I'm David Simon, a Baltimore-based journalist, author and television producer. I'm a former crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun, and the creator of HBO's The Wire, which depicts the political and socioeconomic fissures in an American city. My other television credits include the NBC drama Homicide and HBO’s The Corner, Generation Kill and Treme. My most recent project, Show Me A Hero, an HBO miniseries, depicts the 1987-93 housing desegregation battle that divided Yonkers, N.Y.

I'm currently in production on the upcoming HBO drama, The Deuce, which follows the legalization and subsequent rise of the porn industry in New York from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s. I've also authored two books of narrative non-fiction, "Homicide" and "The Corner," and am a 2010 MacArthur Fellow. AMA.




I'll be on just a shade after 12:30 PM ET. Go ahead and ask me your Q's though.


I'm here and answering your questions. Have at it.


That's it for me today, but that was cool. Appreciative of your questions and interest. Let's do it again sometime. Be well.

Comments: 2032 • Responses: 93  • Date: 

Bushy-Top845 karma

Hi David, I'm a moderator over at /r/thewire where we praise you all day! Thanks for stopping by.

We recently did a rewatch on the subreddit where I did a write up for each episode and tried to analyze the finer details in the series.

Can you please explain the train. It seems to revolve around McNulty's sobriety or mental state and his thrill of the hunt but that's all I can really grasp.

Also, how did you come to work with Steve Earle in both Treme and The Wire?

Would you ever do another short war series like Generation Kill?

I would love to see "One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer" by Nathaniel Fick as somewhat of a prequel to Generation Kill.

And lastly, did you ever realize that you were launching so many great careers and do you still keep in touch with any of your old friends from any series?

Thank you so much for everything you do.

Edit: An old post about the train

macfound380 karma

1) I'm often amazed at how the comic lines sometimes land. It's somehow easier to write and execute dramatically. Comedy, on execution of intent, is hard. 2) Steve is a hoot. I contacted him cold after reading of his own struggles with addiction and asked to use his song "South Nashville Blues" -- with amended Baltimore lyrics -- in the credit sequence of "The Corner." And so began an improbable friendship and professional relationship. 3) Barely thought I was launching a career of my own, outside of newspapering. I keep in touch with everyone I can. Oh, and Generation Kill stands. There are other stories to pursue.

cogneuro781 karma

Hi David, thanks for doing the AMA. I can genuinely say that The Wire directly inspired me to pursue the career path that I’m in today. I first watched the show while in college, and it informed me about many issues that I had previously been unaware of or apathetic too. Bubbles story arc connected with me so deeply that I took my first sociology course and began volunteering with homeless populations. Today I’m working as a substance abuse and mental health care coordinator in the field of community health, where I primarily work with lower income and homeless individuals.

The content you create has an impeccable ability to educate the public about real world issues through compelling storytelling that is absolutely unmatched. Thank you for the work that you do and inspiring me to pursue a career in a field that I previously wouldn’t have considered.

At this point what do you believe needs to happen to start making an impact in combating the growing opioid epidemic in our country?

Edit: Spelling & Grammar

macfound1255 karma

DS: I believe the abuse of narcotics -- whether street drugs or pharmasale -- is the result of a fundamental existential crisis among working and middle-class Americans in the same way that it was once that for the underclass. We need to return to an economic model that values labor, and the human lives that comprise labor.

deefur654 karma

I loved the scene in The Wire where Rawls is shown in the gay bar. The fact it was never brought up again made it a sort of inside scoop just for the viewer.

Was there ever a temptation to explore this in a storyline?

macfound953 karma

We talked about it. It seemed to undercut the ordinariness of the moment to cannibalize it for plot. Some people are straight. Some people are gay. Some people are, even to this point, discreet or closeted about their sexuality. Everybody has to be somewhere.

pfeif55505 karma

What can a common person do to stop the death of journalism?

macfound1678 karma

Pay for it. Online. Pay a little bit each month. You did when they dumped it on the doorstep, and you can pay even less than that now to support the salaries of trained reporters and photographers and videographers.

dissenter_the_dragon455 karma

Where's Wallace?

macfound654 karma

I don't know. I keep calling his agents, but he's quite busy with one big film project or another.

Tucko29421 karma

Hi David, What do you think changed a lot in Baltimore since you made The wire in a bad and better way ?

macfound837 karma

DS: Complicated question. The policies of drug prohibition and mass incarceration are being openly challenged, and the revolution of the smart phone camera has exposed the policing tyrannies that were exacerbated by those policies. This is a necessary sociopolitical passage. On the bad side, the drug war has collapsed the skill set and efficacy of the Baltimore Police Department.

DAfloz371 karma

Hi Mr. Simon,

As a criminal prosecutor (who's still somewhat salty about not getting that court-themed sixth season of The Wire), I constantly marvel at how little seems to have changed since that show's conclusion seven years ago. Indeed, the cyclical nature of our criminal justice system, and the idea that attempts at reform are often futile, seems to be one of the underlying themes of the show.

