The deserving of coverage

A friend emailed with a gripe the other day and it’s one
that I’ve often had myself. Having spent much of my life in medium-sized college
towns throughout the Midwest, an inferiority complex can build after a fashion
when it comes to dealing with the way the “important areas” of the country view

He’s working in Arizona. It’s not the Midwest, but it’s
definitely not close enough to the Sunset Strip to make anyone important out West
give a shit.The state is at the point where it is broke.

We’re not
talking “Oh, gee, we’ve got a cash flow problem.” We’re talking rolling pennies
for a gallon of gas broke. We’re talking Ramen noodle broke.The state is
thinking about shutting down two-thirds of its parks.

The state is also considering paying employees with ‘Zona
Bucks or whatever you want to call bullshit IOUs that don’t cover the mortgage.
Real estate is failing at massive rates and isn’t that far behind California in
terms the “you’re really paying through the nose for a crappy home” factor. The
current level of screwed-ness indicates that the state’s shortfall will be
approximately 16 percent of its budget, compared to California’s 15 percent (at
worst; yes, I know budget sizes differ, but hang with me on this.)

His point is that there has been almost no coverage of this
outside of the Arizona Republic, a couple brief TV stories that centered on the
announcement of being broke and some blogging about who’s to blame.(Freepers are on it. Who do you think
is to blame? Probably Socialists or sodomites…)

When Schwartzenegger was taking
California and flushing it down the crapper, we practically had journalists
from Mars showing up to rail about this. A bit of hot Google action reveals
more than 1.7 million hits on this.The 2008-2010 California Budget Crisis has
it’s own detailed Wikipedia page dedicated to it
. I’m surprised that ESPN didn’t dispatch their Draft Day Crew
to the California state house so Jay Bilas could talk about how while the
governor had demonstrated length and upside, Leeland Yee really was the sleeper
pick in sorting out the crisis. (Oh, crap, I hope I didn’t give someone in
Bristol an idea…)

Arizona? Hell, that’s like another planet or something
because it sits on a desert. It’s got old people and bad football (bitter
Packer fan coming out of me). Their basketball team is called The Suns because
they couldn’t call it “The Big Ass Patch of Sand that Nothing Will Grow In” and
Sun is the only other thing they see all the time. (They also overpaid Steve
Nash and then surrounded him with the worst possible team, but that’s a
discussion for another day…) The place is overrun by rattlesnakes and Native
Americans hawking Turquoise jewelry, right?

When my friend brought this all up on a journalism listserv
we subscribe to and queried why the journalists we all know from large national
metros (L.A., WaPo, NYT, WSJ etc.) haven’t gone and looked at Arizona’s issues
in depth, the response was pretty typical. California is more important, NYC
and Cali are media capitals etc. The most insulting response in my mind was
this one:

“I’m sure the national press MIGHT(emphasis in the original)pick up on it if it were
previously reported in local press. That seems to be the way things happen
quite frequently. (i.e. I used to write stories for the Cape Cod Times about
insurance issues, and details would often end up being reported in broader
pieces in the Wall Street Journal later on.) It’s all part of how the system

Yeah, because that’s how it should work: Local journalists
and bloggers and other people who give a crap pour their hard work into
something in hopes that Hairdo X from the Big City will show up and shine a
light on something someone else has already covered. Nothing motivated me more
as a reporter than thinking, “Hey, I bet if I do a really good job of this,
maybe some asshole from the big state paper will steal my idea, fuck it all up
and get credit for it!” Sure.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Palin Perv who believes that
living where I live makes me a “real American.” I don’t dislike people who
choose to live in large cities or to gravitate toward our nation’s most massive
population centers. However, when a crisis hits, people who aren’t in these Meccas
of self-importance are often ignored.

Pols call anything that’s not Cali or the Eastern Seaboard
“flyover states.” The City Folk often refer to our areas as “quiet hamlets” or
“the Heartland.” If they think about us at all, they probably figure we have
nice people, big farms and beautiful sunsets. We’re hardworking rubes who
probable WISH we could find our way to the Big City where we could share a
windowless closet with 12 people for 10 times the mortgage we’re paying for our
six acres. (Or, as one of my former journalism teachers once did, share a
single room in Manhattan with a drug-addicted gay hooker who didn’t believe in Jesus, but rather thought
he was Jesus. That didn’t work out well…) Usually, we are ignored, unless we
live in a swing state during a particularly important November or manage to
have a resident who can kill 17 people and consume parts of them as part of his
diet regimen. For the most part, we are viewed on the national scene the way
Matt Dillon’s character viewed Cameron Diaz’s little brother in “There’s
Something About Mary:”Retards! I love those goofy little bastards.

