our Youth is an organization run by Norman Oliver, under the umbrella of NOR Enterprises, which his sister (Councilwoman Zanthia Oliver) is on the board for. Our Youth is one of Wilmington’s HUD problems — (from the NJ) “…the city’s failure to recertify Our Youth, Inc. as a Community Development Housing Organization for an affordable housing project at 505 Lafayette Blvd.”

There’s an entire thread here that could use some investigative reporter energy — how this youth development organization became a Community Housing Development Organization (under the Dennis Williams administration); whether they really have the development capacity, staff, and past experience that HUD requires; who gave this org (and the Oliver construction company) contracts around the city. But at the very least, let’s note that this organization has real ties to a sitting Council Member who does not recuse herself from discussions of development.

2. Economic revitalization for Wilmington’s Market Street fizzles out beyond downtown

There’s a lot to say about a project that seeks to compare equity and investment between lower and upper Market St, but brings very little background into how lower Market St came to have many of the investments you can see some of the results of. This reporter is correct that the flight of residents from the neighborhoods that supported upper Market St is one of the major causes of the decline of this area. This area had long representation from both Council President Trippi Congo and former Councilman Charles Potter, who both built brands on an extensive game of blaming people for not valuing the Black communities they represented while doing no work to get these communities the services and investment they needed. How were they not able to help better support this area? Council President Congo’s family has a business on this street; he famously claimed to have lived over this business, but when caught out, told everyone that he really didn’t live over this business (although this is where he told his constituents he lived) because the neighborhood was too dangerous for his kids. In addition, his family owns (according to ParcelView) long-vacant houses (one with unprotected scaffolding) on this street. Look here (This is the 2400 block of Market):

Who knows what else they own on this street that they are letting become blight. (And how did the City let these properties fester for so long?) But you can certainly see right here what none of this old (or even new) representation haven’t been fighting for or trying for improvements on this part of Market Street. Wilmington could use as much reporting as it can get on the subject of how some of its elected leadership has had a direct hand in the divestment of some of our neighborhoods that have needed the most help.

Again, this isn’t an insult to any of these reporters, just filling in some of the connected narrative they miss in reporting on power in Wilmington. There’s likely plenty of material that gets missed in the paper — probably because they are too new here to have the kind of ties that will talk about what doesn’t get into the paper. You must notice these same kinds of missed connections from our local paper. We’d love to hear from you what they miss. Drop those observations in the comments.

8 comments on “What the News Journal Misses — Wilmington

  1. Thanks for sharing this perspective.

  2. Nick Beard

    Totally agree. I intersect with Wilmington Housing in my professional life and it has a specific reputation – I feel like the journalists don’t have on the ground service provider connections

    • I will also note that I would love to see the reports of the $300 refunds compared with what people who provide services in Delaware are saying…

  3. The lack of institutional knowledge is such a shame. Gannett is doing a disservice to journalism. Everything is about clicks with the News Journal these days. Their state government coverage is really lacking, by and large

  4. SussexWatcher

    They routinely miss anything that happens at the municipal level in the entire state, or at the county level in Kent or Sussex. Bellefonte could be about to go bankrupt or Cheswold’s mayor could be kicked out for theft and they would have no idea. Kent Levy Court could be about to secede and we’d hear about it from a Facebook post first.

    The legislative coverage, as others have said, is execrable. There’s a story online today exploring why legal pot didn’t pass – a vote which took place a full month ago.

    Every single one of their editors is now a “regional” editor – meaning they are managing reporters beyond Delaware, in MD and NJ and god knows where else. We are just an afterthought.

    In terms of both breadth and depth of local and state government reporting, the State News and the Cape Gazette are now the dominant media in the state. Behind them are WDEL, WDDE and – I almost hate to say it – Delaware Live. Like them or not, they’re consistent in their reporting.

    • cassandram

      I was stunned the morning after the 4th RD election that there was no news of it on the NJ website. Stunned as in something is really wrong with the world if something this vital can’t be seen right away in the paper. Ultimately, looking for breaking news in the local paper tells you I have some habits created in another era entirely.

  5. There’s a few folks in Sussex running a newsletter/ journalism service called Delaware Independent. I feel like a similar model could be really helpful for the city, if only to tell more stories and capture the lives of the folks who live here.

    • SussexWatcher

      We’ve got a few cities in this state. Which one are you talking about?

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