What signs of hope, if any, have you observed since 2008? Do you believe that policing and criminal justice reform are moving in the right direction?

macfound570 karma

The drug prohibition, which destroyed policing in many respects -- never mind what it did to families and communities -- is being openly challenged. This is essential to any possibility of reform. In fact, many smart police are glad to see it happen; it's the only chance to restore any sense of professionalism and legality to the craft of legitimate law enforcement.

rakelllama249 karma

What's your take on the Black Lives Matter vs. Blue Lives Matter situation?

macfound1679 karma

DS: Black lives matter. So do blue lives. But the context of the "black lives matter" credo is that unlike blue lives, or white lives -- which have de facto mattered in our country for generations -- African-Americans have been far too vulnerable to unnecessary and hyperbolic response by law enforcement. This is simply so, and is now evidenced by the smart phone revolution.

rakelllama233 karma

If you had to create a couple more seasons for The Wire, what themes/angles would you have included?

macfound518 karma

David Mills suggested immigration, but to research it upon his argument, we would have had to halt production on season four and five, which would have kept us off the air for too long after season three. He was right though. It would have been worthy. It could only have come before the concluding arc of seasons four and five, which were linked by the Marlo investigation. And five -- the critique of why we don't attend to anything that matters as a people -- had to end the entire arc, so....

arthur_figgis219 karma

High school English teacher here and I use an excerpt from Homicide every year as a run-up to my Lord of the Flies unit- the part where the police raid the rowhouse and discover the dozens of people living in utter squalor. I've ended up purchasing and then giving away at least 10 copies of the book.

If there were one book you'd have each high schooler in modern America read, what would it be?

macfound309 karma

DS: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, by James Agee. Photos by Walker Evans.


Dispatches, by Michael Herr

PeeEssDoubleYou198 karma

Hi David, firstly Homicide is the best book I've ever read, a genuinely amazing piece of work, thank you.

Secondly, what was the most interesting thing you learned during your time with the homicide police?


macfound434 karma

That human beings get used to anything, and that even the most grievous imagery and thought can become quotidian.

El_Bard0176 karma

First of all, thank you for making Treme. It was an incredible gateway not only info all things New Orleans, but jazz, food, culture and American history. Any plans in the future for a project that shines a spotlight on another part of American culture that goes relatively unnoticed?

macfound296 karma

Amazed we got away with three and a half seasons of that. In some ways, Treme is the project of which I am most proud because it is operating with the most improbable currency in television: Culture and its role in our American collective. Way easier to keep an audience if you put a gun or a brassiere in a guy's hand than a trombone. But Treme was as carefully executed and serious as anything I've done that benefits from the regular props and tropes.

HeWhoScares166 karma

Hi David.

The language on The Wire used is so real and doesn't feel forced or cringe as so many programs that try to represent 'the streets' do. How did you go about that?

macfound346 karma

Ed Burns policed Baltimore for about 20 years and then taught middle school in the city for seven. I covered crime in the city for 13 years. And we were good listeners, I hope.

Warlizard157 karma

Hi David.

Have you ever thought of doing a show that didn't rip out the hearts and souls of its viewers?

Just curious.

Occasionally I like to feel good about myself after an hour or so of TV.

macfound395 karma

I wanted to do a half-hour comedy called "Strongman!" about a reality-television producer and team that travels to despotic regimes to follow dictators. I even pitched it to HBO. Then that Sasha Baron Cohen fellow ruined my comedy dreams...

cogneuro147 karma

What social issues are you planning on tackling in The Deuce that surrounded the porn industry in the 1970s?

macfound396 karma

Misogyny, for one.

ShovelSister139 karma

Am I reading too much into the symbolism of the train track scenes in The Wire? Or am I missing the point perhaps? I've always seen them as representing the inevitable force of the war on drugs, or corruption in general. Try to stand in its way, and you could lose everything.

macfound167 karma

You're in the ballpark, I'm thinking.

FattyMc132 karma

Hi David - thanks for doing this AMA.

I was wondering, with such an incredible variety of characters in The Wire, if you had any specific favourites?

macfound439 karma

I loved writing Jay Landsman. He was so damn real as a Baltimore police sergeant in my head. Kudos to Delaney Williams.

WhatAGuyy127 karma

Hi David, I heard you mention a possible project portraying the Spanish Civil War (I think it was on Marc Maron's WTF Podcast) do you have any updates on this? And what was your inspiration for this? I've read Orwell's 'Homage to Catalonia' and would love to see a project like this, especially with you at the helm.

macfound197 karma

I am pursuing this project with Spanish producers and others, and talking further with HBO. There is a worthy project to be done on the Lincolns and the cause of premature anti-fascism. It still speaks to the geopolitical compromises we make today as a nation.

Maddy_shak124 karma

Do you think The Wire could work better in today's tv landscape?

macfound342 karma

With our ratings, I don't think we survive the first season or two. It's a different world and HBO -- though its been like the Medici for me -- is now being heavily counterprogrammed by the world. I'm amazed I'm still in television, honestly.

