Walking through Harvard Square this morning, almost running late for a meeting, I spotted a small camera crew and a guy interviewing an old, scruffy gentleman who might have been among a fairly prominent (but not overwhelming) homeless population in the Harvard area.
After taking a closer look, it turned out to be Jesse Watters of The O’Reilly Factor and Fox News Channel fame, known primarily for doing silly segments on seemingly clueless people. The questions I overheard Watters asking seemed to be about America’s work ethic, free stuff and welfare, Fox News staples.
Here’s an example of his work here.
I don’t know how to categorize his brand of journalism. I’ll let others decide that. But I found his visit today interesting timing because the day before I sent my Harvard students into the Square for an assignment about men just like the one Watters was interviewing.
They had to write a short news article about how the presence of the homeless and street performers effected the area. They had to interview at least one street performer or homeless person, plus multiple tourists, merchants and residents. In addition to that, they had to provide the broader, relevant context to give readers a better understanding of the issue. Is this population growing or declining? What is the cause? What are potential policy solutions? Is the experience of the homeless in the Square similar to what homeless people face elsewhere, or is it unique? Why?
The assignment was designed to force them to think through the many layers of what it means to have homeless people in the shadow of the world’s most famous university, one from which scores of solutions for the world’s most vexing problems have emerged. Their initial reporting found mixed-feelings from tourists and residents alike, some whom believe it enhanced the area’s colorfulness, and some who felt guilty to either give money to a homeless person or performer even when they didn’t want to.
I’ve given them a few more days to revise and improve their work on this, to see if they can uncover other aspects of the issues that will go deeper into the human complexity and policy implication of their presence in Harvard Square. I’m hoping to do the same about our homeless when I get my feet firmly re-planted on Myrtle Beach soil.
I don’t know what Watters plans to do with his segment. If others catch it before I do, send me a message about it. If I see it first, I’ll post a link.