"SUBURBAN SPRAWL." "The digital divide." "Haves and have-nots." An undercurrent of racism runs through all these pet issues of the media elite. The message, if veiled, is meant for rich whites: You're the problem.
Maybe so, maybe so. But where do the mostly white media elite park their keisters at the end the day, after doing their best to make whites feel guilty for having what they have and living where they live?
Call me jaded, but I've always had the sneaking suspicion that they don't live anywhere near the poor, mixed-race neighborhoods that they supposedly care so much about. My hunch was proved right by a recent eye-opening study by, of all people, a newspaper editor.
Peter Brown of the Orlando Sentinel had the novel idea of surveying the zip codes of 3,400 professional journalists across the country. They work for CNN, the Washington Post, USA Today, and other major media outlets.
He found they tend to cluster in upscale neighborhoods away from inner cities and rural areas. Many of them live in the same gated suburban enclaves they slam.
Nearly a third of Washington Post reporters, for instance, live in four tony suburban areas outside the District of Columbia—far more than their readers.
So what? The disconnect in lifestyles carries over to reporting, Brown concludes in his underreported (no surprise) study. The media elite's work tends to reflect the worldviews (or, in their case, angst) of others in their cloister and not of the general population they influence.
As revealing as his seminal study is, Brown didn't go far enough for me. He didn't name names, two in particular, so I did my own zip-code hunt.
To hear Ted Koppel and Christopher Matthews—the self-anointed, prime-time champions of racial equality—tensions between blacks and whites are at a boiling point. And continued segregation is to blame.
"This is 40 years after we passed the civil-rights bill and still the country is basically white here and black over there," bellowed Matthews on a recent broadcast of his Hardball show on CNBC. "There's 'hoods, there's ghettos, and there's whites living in the burbs. It hasn't changed a lick."
Why the divide? The country is still "run by white guys," Matthews said.
Koppel has a whole series on race airing on ABC's Nightline. It's called "America in Black and White."
He kicked off his series with a segment on an all-white neighborhood in Philadelphia. He gathered some of the white residents together in a studio and, in essence, asked them why they were racists.
Some argued that, in fact, several blacks live in their neighborhood.
"Six or seven out of over 6,000," Koppel scoffed, citing Census Bureau data. "I mean, it's a 99 percent white neighborhood."
Ouch. Koppel definitely did his homework.
But where does Koppel get off playing neighborhood race cop? After digging through county property deeds, I found he lives in a predominantly white neighborhood himself. Just 5.3 of every 100 of his neighbors are black, Census data show.
When he's not acting as the conscience of rich whites on TV, Koppel lives in a 5,375-square-foot, four-bath, $805,000 home on nearly three acres in a Potomac, Md., neighborhood (and this is just one of his many properties in the area).
Koppel insists that the point of his "America in Black in White" series "is not to make white people feel guilty." Rather, it's to make them "challenge their predispositions."
Uh huh. Maybe it's also to make Koppel feel better about himself and how he interacts—or doesn't interact—with blacks, when he's not in front of the camera (and on his high horse).
Matthews is equally troubled by racially polarized neighborhoods.
"Aren't you surprised we haven't integrated in terms of residence, living together, door to door?" he asked Bill Bradley earlier this year. "It's still a black neighborhood (there) and a white neighborhood here."
Matthews should know. After lecturing everyone else on racial harmony, he seeks refuge in a mostly white zip code in the leafy burbs of Chevy Chase, Md. Just 5.6 percent of his neighbors are black, Census says.
His $1.1 million home—with its four-and-a-half baths, two fireplaces, and 3,750 square feet—is nowhere near the "ghettos."
To his credit, Matthews did live in the District of Columbia before he started making the big bucks as a TV pundit. But even then, his addresses were in predominantly white neighborhoods.
Knowing where these out-of-touch, guilt-racked media elite live helps explain why they keep picking at the old scab of racism, when both whites and blacks have moved on.