CockroachBallerinas121 karma

Can we overcome or is the USA just doomed to mire and stagnate in corruption for the next 100 years? Baltimore here and feeling pretty cynical :/

macfound379 karma

Big question. But it doesn't matter how I answer, does it? Every day we still gotta get up and kill a few snakes. Or not. But that's the choice. Camus had this surrounded, if you read that guy.

HellaciousHelen106 karma

Hi Mr. Simon!

Are there any aspects/elements of New Orleans you wanted to capture in Treme but were unable to, perhaps due to time constraints, or difficulty of transferring a sometimes intangible and elusive reality to the screen?

macfound160 karma

Honestly, there are genuinely great musicians and culture bearers who were left unchronicled in what became, we hope, a document of sorts about a singular cultural world. Every now and then, I run into one or two and I want to go prostrate with my apologies.

dkl41594 karma

The section from The Corner on being an urban public school teacher described my experiences to a tee.

What systemic changes do you think could cause a shift to make schools more functional?

macfound294 karma

End any policy imperative that demands teaching to test. Combine a real reform initiative to address the worst protectionism of teacher's unions while allowing collective bargaining to secure the legitimate standing of teachers. And end charter schools with a recommitment to public education for all in America. It's not fair to ask parents in charters to risk the moderate gains made unless real reform is undertaken in public education. But right now charter schools are effectively lifeboats, and the American educational as a whole is a sinking ship. This is not a wholistic solution that anything, and it is, in the long-run, an abandonment of the idea that America gives every child the opportunity of a viable education.

JD221293 karma

Hi David, big fan of The Wire. Just wondering what are some of your favorite tv shows and films? Furthermore, how have they influenced your own work?

macfound229 karma

Big question. But go with one: "Paths of Glory," by Kubrick is in the DNA of every Wire season just about. Look for the French generals. I was honored a few years ago to write the introduction to the reintroduction of Humphrey Cobb's classic novel as well.

ocean_spray82 karma

Show Me a Hero was an absolutely amazing miniseries.

That said, why do so many people not realize that segregation still exists today? Policies like redlining still exist yet people continue to relegate it to the Civil Rights era or to a period piece like Show Me a Hero?

macfound130 karma

Because many people -- too many people -- are tired of taking about the enduring American pathology of race. But yes, we are still afflicted. Though make no mistake, history is arcing toward more, not less, justice on that score. We have problems. We are better than we were. We will get better still, slowly, but definitively.

mynameischan73 karma

How tough was it to get permission for Springsteen's music in Show Me A Hero?

macfound117 karma

It cost me a lunch with Jon Landau, which I very much enjoyed. They were great and especially accomodating once they assessed the story and its purposes.

NewtoHipHop72 karma

Hi David,

Your realistic approach to the negative sides of the War on Drugs is beautifully explored in The Wire. How would you go about changing American Drug policy?

macfound304 karma

I would decriminalize our drug prohibition and address it as a health problem essentially. I would take all the interdictions, enforcement, incarceration $$$$ and plow that back into economically isolated communities in the form of CCC-type community employment programs. Keynesian stimulus for the neighborhoods where little industry remained other than the drug corners.

ShovelSister71 karma

Your work shows such wisdom on the drug epidemic on a macro level. What is your perspective on a micro level? What can families do to combat the influence of drugs and violence?

macfound322 karma

All of us as citizens can nullify any jury on which we are asked to serve if the defendant is charged with a non-violent drug offense. The sooner we refuse service of this destructive and brutalizing drug war -- which is, in effect, a war on our poor -- the sooner we might free law enforcement to do its actual job. If you are picked for a jury and it is a drug case only, without overt acts of violence, vote to acquit regardless of the evidentiary material.

captaincrappedin66 karma

What was the point of that topless scene in season 2 of the wire? You know, the one where Nicky's girlfriend has some ultimately meaningless dialogue for thirty seconds while her gorgeous set is exposed for all to see?

Almost everything in The Wire, no matter how subtle, seemed to have a deeper meaning.

Was that just because she had great bewbs?

macfound237 karma

She did. But how could we know they were that remarkable when we hired her from one fully dressed audition? The point was to show Nick Sobotka having an adult relationship but marginalized within his parent's rowhouse basement. The nudity suggests intimacy and familiarity between the two, and the surrounding suggests that their life together is not yet viable. Next in the sequence was a visit to a rowhouse in the neighborhood that they couldn't afford, if you'll remember.

man_mayo66 karma

What's your bucket list project or subject that you'd like to tackle?

macfound396 karma

A history of the CIA from post-WWII to 9/11/2001. And a narrative of the American leftists who fought in Spain and paid early for our stated ideals. Also, a small feature film about David Maulsby, a rewrite man, and Jack, a gorilla at the Baltimore Zoo. I'll say no more about that.

Clev63 karma

Hi David, I'm a fan of all of your work and have always had one plot-related question left over from The Wire that I would love to have answered.

