Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. $12 for 12 weeks.
News You Don't Say

Covering the quaint little people

A fellow editor takes note of this passage from a New York Times article out of Quinapondan, Philippines:

 “My people are starving,” he tells the government workers, whose requisition notebooks do not favor this rural flyspeck, population 16,525.

It's all in perspective. Before I became a big-time journalist and subordinate member of the East Coast liberal media establishment, I grew up in a little tobacco-farming town, Elizaville, Kentucky, population then about 100. The county seat, Flemingsburg, had about 2,000. For me, a town of 16,525 would not have been insignificant.

It's not just the Times that comes off as looking haughty with "flyspeck" remarks; you can find it in wire services and even in The Baltimore Sun. It's not just dismissive of people we don't know much about in the Philippines; it's about people who live in Flyover Country here, or even a couple of neighborhoods over.

The markers of unconscious condescension are easy to spot. Rural towns are sleepy, their residents often leading a hardscrabble existence. Working-class or poor people in cities live in gritty neighborhoods. Clothes, diet, and speech patterns are worthy of remark, as if an anthropologist had discovered a hitherto-unknown aboriginal culture.

You sometimes get the sense in reading a reporter's dispatches that earlier in the day Alfred was laying out a notebook and ballpoint for him in stately Wayne Manor as he knotted his cravat.

Journalists can write, and ought to write, about people in distress, poor people, people with different social and cultural values, and write about them in clear and specific detail.

But taking a superior tone about them and their circumstances is just snotty.

 

 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Comments
Loading