The Newsmaker Interview is with journalist Jonathan Choe, a Senior Fellow for the Discovery Institute’s Fix Homelessness project. His reporting on the drug and homelessness crises in the Seattle area is unparalleled in
the market, as liberal policies repeatedly fail while thousands of people continue to suffer on the streets. Liberal establishment politicians, afraid of having media members question them on their many expensive homeless programs which have only made the situation worse, have attempted to ban Choe from events and even refused to answer his questions at press conferences. We should note that while politicians like King County Executive Dow Constantine claim Choe “is not a real journalist” to avoid answering his questions, his work was recently nominated for four Emmy Awards by the Northwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Science for excellence in news reporting.
In his interview, Choe provides his thoughts on the four Emmy nominations and why homelessness and drug policies have failed in Seattle. He describes how the Democrats’ efforts to decriminalize drug possession has led to an increase in drug use and overdoses. Finally Choe shares his experience with the “double-standard” local liberal politicians use to avoid answering tough questions and only provide access to those reporters who provide positive coverage.
First of all, congratulations on the four Emmy Nominations. What are your thoughts on the nominations and does this signal any trend occurring in the news media?
Thank you! I was nominated by industry peers and these nominations are proof that Discovery’s independent guerilla journalism model works and that it matters to the community. I have dealt with repeated attempts to bar me from press events by elected officials who think they have the power to decide who is a journalist and who is not.
The Emmy nominations clearly signal that the government does not get to dictate the press. They also signal a change in news media that’s all about independent, video journalism and storytelling without censorship or agenda. Discovery gets to be on the cutting edge of what is quickly becoming the prominent form of news media.
Your reporting for the Discovery Institute’s “Fix Homelessness” has brought significant attention to the issue. What do you believe people should know about the region’s homelessness crisis as they decide what should be done to help end the suffering of so many people?
People around the nation care about this issue and are impacted by it daily. Homelessness is one of the top issues facing voters in our country. People need to understand that more money is not the solution here. We have spent hundreds of millions on housing first and harm reduction policies here in Seattle and King County and the crisis of homelessness, addiction, and mental health is not getting better, it’s getting worse. Compassion for those suffering looks like redirecting funding into sources that address the root causes of homelessness—mental illness, substance use, and broken relationships.
In 2015 the community’s elected officials declared a “state of emergency” on the homelessness issue. Yet, despite spending billions of dollars, the problem continues to get worse. Why do you believe Seattle and other West Coast cities have failed so badly on this issue?
Our communities are in a far worse state of emergency now. Drug overdose fatalities have skyrocketed beyond where they were at in 2015. Seattle and other West Coast cities have bought into failed policies like housing first and drug decriminalization, and it’s obvious that the vast sums of money that have been poured into the homelessness issue have not touched the problem.
Leaders and activists insist that the compassionate response to suffering is to turn a blind eye and allow people to continue the very lifestyles that are causing their suffering and the suffering of the community around them—insisting that addicts have to be ready to change before we can help. Clearly, this is not a compassionate response at all. We would never treat our own family members this way, and so we believe there has to be some form of intervention.
You have also covered several drug overdoses on the streets of Seattle and in encampments. Our morgues are at full capacity due to the amount of overdose deaths. This is a very complicated issue, but what needs to be done to reduce the number of tragic deaths due to drugs?
Yes, King County’s morgues are full and using new spaces, and overdose deaths are on trend for another record high this year. I have witnessed numerous overdoses on the streets while filming in downtown Seattle and the International District. I carry Narcan with me now and am constantly checking on people who appear passed out and unresponsive. It is a complicated issue, but it’s clear that decriminalizing drugs and not providing treatment resources is allowing the issue to thrive, not reducing the tragedy. There needs to be a reasonable component of law enforcement paired with readily available treatment.
You have had some run ins with some local officials who appear to be avoiding your questions. They have claimed that since you are not a member of the “establishment” media they don’t have to include you in their events or respond to your inquiries (even though they are responsive to those from liberal blogs or organizations). What are your thoughts on this double standard?
It is a glaring double standard, and not only that, it’s also a complete rejection of the role of the media to provide transparency and accountability to the people from the government. What I’m showing and what I’m saying does not fit the “approved” narrative and I can’t help but think that’s why they are so resistant to me and my questions.
I think more and more people are beginning to recognize these kinds of attacks on free speech and free press and move towards independent journalists who aren’t tied to political agendas. That’s why I’m excited about the work that I get to continue for Fix Homelessness at Discovery Institute.
To follow Jonathan Choe’s reports on the homelessness and drug crises, please click on the link to Discovery Institute’s Fix Homelessness program.