(Major Wire spoilers ahead)

At the end of season 5 of The Wire, it seems pretty obvious that Marlo isn't ready to quit the Game after his blood-licking scene. Earlier in the final episode, Pearlman tells Levy that they'll take Marlo's case back off the stet docket if they even catch a whiff of Marlo on the street, even if it means putting cops behind bars. To me it seems pretty likely that Marlo won't play ball, and this will end with McNulty and Freamon being charged once they're forced to show the dirt in their case. How ambiguous was that supposed to be? Do you think there's any pieces of the story I'm missing there?

macfound139 karma

You have it all. I have to go Socratic on you? What do YOU think happens a year or two down the road? Maybe so. Maybe not.

your_aunt_pam61 karma

Hi David,

Where do you see print journalism heading in the next decade? Any examples of recent work that you find interesting?


macfound185 karma

I want and we need to see an on-line revenue stream for journalism established that ensures that professional reporters can earn a living covering the quotidian beats of institutionalized America. When stuff is funded, it's good and fixed and every day. Citizen journalist is not a phrase I take seriously in any sense. I think Pro Publica and Mother Jones and a number of on-line elements show great chops; but the money still isn't right. People need to pay and copyright has to matter again, or it can't grow as it needs.


Hi David! We worked together on SMAH. Bill Zorzi was my favorite person on set. Can you share a good Zorzi story?

Also, very proud to have worked on that job!

macfound274 karma

Once when Bill Zorzi standing at his desk in The Sun and talking to the Governor of Maryland on the phone, I snuck up behind him and pulled his ponytail -- he had one then -- and bent him over the desk and simulated sex with him. And Zorzi never lost his composure with Governoer Schaefer on the line. He just kept asking questions and taking notes and trying unsuccessful to swat me away. A true professional, that man.

scratchinmadman56 karma

What was your biggest regret content wise about The Wire? Is there any material or message you wish you had included and/or approached differently?

macfound134 karma

I wish David Mills had come up with the idea for immigration as a theme immediately upon our conclusion of season three. I might have argued for an additional season between three and four.

The_Anomaly10154 karma

What is the harshest criticism you've heard regarding The Wire?

macfound134 karma

The late Snyder Blanchard, a legendary Baltimore drug trafficker who goes back to the late 1940s in his experiences, told Bill Zorzi that the Wire was "just bullshit."


itsernst52 karma

How can i convince my friends that I am not just a homer for Baltimore because I say that The Wire is the best show ever made?

macfound127 karma

You can't. And maybe you are a homer....

merkolodner47 karma

Hi David. I'm a journalist covering schools with a good editor and time to devote to more in-depth stories (rare, I know). I deeply admire the path (s) you've taken and the work you've produced. If you were on the education beat, what would you be writing about?

macfound128 karma

As above, I view charter schools as 1) a legitimate short term response to a public education model that is unable to reform or improve itself and 2) a long-term abdication of any national commitment to public education for the whole of our people. I think in the tension betwee 1) and 2) there are a lot of systemic stories that need to be written. About those who are in a lifeboat, and those that have been left behind to drown.

MattBaster44 karma

How much of your writing is directly lifted from real-life crime cases, and how much is purely creative?

macfound128 karma

I dunno. Some and some. Half and half? Not keeping score. Rule is: Some of it happened, some of it was rumored to have happened, some of it never happened. But all of it could have happened. If we are talking about the miniseries that are non-fictional accounts, then that's different. Those hew to realities.

improbablewobble43 karma

Hi David, my question is, do you think real journalism is doomed, and can you elaborate on why or why not?

macfound136 karma

I do not. I think it is necessary and at some point, the culture as a whole will begin to exert market demand for more and better. But it has to happen online. Cutting down trees and delivering them to doorsteps and mailboxes is, indeed, anachronism. We all see this.

BadMoonRosin35 karma

Hi David, thanks for doing this AMA. I'm paraphrasing a bit here... but you've said on a number of occasions that the main theme of The Wire is the failure of various institutions to solve social problems, and how people should focus on what's within their individual control instead.

As a strong skeptic/cynic, this has certainly always rung true for me. However, I'm wondering to what extent that theme wholly captures your own full worldview? Does any part of you believe that society and human institutions are heading in a better direction long-term (perhaps with fits and starts and setbacks)? Do you personally believe that working for positive change within institutions is worthwhile and not necessarily a fool's errand?

Or does The Wire's theme pretty much sum it up, period full-stop? :)

macfound204 karma

There was a moment when libertarians thought that I was a fellow traveler because they thought the critique of institutions validated their contempt for self-governance and collective societal action. Sorry. I was trained as a reporter and I regard a constant critique and challenge to institutions and institutional authority as essential and necessary. But I do not regard self-government and collective action and intervention in the affairs of modern society to be any less essential. Every day, good citizens get up, kill a few snakes, and try to make these governments -- our governments -- better and not worse. And the fight is never finished and it is never complete. And there is no sensible or coherent alternative. Welcome to democracy.

