Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Washington Shitty Paper

My editor, Ryan, has a top-flight article today in DCist which ably rebuts the City Paper's recent contention that everyone is leaving the District in droves, leaving only the rats and the condo-developers, who we are left to presume by the City Paper are manning every corner of our fair city, building away, because it's something their doctor prescribed them to do. The CP article, which describes the DC exodus, already in progress as "epic"--you know, like, Gilgamesh and stuff--bases it's conclusions primarily on a website going offline, which caused a decrease in the number of times the slogan "city living dc style" was used in conversation and online.

Yep, it sure sounds like the Perfect Storm. Just ask the people who just moved into the formerly abandoned/ now-renovated building next to the Casa Del Pueblo on the formerly moribund Columbia Road between 14th and 15th, NW. Those people act as if the city was building a Bed Bath and Beyond somewhere near them! What fools!

At any rate, the CP's article is a classic failure at conforming to the real world, and Ryan delivers a solid argument why. The larger problem, however, is brought up by DCist commenter "Mount Pleasanter":

Here is a fun game I've been playing for years. Get together a group of friends and each one of you pick out one of the sources quoted in the City Paper cover story. For the next few weeks watch the CP's letters to the editor. If your source is the one that writes in and says what a hack job the CP did, misquoting them or taking what they said out of context, you win!! A winner guaranteed every week.

The CP is solely out for the splashy article and will skew their writing accordingly. If you don't believe me, ask a few folks who write for them (or used to).

That's a game you can play with awesome regularity. Do you give out double points when the person misquoted is misquoted EVEN AS THEY BACK UP the author's central argument? I've seen letters like that.

But it's more than wanting a splashy article to lead That Which Is Fact by the nose. On the Features side (the Arts/Events side remains consistently good, with the exception of their horrible music coverage--and the CP runs Food articles of awesome comprehensiveness), the City Paper has a grand agenda, and it is this: getting a good story, or wrong righted, or an injustice...rejusticized, has always been of secondary importance. The primary function of the City Paper is to provide the record of a parallel universe in which its writers are crusading heroes to the poor and dispossessed. It's Pay It Forward-style schlock lived out loud: "Thank God these downtrodden people are here to bring meaning to my life!"

In journalistic argot, this practice is called "pulling a Cherkis."

Sometime ago, the City Paper ran an article on the troubles faced by Mormon single women of a certain age and the tricky balance of hewing to a faith while remaining true to their womanly needs and wants. I remember thinking, "Wow! This is a really great article!" And it was a real cut above the CP's usual output--and many readers expressed similar thoughts in the letters column for the next few weeks.

The reason it was a cut above? Somehow, it got in without the usual prescribed dose of disingenuousness.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

The CityPaper "bases it's conclusions primarily on a website going offline"--that, and years and years of census data, but whatever.

The Deceiver said...

Census data that appears to be going down in a certain amount of flame. Not much of a lede to bury, but whatever.

Kriston said...

The CP piece draws some alarming conclusions and makes a few important omissions?particularly surprising to me, the authors don't even mention that the Census numbers don't reflect any influx of Gulf Coast refugees, who could very well cover the spread. Also, the lede is just plain awful.

But Ryan's rebuttal has some glaring probs. Drawing from the Economic Census data doesn't very well qualify the population Census data unless it's explained how the data are related; and it's totally conceivable that the population could shrink while entertainment receipts soared. If families leave and single people with more disposable income replace them, you might expect that effect.

If Ryan's point is only to say that it doesn't matter that the population is (purportedly) shrinking, then I agree?but that's not a rebuttal, per se. Neither is his closer: DC has for a long time been the Federal hub and provided unique amenities, but its population has nevertheless fallen historically.

Kriston said...

Again, that lede: If "city living, dc style" were to disappear for lack of interest and official enthusiasm, it could just as easily indicate that the city doesn't need to pitch itself at all. Curiously enough, "sex, we promise you will like it," "beer, try some today," and "no really, leigh lezark is attractive" are all underfunded campaigns.

The Deceiver said...

Not to beat the dead horse, Kriston, but your super-secret, aforementioned girlfriend was named one of the Influentials by NYMag.

Kriston said...

Most Influential . . . in my pants?