The News & Record has been running for a few months columns by Amy Murphy, a “homeless advocate” who earned the nickname “Chicken Lady” after a stretch of salvaging fried chicken from restaurants and redistributing it to some of the city’s itinerant population, something I understand, she no longer does.

Her columns — all about homelessness and panhandlers, which she neatly conflates — firmly deposit the city’s poor into the “other” category, exploring solutions that exist solely to make them stay away from decent people.

Now, there has been a bit of irresponsible reporting concerning the homeless in local media of late. But I expect better of the N&R. I have written for the editorial page of the N&R, most recently about five years ago; every sentence I submitted got scrutinized by a team of editors, with no fewer than three rounds of bounce-backs forcing me to defend my theses like a doctoral student.

How, I want to know, does this drivel make the cut?

This is a newspaper that 10 years ago took home national awards for Lorraine Ahearn’s reporting on Greensboro’s homeless, whom she treated with dignity and poignance. Her series Winter People — which she eventually turned into a book — should be required reading for anyone who endeavors to document the lives of the homeless and poor.

My how things have changed.

Forget about the Chicken Lady for a minute. What I want to know is how the daily newspaper in the state’s third-largest city went from the go-to source for honest reporting on the city’s most vulnerable residents to a mouthpiece for the people who just want them to go away, perpetrated in amateurish scrawl that should be relegated to the sort of fringe websites where the ignorant and cruel go to hear their malformed opinions echoed back to them?

That’s a rhetorical question; I already know the answer.

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