BmoreSE35 karma

David, do you remember reporting on a certain incident while working at the sun that made you realize you wanted to create an actual show about it?

macfound149 karma

No, I never wanted to be a television writer. My newspaper needed to be bought by an out-of-town chain and some soulless fucks had to show little regard for what I valued in journalism for me to stumble into the second career. It was, in a word, improbable.

Meunderwears32 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA.

Why was the cinematic period of the porn industry so short? We had an incredible surge in people trying to put some art into our smut but it quickly gave way to nameless actors woodenly going through the motions in plot-less scenes thrown together to form a "movie". Was the money just too easy?

Obligatory bonus question: How could you do that to Dukie? One of the saddest endings to an already overwhelmingly sad character arc I can remember.

macfound116 karma

Because porn was laced -- at its origins -- with misogyny. It followed the money and the demand, and there was precious little for erotica that had any duality inherent.

As to Dukie, where do you think all those human beings on the corner come from?

69ingchimpmuncks31 karma

Do you smoke weed?

macfound78 karma

Now and then. Used be more now than then. But I have too many early mornings at this point. So it's rare.

valaea230 karma

How do you think the Wire had held up in terms of quality/relevance/etc., 10 years later? I'm currently watching it for the second time and was curious what you thought ...

macfound94 karma

We did our best to have real arguments and we tried not to lie. We needed to be entertaining to a degree, but we weren't as interested in entertaining people or sustaining the franchise as we were interested in the arguments undertaken.

sgr0gan30 karma

Hi David, I grew up in the Neighborhood you were talking about in "Show Me a Hero" and my Great-Uncle was one of the people who was pushing de-segregation in Yonkers in the early 1980's and first I want to thank you for giving me history about my neighborhood I did not know of. My parents moved there in 1988 and I grew up in a diverse neighborhood and LOVED it. I thought that was what ALL of America was when I was a kid and had a culture shock and went to school and realized everyone was White like me instead of all different races like my neighborhood. I am so happy to have experienced this at such a young age because I feel like it caused me to not accept racism in any form the older I got.

I was just wondering, what inspired you to write a Mini-Series about that? It was so great to see how far Yonkers has come since then but also deeply upsetting to know that people in my own neighborhood were so adamantly against this! It shed a new light on some of the "sweet old neighbors" I had and why some of them were so reserved when their grandchildren would play with the kids from the 'projects' down the street.

Just always been curious about why you made such a GREAT mini-series about something that may be a 'norm' in other places even to this day.

macfound28 karma

The inspiration was Lisa Belkin's excellent book on the housing controversy in Yonkers. Coproducer Gail Mutrux alerted me to the book and we optioned it to HBO more than a decade earlier.

scratchinmadman29 karma

Hi David, Thanks for the AMA-- To me one of the most piercing elements of The Wire was the realism that the actors brought to their parts. How did you make the decision to cast the show in the way you did, and were there any casting decisions you feel particularly proud of or alternatively wish you had done differently?

macfound67 karma

We took the best actors we could and credit Alexa Fogle, who has worked with us on The Wire and every project since, for bringing them to our attention. In Baltimore, Pat Moran was brilliant with local and extras casting as well. I am always proud when we incorporate real participants into a professional cast of actors. You can do some of that. Too little and it doesn't lend real gravitas; too much and the overall acting suffers. But it's a neat trick.

Karnicorn28 karma

Hi David. Just wondering what you favorite show was to work on.
Also, who was your favorite person to work with?


macfound67 karma

DS Treme.

I got to write a few lines of dialouge for Dr. John. He Mac'd 'em up, to be sure. But still...

Tonbar26 karma

Huge fan thanks for taking the time. I'm wondering how you see the media changing over the next ten years? I know you've spoken passionately in the past about losing local beat writers causing an increase in local government corruption and I'm interested to know if that's still your feeling and what you think the future holds if that is the case?

macfound54 karma

It is still my feeling. The national spotlight is still bright on those things that occupy the most eyeballs. But that isn't how a city, a state, or even federal institutions are carefully covered. An on-line revenue stream is essential and needs to be localized as well. Shame newspapers couldn't do what cable TV did with bundling between local, metro, and specialty journalism outlets. By the time anyone considered it, the horse of free content was already out the barn door.

tifpy25 karma

What's up David, just wanted to pay you my respect for coming up with the best piece of TV that is The Wire. Seems pointless to watch any other series after that because I don't see how it could ever be topped; it's simply perfect.

But I do wonder if you ever find yourself rethinking The Wire, wishing you did something differently, etc.? Or are you completely content and satisfied with how it came out?

macfound100 karma

No. Other stories to tell. Best way to endure creatively is to rip out the rear-view mirrors and just drive.