You can point to all sorts of crises from Katrina on back in
which the Important Media tend to either a) come around really late, show
distain and bug out or b) break out the “this is just terrible… Terrible…” act
for a while until suddenly some jagoff in New York tries banning artificial
sweetener or Angelina Jolie adopts another kid from some country she never
heard of before. Seriously, how long until the national media stops giving a
shit about Haiti because no matter how many times we text in to donate 10
bucks, the place will still be fucked up beyond all recognition? I’m putting
the plus/minus at 12 days, presuming there are no horrific aftershocks or Conan
O’Brien isn’t sent there by NBC to do his newly scheduled 3 a.m. show from a Quonset hut in

People who have larger platforms have larger
responsibilities and they aren’t just to the people around them. If you’re
going to shine a light, do so on things that matter beyond your crowded little
nook of the world. Don’t wait for a natural disaster or a serial killer to jolt
you into taking a look at life beyond Fifth Avenue.

Of course, what the hell do I know? My town only has one
stop light…

13 thoughts on “The deserving of coverage

  1. We’re hardworking rubes who probable WISH we could find our way to the Big City where we could share a windowless closet with 12 people for 10 times the mortgage we’re paying for our six acres.
    And see, we can’t win, because here in the Big City we’re godless heathens who WISH we could be as Real and Close To The Earth and Heart of America-y as you all are.
    I’m sorry, I mean, y’all are.
    I swear, the theme song of modern America is “You’re All Doing Everything Wrong.”
    It’s like the Mommy Wars. No matter what side you’re on, you suck.

  2. I’d rather live in a windowless closet with 12 people than live somewhere where I had todrive. *shudder*
    Fortunately, I don’t have to do either of those things. I live in a cute little bungalow ten minutes’ walk from my city’s downtown core, and the only thing that’d make me happier is rearranging the layout of my house so that the space there is was actually usable. There’s plenty of square footage, but the architect seems to have been one of these clueless turn-of-the-20th-C. men who had absolutely no idea how a house actuallyfunctions (didn’t know or care because he didn’t have to actually, you know, do chores; there were women for that sort of thing), so all the pieces are there, just not in any rational arrangement.
    Also, this may be a Canadian phenomenon because we’re urbanising at an unprecedented pace, and I sure I dunno about where you live, but around where I live, the people out in the deep rural areas aredumb, man. Motherfuckin’dumb. People only live in the deep country here if they ain’t smart enough to make it in a reasonably-sized town. I spent about thirty years one summer in a “regional municipality” [incorporated township] northwest of here where there were twice as many cows as people, and generally, I’d say the cows were smarter and better conversationalists. Less religious, too…

  3. Eh. You meet bone-fucking stupid people no matter where you are.
    And lots of ’em.
    Also, A? You’ve got the worst of both worlds. A big city in flyover country. So you have to deal with perverts and welfare cheats and ugly fat Americans and coastal disdain.
    No wonder Chicago has so many problems.
    And the Bears still suck.

  4. It’s kind of funny because here inPovertyville Oregon, I almost feel that we get too much mention in the big papers and mags. It seems like some stringers from theNew York Times and theNew Yorker have set up shop here, because despite the fact that the entire state’s population is something like three million (i.e. one NYC borough), we get mentions and whole articles far too often for statistical probability. I don’t think I’ve read aNew Yorker in recent years without at least a mention of Oregon in every other issue, and frequently there are big pieces like the recent one on thegroup near Cottage Grove that’s trying to come up with cheap, efficient wood-burning stoves. Even our long-term economic problems have beencovered fairly extensively. Of course, most of it’s about how the hipster lifestyle here is great and the houses are cheaper than Seattle/NYC/LA, which drives young folks to move out here without thinking about how they’re going to survive in the land of 12% unemployment, which leads to the other articles about how Portland’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
    I had an idea for a news network a while back that would just do random news. In addition to a core round-up of the most important news, an algorithm would be used to make sure that every part of the country or the world got its turn.

  5. You know, I am surprised that no one in the bigger media outlets has done any kind of story on ALL the states and their budget crises. Because a LOT of states are in deep shit and I just kind of, you know, think that’s an important story. For the nation.
    But then I live in one of the most ignored states ever: New Mexico. But that’s fine with me. We can do without any attention.

  6. Not sure what having a coastal paper talk about your state budget woes would accomplish. empathy? Advice? Rescue? I’m pretty sure if you can’t fix it, the federal system won’t be able to fix it either. Are your congresscritters voting against the war budgets so you can have roads and hospitals? Probably not eh?

  7. Keith, I think the point is that an American state going flat broke is big news — not because we’ve got to be oh-so-concerned about all the states, not because Arizona wants everyone to send sympathy cards and gift baskets, but because it has a colossal economic impact on the whole country and could be a big flashing neon sign: “WARNING! Huge problems ahead! Time to get REALLY serious about the economy!”
    The national corporate media fails us all almost every day. Ignoring stories like this is just one example of hundreds…

  8. The lack of national coverage is simple: Arizona can never be recoganized as a “failed state” like that comie pinko ghey-loving liberal California because we are governed by President John McCain and Vice President Jon Kyl.

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