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David Simon
David Simon, photo by Robin Holland
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October 2, 2009

(Originally broadcast April 17, 2009.)

The executive producer of HBO's critically-acclaimed show THE WIRE, David Simon talks with Bill Moyers about inner-city crime and politics, storytelling and the future of journalism today. After a dozen years covering crime for the BALTIMORE SUN, David Simon left journalism to write books and tell stories for NBC and HBO, including his Peabody-winning cop show THE WIRE, which looked at the drug wars and the gritty underbelly of the inner-city. Simon is now producing the pilot for a series about musicians in post-Katrina New Orleans, called TREME.

Simon on Fact and Fiction
Dickensian childIn his extended conversation with Bill Moyers, David Simon touched not only on the plight of America's cities, the drug war and prison numbers and the state of the news media, but also on the art of telling hard truths through stories rather than statistics.
I started to realize "Dickensian" was a shorthand for "I don't really actually care about the underlying economic dynamic that is creating this nightmare. I don't want to examine that. I just want some sweet stories about some kids who are poor and are being hurt. I could win a prize in that. Be Dickensian." And I thought it was sort of an affront to Dickens almost. I mean, if Dickens heard it, I think he would have gotten mad.
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Biography
David Simon is a Baltimore-based author, journalist and writer-producer of television specializing in criminal justice and urban issues. Born in Washington, he came north to Baltimore after graduating from the University of Maryland to work as a police reporter at the BALTIMORE SUN. In 1988, after four years on the crime beat, he took a leave of absence from the newspaper to write HOMICIDE: A YEAR ON THE KILLING STREETS.

Homicide Published in 1991, the Edgar-award winning account of a year inside the Baltimore Police Department Homicide Unit became the basis for NBC's HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET, which was broadcast from 1993 to 1999. Simon worked as a writer, and later as a producer on the award-winning drama.

In 1993, Simon took a second leave from the BALTIMORE SUN to research and write THE CORNER: A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF AN INNER-CITY NEIGHBORHOOD. Published in 1997 and co-authored with Edward Burns, the true account of life in a West Baltimore community dominated by an open-air drug market was named a Notable Book of the Year by the NEW YORK TIMES.

Simon then co-wrote and produced THE CORNER as a six-hour miniseries for HBO. That production, which aired in 2000, won an Emmy as the year's best miniseries. Simon and David Mills also won the Emmy for best writing in a movie or miniseries. For his writing on NBC's HOMICIDE, Simon has won the Writers Guild of America Award for best writing in an episodic drama, as well as the Humanitas Award in the same category.

Having left the BALTIMORE SUN in 1995, Simon continues to work as a freelance journalist and author, writing for publications as varied as the WASHINGTON POST, the NEW REPUBLIC and DETAILS magazine.

Published April 17, 2009. Guest photos by Robin Holland

Related Media:
Glenn Greenwald and Jay Rosen
Is the old media sustaining the old politics? News and analysis with NYU journalism professor and PressThink blogger Jay Rosen and political journalist and Salon.com blogger Glenn Greenwald. (February 6, 2009)

Media, McClellan and the War
There's nothing new in Scott McClellan's book about the propaganda campaign or the role of the press in selling the war, so why is it such big news? Journalists Jonathan Landay and John Walcott of McClatchy newspapers and Greg Mitchell of EDITOR & PUBLISHER analyze the reaction of the administration and the media to McClellan's book. (June 6, 2008)

John Grisham
Bill Moyers interviews John Grisham, best-selling author of THE FIRM, THE PELICAN BRIEF, and THE RAINMAKER, in a far-ranging conversation that gives viewers insight into the beliefs and background that influenced Grisham's work and provides an unexpected look at his views about the state of the nation. (January 25, 2008)

BUYING THE WAR
How did the mainstream media get it so wrong in the lead up to the Iraq War? (April 25, 2007)

References and Reading:
THE WIRE
HBO's Web site for THE WIRE contains a wealth of information on the series, message boards for fans and David Simon's look back on the five season storyline.

THE CORNER
Read an excerpt from THE CORNER: A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF AN INNER-CITY NEIGHBORHOOD by David Simon and Ed Burns.

"Stealing Life: The crusader behind 'The Wire'"
By Margaret Talbot, THE NEW YORKER, October 22, 2007.

"The Angriest Man in Television,"
by Mark Bowden, THE ATLANTIC, January/February 2008.

Speech to Loyola College
In his conversation with David Simon, Bill Moyers references a February 2007 speech given by Simon to Loyola College. You can view the speech on YouTube .

The Haymarket Affair
In his conversation with Bill Moyers, David Simon refers to the 1886 rally by anarchists and labor activists in Chicago's Haymarket Square turned deadly as "that critical moment when-- American labor was pushed so much to the starving point that they were willing to fight." Find out more about Haymarket and the history of American labor.

CLOCKERS and Richard Price
"In Priceland,"
By Michael Chabon, THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS, May 1, 2008.

"Times Topics: Richard Price"
THE NEW YORK TIMES' collection of articles by and about the author.

Also This Week:
DAVID SIMON
From crime beat reporter for the BALTIMORE SUN to award-winning screenwriter of HBO's critically-acclaimed The Wire, David Simon talks with Bill Moyers about inner-city crime and politics, storytelling and the future of journalism today.

STOPPING THE PRESSES
The newspaper morgue is no longer just back issues — it's holds growing number of defunct papers around the nation. Get the stats on the changing media landscape. And, Bill Moyers and David Simon reflect on what happened to the news business.

THE STATE OF THE CITIES
How are America's downtowns faring up in the downturn?

PRISON NATION
The U.S. has five percent of the world's population and 25 percent of the world's prisoners -- how did we get here?

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