What was the last great book you've read?

macfound90 karma

"Homage to Catalonia" Orwell. It was a reread in light of a project I am now struggling with, but man....

ultraswank22 karma

One thing that really struck me about The Wire and Treme were how many amazing black actors there are out there who go under utilized so much of the time. Idris Elba, Wendell Pierce, Micheal K. Williams, the list goes on and on. Are you just really good at the casting process or is there really an embarrassment of riches of available talent that most TV doesn't let shine?

macfound41 karma

They are great. There are a lot of them. They need more work.

cwood060920 karma

Hi David,

I can think of no one better to ask for some practical advice. I'm 23 years old and I just quit a year-long stint as a reporter for a tiny newspaper in a small town in Northwest Arkansas (Bella Vista). I was one of two reporters on the paper, the pay was terrible, there was no chance for a raise, and my transit was over two hours a day. I've wanted to be a journalist since I was a kid but I'm beginning to feel more and more that getting a job doing RESPECTABLE journalism (rather than corporate, sensationalist, or glorified newsletters) is next to impossible because of the state of the industry as a whole.

What I'm trying to suss out is how much of my despair is a reasonable reaction to the shrinking staffs of local newspapers all over the country and how much is my own rationalization. What advice would you give to wannabe journalists in their early 20s who can't seem to break through? Should I pull out now? Move to a city? Or remain at a newspaper that relies almost on community news and fluff pieces for circulation (and which could potentially be a dead end)? Were you ever in a similar situation early in your career?

Your interviews and work have been an inspiration to me. You constantly remind me what a noble profession journalism can be when it's not being abused. Thank you.

macfound41 karma

You need to do what fulfills you and makes you happy if you possibly can. It will give you purpose, which is precious in this world. And yes, you are right to be anxious as well. Good luck. I mean that.

dollarglis19 karma

Hi David, one of the things I love most about The Wire is its message that poorly designed institutions, bad incentives and inefficiencies at the group level can lead even a bunch of basically good people to cause terrible human suffering. (In other words, groups can be really shitty even when the individuals in them are no worse than any of the rest of us.) Do you think this kind of institutional inefficiency is unavoidable (rules will always be gamed, people will always be motivated by incentives, etc.), or are you optimistic about our ability to design better and smarter institutions that avoid the worst kinds of harms? Any general words of wisdom for designing better institutions? (Sorry for the abstract Q--just want to absorb all your knowledge.)

macfound50 karma

Juked stats and corrupted stats will fuck up any intended outcome sure. Institutions need to self-police constantly, and they require external review by journalism or a corresponding agency with the authority to review. And the process has to be neverending and ongoing. Democracy is exhausting.

PooptyLoops17 karma

What advice do you have for an aspiring screen writer? I'm quitting my full time production job to spend more time writing. Any tips to stay motivated? Big fan, btw.

macfound78 karma

Oh god. Good luck. Write a story you truly want to see told, and not something that you think anyone might let you tell.

SomeGuyInSanJoseCa17 karma

I am literally in the middle of reading Homicide right now. My God that's amazing. I was wondering, was there any fallback from writing this book for the detectives? Did anyone regret giving you such access?

macfound30 karma

Overall, no. Though in the immediate aftermath of publication there was some talk in the command staff of charging people administratively for some of the profanity and commentary. It faded.

ComixBoox16 karma

Hi David! I'm a huge fan of your work. Your ability to capture real humanity from all angles is inspiring and always incredibly fun to watch. My question is, if you had a blank check and total creative freedom to create any show you wanted, what would the show be about? Thanks!

macfound68 karma

Answered above. A careful history of the OSS/CIA and American foreign policy from 1945-2001

Mikeydoes14 karma

I am thinking about doing a documentary on some wrestlers that I know as the progress at different parts of their career - are there any little tips, tricks, or anything else that I should do/need to live by?

macfound34 karma

For documentary, I have no opinions that you should consider. Read up on Frederick Wiseman, whose work is so profoundly honest that it taught me to be a better print reporter. But again, I've only worked with film as a dramatist.

Trover14 karma

I'm currently in the middle of reading Homicide. Did you base the character of Lester Freamon on the real life detective Harry Edgerton?

macfound37 karma

There are some elements of Edgerton in there, I suppose, but no, Ed Burns threw an awful lot of a lot of people into Freamon.

guykirk914 karma

Hello Mr. Simon thank you very much for doing this. I, like many, loved The Wire and had two questions over it. 1. The Wire had many great characters but the one that stuck out the most was obviously Omar. My question is was Omar inspired by any real person or just imagination? 2. Secondly The Wire is thought to be one of the greatest if not the greatest TV Drama of all time, yet during the shows run the viewing audience was small. Why was this the case? Thank you very much again for such a great show with what I consider the best ending to a TV show.

macfound34 karma

DS: Donnie Andrews, Shorty Boyd, Ferdinand Harvin, Cadillac & Low, Anthony Hollie -- Ed Burns could name a few more probably. Robbing drug dealers is not as unlikely an occupation as you might think.

mrshatnertoyou12 karma

You were originally a reporter, what is your feeling about journalism today? Where do you go to get news that you feel is reasonably unbiased?

macfound50 karma

I'm less worried about bias than I am worried about scope and depth. I want to read the work of beat reporters who have labored in the same vineyard for more than four months. It takes years to learn an institution and fight your way past the veneer or bullshit. That model of journalism is deeply threatened. First, it was damaged by out-of-town chain ownership and Wall Street and then, by the arrival of the internet and the further evisceration of the revenue stream.

deviantelite12 karma

How much influence did you have on homicide vs the wire?

macfound21 karma

I went to school for Tom Fontana on Homicide. It was his world and he and the other producers who trained me to produce television were the architects of that show. I was a carpenter learning to nail stuff into place on their blueprint. And I am deeply grateful and proud of the work and the experience.

eternal_septuagint11 karma

If you were to be expressed most thoroughly and truthfully as a person through a few of your characters ... who would they be?

macfound56 karma

Roger Twigg. Or Bernard, the guy who had to drive all over creation buying fresh burners.

