Criticism of the way in which local media covers various topics in Springfield in particular, and regarding urban places more broadly has diminished here because, for the most part, I’ve had my say and gotten it out of my system. Death Race 2016 was an enormous part of that; actually documenting as it happened just how much more dangerous the human-automobile interface is than whatever minimal carnage and mayhem occurs on even the toughest streets of a city like Springfield for an entire year both sated my thirst for urban exoneration and filled me with sadness that comes with the narrating the constant premature loss of life we insist upon inflicting on ourselves through our obsession with and worship of the car.
In other ways the coverage has noticeably improved. I wouldn’t ascribe much of the improvements in local coverage to my critique, for the most part I would guess that the pulse of development in the downtown from MGM to Union Station has given people in the media a more positive perspective on the city just as the generalized “magic feather effect” has permeated the zeitgeist more broadly among outsiders. These improvements have included less focus on ordinal numbers where murders are concerned, some slight awareness of road design and automobile speed in connection to pedestrian fatalities, and fewer scare stories on non-events like “shootings” with no witnesses, victims, or evidence.
On the other hand there are areas where I question not so much the motives, as the judgement of local media. Just last week a story, like many stories, was posted to the WWLP 22 News website tagged as Local News which actually covered a horrible, violent crime in Atlanta, Georgia:
The headline was enough to tell the gruesome story. I guarantee that many “local” media consumers assumed the event occurred either in Springfield or Holyoke. Both local television news outlets do this; tagging particularly unusual stories with some prurient or violent angle as local news. I assume it’s done not as an effort to slander Springfield, but to distinguish those stories from “National” or “World” news, which in their view would be stories which have an impact on the national or worldwide level. Thus a panel at UMass discussing climate change might be tagged as world news, but an 8 year old killing a 3 year old sibling in Birmingham, Alabama would be tagged as “local”. Whatever the motive, it obscures rather than clarifies and so I warn my readers to take note.
In a similar way the local newspaper of record will key every report about any crime which is being adjudicated in any of Springfield’s courtrooms to Springfield News,whether or not the crime occurred in the city or involved anyone from the city, and yet will often not tag stories about business and cultural events which occur in the city as relating to Springfield even when the events take place in the city with entities from the city.
I’m terrible at tagging my own essays on Rational Urbanism, and so I understand that this also does not likely come from any ill will on the part of the reporters, but if a crime story can be placed in multiple news feeds, including “Springfield”, then so can a charitable event, or a concert.
Small things. Things are going in the right direction when these are among the strongest criticisms I can raise.