Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Another word on today's WaPo article

As my friends know, ridiculing trend pieces in The Washington Post Style section is one of my favorite hobbies. (See: Laura Sessions Stepp, This article, GOG chats). Yet, last month when I received an e-mail from a reporter looking to talk to neighborhood residents who shop at Target I gladly agreed to be interviewed.

The writer pitched a piece about the DCUSA Target and how it's changing consumer behavior of city residents. It was to be a fun article. Did I know it was going to label all Columbia Heights residents as hipsters; those who are going against the grain by shopping at Target? No. She and the WaPo editors made that assumption. Do I think the paper's coverage, especially that of the neighborhood, is generally sucky? See above. This is the Style section, and that's what you get: 1,300 words that cause readers to often go "Really?" a few dozen times and tsk-tsk-ing it all.

So, please, don't waste your time on posting rude comments on local blogs. I never labeled myself as edgy or hipster, the WaPo did. Sommer at DCist sums up my issues with the article best:

Nevermind what "hipster" means, what the hell is a "post-hipster" or a "quasi-hipster"? Hesse offers nary a single definition in her 1,300 word examination of how the young (and presumably mostly white) people who live in Columbia Heights feel about the changes in the neighborhood and the arrival of Target and the rest of the DCUSA retail complex and its affect on their spending habits.

It's not that this isn't potentially a valid subject for a Style story. The effects of having big box chain stores suddenly plop down in the center of the city is worth writing about. But Hesse's diagnosis of the situation starts out wrong and never manages to right itself.

.... but the idea that anyone ever moved to the neighborhood did so in order to "brag" about how much crime happens near their homes is just insane. Without even dealing with the fact that the vast majority of Columbia Heights residents are still non-white families who might well be happy about the convenience and low prices that Target and Marshall's and the like now afford, a number of actual reasons for choosing the neighborhood immediately spring to mind: convenient location and public transportation, affordability, charming rowhouses, or even, say, liking the vibe of the community. It seems safe to say however that no one, ever, in the history of gentrification, has moved to a neighborhood for the apparently more authentic experience of shopping at a CVS.

Now, if we want to have a real discussion, let's talk about the "city-soft" physique comment in the article. If everyone who lives in Columbia Heights is apparently a skinny "quasi-hipster" with flabby arms and knobby knees then why is the gym crowded all the time?


Anonymous said...

Hahahaha. This is rich. Don't get any whine on your graphic t.

Jamie said...

Andrew, Andrew. What's the point of debating all the characterizations of "everyone who lives in Columbia Heights" that Hesse allegedly makes, if we don't agree that she's talking about "everyone?"

What is more plausible to you? That Monica Hesse, an actual journalist, most likely with a fancy college degree, truly believes every single person in Columbia Heights is a fixie-riding, Pabst-drinking, service-industry employee, and moved here within the last five years? That a square mile of the city was vacant and walled off since 1950, and only these people were allowed to move in once they tore the fence down?

Or that, perhaps, she wasn't talking about every single Columbia Heights resident in that article?

I'll let this die if you will...

Spud Lite said...

We're not Andrew!!!!!!

Jamie said...

Holy crap!!! My bad. Obviously I have been spending too much time online.... I'll be at the mental ward. G'day.