Brolonious11 karma

As a writer from Baltimore, what's your take on Mencken?

macfound35 karma

Brilliant, wonderful writer. Shame that he only believed in Henry Mencken and Henry Mencken's preferred ways of being. It's why his memoirs remain magnificent and his political arguments never rise beyond the occasional clever aphorism.

sultanvanzant11 karma

Who killed Adena Watson?

macfound19 karma

Do you mean Latonya Wallace? If I was a detective, I would believe it was the Fish Man. If I was a juror, I think I would acquit.

IDonalbain11 karma

Hi, David! I love and respect the work that you do to entertain in your industry. My question for you is about Oscar Isaac. He's slowly becoming a favourite actor of mine the more I see of him in movies and TV. I was wondering how he is to work with? He just seems to come off as a super nice and professional person, I hope that you can vouch for this to solidify his already great reputation. Thanks and good luck in the future!!

macfound26 karma

He's an astonishing talent and a consummate professional. I wrote an essay that's up on my blog, titled "What's My Line" that you might enjoy. Just google that title and my name, or Isaac, and it should come up.

TMoney6710 karma

Is there any hope for the City of Baltimore at all? Or the American City in general?

macfound32 karma

I live in Baltimore. I am vested in it.


Eliotwho10 karma

Woah massive fan here! Can you take us through your thought process when creating large worlds with so many characters to be looking after and making sure their story is told fully? Would you start with one character and find those who relate or do it group by group??

macfound28 karma

Could spend all day with this. Let's just go with the first question the writer's room always has to address: Why are we telling this story? What are we trying to say? What is our point in spending years creating this world and executing a narrative within it?

thesecretpotato697 karma

What's your favorite TV show?(can't be any of yours)

macfound19 karma

The Honeymooners.

ShovelSister7 karma

Do you plan to focus on television as your media of choice for the time being or would you consider writing another book?

macfound28 karma

Bill Zorzi and I have been under contract to write a history of the rise of the drug trade in West Baltimore from the 1950s to the full embrace of the drug war. We owe pages. But yeah, HBO is kind of crack pipe at this point, isn't it?

illpoet7 karma

as someone who has lived in baltimore I was really impressed with how well some of the actors on the wire pulled off a baltimore accent.
I did notice that i never saw any lake trout restaurants tho. Which is something you'd see every corner if you were really in the ghetto in most parts of baltimore. Was there anything that was taken out of the scripts because it was "Too baltimore"?

macfound17 karma

Avon Barksdale was ambushed while pulling up to the Laketrout joint up on Woodlawn. You cut me to the quick with that accusation?

pdxkat6 karma

Have you followed the Adnan Syed case?

What is your opinion of Urick and his prosecution of the case? Any comments on Detectives Ritz and MacG regarding their mishandling of evidence? Their willingness to pursue conviction rates regardless of facts.

What is the role DEA and other government agencies play in evidence collection including parallel construction? Especially in Baltimore (which seems to be a test site for latest invasive surveillance technology).

Do you think anti-Islamic prejudice (or monitoring) was a factor in the Adnan Syed case?

macfound5 karma

I have not followed it closely. I can't critique it intelligently based on my knowledge.

Vittgenstein6 karma

Were there any moments in creating the show where you made a particularly dark scene or arc then found the reality to be even darker and had to adjust accordingly?

macfound9 karma

Usually the other way. Usually we were trying to be more blunt than the initial impulses of directors or actors or editors or network execs. But sometimes, for reasons of taste, we would forgo a shot or two.

JoeKenda5 karma

Hi David, what are your thoughts on crime reality shows such as "The First 48," specifically their impact on a defendant's right to a fair trial vs. claims that they enable community outreach from police?

macfound10 karma

Nothing wrong with any documentary, but it would be nice to spend time with say, public defenders, or social workers as well as the folks with the handcuffs.

seperationsunday5 karma

How did Clarence Clemons get involved on The Wire?

macfound9 karma

He read for a part. Pretty cool, huh?

daniellaod5 karma

Hi! I'm a big fan of "The Wire". I love how each new season brought a new aspect into focus, i.e. poverty/drugs(S1), declining unions/corruption of unions(S2), politics(S3), children/education(S4), media(S5). Two questions: Were there plans for a sixth season and if so what new aspect was going to be the focus?

