I have met with hundreds of reporters about homelessness in the last 18 years. Most are zoned out just doing their job in getting the facts. There are some who are so burnt out that they don't care about anything you are saying. I swear you could say, "Homeless people are planning an armed overthrow of the Human Services building" to some of these reporters and they would not even flinch or follow up. There are a few reporters that care deeply about their subject matter and listen and try to interpret exactly what the subject of their interview is talking about. I don't want to mention specific people, because I know that I will miss some. There are men and women at the Plain Dealer who care deeply for the City and love featuring the individual stories who are typically falling through the cracks in the safety net. There are some senior television reporters who support social justice and understand the importance of these groups to push government. There are a number of radio reporters who want to bring the forgotten, the suffering and the oppressed to the airwaves. Mhari Saito was one of those special reporters.
I met Mhari Saito at WCPN 90.3 FM about four or five years ago, and all of us at the homeless coalition are sad that she died recently. WCPN staff had a nice feature on her on the air and on their website. Saito talked to us about our voting activities as part of her daily reporting. Mhari locked on to the foreclosure issue in a time that we desperately needed in Cleveland. She did features that were picked up by NPR about one of the hardest hit communities for housing instability. I remember Saito talking to home owners who were tricked to leave their house and then found that they were fined for not maintaining it. I remember families talking about being terrified that they were going to end up in the shelters. She featured stories on some of the secondary industries that blossomed as a result of the foreclosure crisis as well as some of the secondary victims. Saito went into some detail about how banks had failed their customers with the robo-signing and not doing mortgage adjustments in a timely manner. She did features on individuals harmed by the crisis and she was great at pointing out the impact of the foreclosure crisis on the suburbs.
There are critics of advocacy journalism in the I.F. Stone at The Nation or David Corn at Mother Jones, but I really believe they serve a valuable purpose for our democracy. After the retirement of Roldo writing a regular columns in Cleveland, we had a real lull in advocacy journalism in Cleveland. Mhari Saito had the demands of daily journalism at a local NPR affiliate, but she really focused on advocacy journalism around the foreclosure issue. She was passionate about spotlighting the corruption, the heartless policies of the banking industry, and most of all the insanity of the bureaucracy that these home owners were facing. She was a really great reporter with easy to understand and vivid radio stories. We will miss Ms. Saito, and we hope that someone takes up the gauntlet on continuing the focus on the devastation caused by the foreclosure crisis.