WUSA9’s Russ Ptacek is getting up in cabbies’ faces again.
In December the reporter launched an investigation into claims that D.C. cab drivers are bypassing potential passengers who are black, out of fear that they won’t pay the fare. Ptacek has now put together an online form for anyone who feels they’ve been wronged by a driver.
“I’m hoping this will do what speed cams have done to speeding, and what red light cams have done at intersections,” he told FishbowlDC. “Every night, instead of just undercover WUSA9 personnel, every passenger will have their phone camera to record the truth on D.C. streets.”
Ptacek’s previous reporting… involved two black male WUSA9 employees flagging down cabs to take them to the Southeast area. If a driver refused, camera-ready Ptacek would approach the driver and ask why. A similar report airs tonight at 11 p.m.
The new online form allows passengers to send their own videos of alleged discrimination taking place straight to WUSA9. Ptacek said he has worked with the Taxi Cab Commission, which says it will review each video he sends their way. Any discrimination that checks out is supposed to result in a $500 fine for the driver.
“The important thing to remember,” Ptacek said, “is that D.C. cabs are required to take you anywhere in D.C., Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, Fairfax County, Arlington and Alexandria. If they say no, please have your camera rolling and send it to me.”
Asked if he would describe this as a type of “activist journalism,” Ptacek said he’d rather call it advocacy journalism. “Advocacy is a big part of our mission here to level the playing field, especially when it comes to eliminating discrimination,” he said.