And who's the best cop on the show? I'd go with Bunny Colvin or Lester Freeman.

Also your nephew Alex is a friend of mine :) Thank you!

macfound6 karma

Answered above. Season five was always the end. Possibility we missed for a season 3.5 on immigration.

reneepussman4 karma

From your perspective, what is a better series:

The Wire or Breaking Bad?

macfound18 karma


Redkirth4 karma

My criminal investigations teacher at college once referred to Homicide as the "best show ever"

How does it feel to have created and written something so beloved by a community that has to put up with fantasies like CSI, or as my professor calls it, BSI?

macfound9 karma

It's okay. Better than feeling bad about it.

thewireseason43 karma

Hi David,

I remember seeing at one point Daniel Stern was cast in Show Me a Hero (http://deadline.com/2014/09/show-me-a-hero-hbo-latanya-richardson-jackson-natalie-paul-clarke-peters-daniel-stern-cast-827868/), but it must have fell through. Were you involved with this or was this mostly the casting director (Alexa Fogel)? Really love both your's and Daniel's work, is their any chance you would work together in the future or is that more of a casting thing?

macfound7 karma

Would love to work with him. Little known fact: He was a senior when I was a sophomore at the same high school in Maryland. I remember his performance in the school play. He was good even then.

Yes, it fell through but I was delighted to work for the first time with Peter Riegert, who rode to the rescue in the role. Peter is legend for Crossing Delancy, Local Hero and.....Shoenstein!

LuxNoxMax3 karma

Good Afternoon David, was there ever any script or story for a criminal show for the Latino populace? As a Mexican-American that has seen firsthand accounts witnessed kidnappings and drug runs on the border resulting from the Mexican Narco wars in both countries, there is so much left unsaid an ultimately unknown by many as to how systemic the drug war is between the U.S. And Mexico that can make for countless amount of content to write from.

macfound4 karma

Notably, Baltimore was an East Coast city that had very little Latino population or immigration until only two decades ago. Central American communities began to establish themselves in the Southeast about the time we were filming the Wire and David Mills, taking note of the change, suggested immigration as a theme, but for reasons I outlined above, we couldn't act on his realization without the show slipping off the air for too long. So we missed an opportunity.

rtime7773 karma

Im working I'm a project that mixes aspects of The Wire with the internet age. Is it possible to send you a draft to get your thoughts or help in any way?

macfound6 karma

Nope. Not here for solicitations and that's not a way to approach with creative material, for legal reasons if nothing else. But good luck.

JohnKitzhaper3 karma

The wire is one of the greatest television series to date, have you incorporated an all encompassing pov in your other works like that of the wire? i.e. (police, streets, courts, schools).

macfound5 karma

Not to that extent.

1girlx3 karma

Hi David,

How would you grade journalists on their coverage of the candidates in this US election? Is the media too focused on presenting an opposing side, even when there isn't a compelling argument to be made?

macfound7 karma

The fact that we know so much of Clinton's email history, her tax history, her charity donors and her official duties -- and Trump is a closed book -- makes for asymmetrical warfare. We are more excited by theoretical corruptions and affronts than actuality. Witness the astonishing indifference to Trump's influence peddling with two state attorney generals. That's not inherent bias by reporters, but it is a systemic imbalance to which the press as a whole seems both susceptible and, at points, indifferent.

GeraldBrennan2 karma

Love The Wire! A couple questions:

1) What are your favorite TV series that you haven't worked on? 2) What's your writing routine like, and how do you balance it with other duties?

macfound5 karma

I wish I had anything to do with "Slings and Arrows." Three seasons of Canadian-produced magnificence. Enjoy.

macfound3 karma

Oh, my routine is to brood on the story and wait too long and then write like hell to try to make the deadline.

ryano9932 karma

If possible, would you have made another season of The Wire?

macfound5 karma

Answered above. Thx.

ReliableSource2 karma

I'm a big fan of your work, and your prose is something I aspire to in my own writing. My question is: how is your prose so fucking good?

macfound3 karma

Reading other folks. Rewriting. Thx.

aj5dv2 karma

How do you feel about Larry Hogan?

macfound8 karma

As a person, he seems okay. I was ashamed of him when his response to drowning women and children was to say that there was no room for refugees in my state. I think he shamed my state in that ugly moment.

Jbeckerasaurus2 karma

Hey David.

How's Baltimore in 2016 compare to when you were working for the Sun?

macfound3 karma

The police deterrent has collapsed. The rate of violence is therefore, high. The black community is woke to the excesses and affronts of mass incarceration, the drug war and militarized policing styles. Police morale has collapsed. All of these things are linked in delicate ways, and some of them, of course, represent essential and necessary change. But some of them represent real cost.

akornblatt2 karma

People keep telling me I should watch the Wire. As the creator, what can you say to convince me to watch it?

macfound4 karma

It's definitely better than having a lit cigar pressed into your ass.

irregular_fan1 karma


macfound3 karma

Mr. Pena Nieto allowed himself to be used and misused.