Tragedy and violence occurs in neighborhoods across America. But when it takes place in a less than attractive neighborhood that happens to have mobile or manufactured homes, pejorative verbiage, bias and ignorance often lurk nearby.
“The problems with the ABC  TV news story out of Houston is also a case of media ignorance or bias,” says Brad Nelms, a manufactured home industry professional. “By saying what kind of housing the shooting took place, almost implies that the house had something to do with the crime.”
Nelms rhetorically asks, “When have you ever heard a reporter say, “there’s been a murder in a site-built home”…?”
Marla Carter, ABC 13 out of Houston filed a crime report via broadcast, cable, Twitter and on the station’s website.
Carter’s words and those of the police detective she interviewed, in describing the crime scene where a man’s life was tragically taken by gunfire, were laced with words like “trailer,” “trailer park” and “mobile home,” when most of the visible homes in her videos appeared to be older manufactured homes.
Reaction from manufactured housing industry professionals to the Daily Business News came in the wake of her reports.
Addressing Carter’s reporting nomenclature, “Crime occurs all over America. Apartments, houses, MHC’s, rich and poor communities – it strikes all over,” said Todd Lamb, a Houston, TX metro area manufactured home community owner/operator.
“But manufactured home communities that are well managed or in nicer sides of towns have little to no crime,” stated Lamb, “while those that don’t get the proper attention may tend to have more criminal activity.”
The American Press Institute (API) describes their profession this way, “Journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information. It is also the product of these activities.”
The API elaborates by citing the book, The Elements of Journalism, by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, who identify the essential principles and practices of good journalism. Their opening point is that “Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.”
API’s description of journalists continues, “They must strive to put the public interest – and the truth – above their own self-interest or assumptions,” adding that “Journalists rely on a professional discipline for verifying information.” Further noting that, “Ignoring certain citizens has the effect of disenfranchising them.”
Ignoring, Misrepresenting and Disenfranchising Manufactured Home Residents and Professionals
So what is the truth about crime in pre-HUD Code mobile home parks, or post-HUD Code manufactured home communities?
Nelm’s offers an answer.
“Lisa Tyler, Ph.D. and William P McCarty, Ph.D. have researched this issue of crime in manufactured home communities, and have disproven the old MHC’s and crime myth.” stated Nelms, who linked the comment to an article that includes a download of Professor McCarty’s research into the question.
Nelms elaborated by saying that, “Todd Lamb is correct. Hands-on owners and managers who properly run their manufactured home communities – and lawfully screen for criminal history – will routinely find less crime than conventional housing neighborhoods in the same area.”
What’s in a name?
“Home is where your story begins.” Stacey Epperson, president and CEO of NextStepUS says, quoting Annie Danielson. Epperson likes to emphasize that a “A home is a home,” and points to the Henry David Thoreau quote, shown in the collage below.
Epperson, a former conventional house builder, used to dismiss ‘mobile homes’ too – until she took a closer look at the actual construction and safety features found in contemporary manufactured homes.
Now, her operation embraces them as an important option for quality, affordable living that’s more available to people who may never otherwise qualify for far more costly conventional on-site built housing.
Should journalists covering a story be called upon by their editors and producers to learn the basics about factory-built homes, and the proper use of terminology? Isn’t that part of the information gathering process that the API says is a mark of a good journalist?
About the proper use of nomenclature for a manufactured home, Epperson offers her perspective that a home is a home, and “To call it anything else, is simply wrong.”
MH Professionals, Calling the Media to Account
MH Industry professionals routinely seek to do what’s right – first because it is right, and also because they know that home owners, residents and consumers have choices.
Given that the incomes of most lower- and middle-class Americans has been shrinking for years, and the widely-reported spread of the nation’s affordable housing crisis continues, why do so many in the mainstream media fail to get the solution that’s hiding in plain site, with modern, domestically made, greener and safer manufactured housing?
Why has the media so often failed to connect-the-dots, when even frugal millionaires are buying manufactured homes, so why do so many still misrepresent and thus disenfranchise others who own, seek or may embrace this option?
Karl Radde, at Southern Comfort Homes, who is the Chairman of the Retailers Council of the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) observes, “As in most types of reporting, the stories that get the most traction are the ones that focus on negative aspects, and a quick look at mainstream media in this election year only bolsters this.”
Nelms advocates that the industry should take negative media reports and turn them into opportunities to make lemons into lemonade, and calls for positive action, “However, I believe more than anything that these injustices [against the MH Industry and its home owners] should be motivation for us as an industry to do everything we can to elevate our brand identity.”
Jay Hamilton, executive director of the Georgia Manufactured Housing Association sees it similarly.
Hamilton offered this reaction to negative media accounts. “I have never understood why as an industry we have a tendency to ignore those [stories, issues] that embarrass us versus taking action ourselves. I think sometimes we avoid controversy, concerned it will put a spotlight on the good folks as well.”
Nelms says that it is important for the industry to rail and rally against each example of injustice, or the past history of prejudiced, discriminatory, biased and misleading reporting will continue. ##
(Image credits are as shown above, if not otherwise shown, MHProNews and/or MHLivingNews.)
(Editor’s Note: Matthew Silver is taking some much needed and well-earned time off, and L. A. “Tony” Kovach will be helping fill the Daily Business News role in the interim).
Article submitted by L. A. “Tony” Kovach, to the Daily Business News for MHProNews.