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.