Friday, November 20, 2009

Once again, The Post just doesn't get Columbia Heights

I am sure a number of folks have read Petula Dvorak's column in The Washington Post today, "Columbia Heights still has far to go." If you haven't, go ahead; I'll wait.

Once again the paper takes misguided look at Columbia Heights. It was a just a few months ago that the WaPo jovially wrote: "Columbia Heights is still edgy. A few blocks from the Target, semi-permanent police cars monitor the muggings and shootings that still happen ..." And as today's headlines states, the neighborhood does indeed have some ways to go. So why doesn't the newspaper make an effort to use its award-winner editorial staff to take a real look at Columbia Heights, rather than skirt around the issue of how the boom of gentrification is affecting a one of the city's most diverse neighborhoods.

The Prince of Petworth posted a letter from local ANC commissioner Cliff Valenti, who rightfully addresses the problems with Dvorak's column:
Your column today would have been really good if it wasn't for the intentional deception you added at the end to portray newcomers as shallow self-absorbed yuppies. PrinceofPetworth's blog had a section dedicated to this murder where people listed all sorts of ways they are involved in trying to reduce crime, but your article referenced a separate issue about service at a coffee bar as if it was related to this event.
Never before have I lived in an area where newcomers and old timers alike are working together so hard to improve a community. Some of the same people who frequent coffee bars are working with groups like Mentoring Works, In the Streets, and DC Youth Power Network. In this area of Ward 1 black/white rich/poor are working together in a lot of creative ways to improve life for everyone living here, rather than move out to the suburbs where they can live in peaceful bliss. I really resent that you chose to lay insult to our diverse community rather than explore the positive ways people are working to improve the situation around here.
Cliff Valenti
Chairman, ANC1A


Alex said...

I don't have a problem with that article. It's telling things from the people most affected by crime, the people who are forced by circumstance to live among the violent predators causing all the crime.

While thankfully I personally don't know any "shallow self-absorbed yuppies" here, if you look at too many of the comments on PoP, or the recent anonymous comment on New Columbia Heights which suggested that the housing in which the shooting took place should be "raised," you realize that such people are among us. People really do bitch about their lattes as if it's the biggest problem in the world. It's not the whole story, but it's part of it.

Anonymous said...

CH has a huge target on its back for the media. It makes a great story to talk about how a gentrifying area struggles to rid itself of the crime and violence.

unfortunately, everytime something like this happens, it will create a big media buzz until they find some other story to sell newspapers

Anonymous said...

Copy edit alert: You're showing your age. It's DVORAK's column, not Clark's. (Petula Clark was a singer in the 1970s ...)

Jamie said...

@alex, the problem is that her article (particularly that parting jab) makes a vast generalization.

Read it again and replace "Columbia Heights" with "The United States," and replace "Prince of Petworth" with "People Magazine."

What is her point? That despite wealth and development, there are still poor people? That crime doesn't magically vanish one year after a Target opens? Wow. Shocker. Hello: welcome to life.

Now as for the parting PoP jab, do you think it's shallow and self-absorbed to go to a movie and discuss it as long as crime exists in the world? Do you stop asking businesses to give you good service because someone, somewhere, got shot that day:?

Would you find any value in article called "The United States has far to go" that discussed the fact that despite 100 years of development and investment and social programs, there are still poor people -- and ended by contrasting an interview with some people in Section 8 housing by saying "and over at the Toyota dealership, someone complained about their car being repaired improperly."

Well send them to hell for owning a car when some other people don't. Or wanting a decent cup of coffee and daring to discuss it in a community forum, the same community where crime exists.

It's irrelevant, plain and simple, and is bad journalism. If her point is that the "haves" are callous and indifferent, then she better back it up with more than a post from a local blog. Last I checked, it's still permissible even among the most politically correct to live your life, go to work, and deal with your own problems, despite the existence of crime.

Spud Lite said...

... Go Jamie!