Hopefully the reader will forgive me for going a little bit Post Modern and delving into that thing called narrative. I’ve done it before of course, but this time is different, at least in my mind, because the evidence is splattered on the front page as it were.I happened to be out of town last weekend doing some celebrating with my wife’s family along with a little tourism in the Hudson Valley. As we were settling in for the night in our hotel room I opened the browser in my phone and up popped this headline:
Pretty devastating. Somewhere in Springfield, I mean there’s the city’s skyline and a Springfield police cruiser, some poor child had died under suspicious circumstances. I opened the article and read it. A horrible story, an awful story, but despite the photograph, it had taken place nowhere near the City of Homes nor had any of the individuals in the story any connection to my hometown at all. It was just a story about violence and dysfunction linked to poverty and homelessness so the Springfield skyline seemed the way to go. Another reader commented directly to the reporter about the same idea and the reporter noted that the photo was selected by “someone at Masslive” and later the picture accompanying the story was changed to a Weymouth Police badge.
So it was just an innocent mistake? That is precisely the point. There is no grand conspiracy, no sinister forces out there trying to make this city and others like it look worse than they are, it is simply that the default position is to blame cities first. This idea is inverted in a very illustrative way, as I have previously pointed out, in the area of mass school shootings which have taken place exclusively in white, wealthy suburbs, and yet every time another mass school shooting occurs in a white, wealthy suburb the first thing expressed is that this white, wealthy suburb is the last place you’d expect this type of thing to happen, which is like walking into “Dom and Luigi’s Pizza Shop of Pizza Pizzeria” and being surprised to find pizza on the menu.
As we returned home on Sunday I once again popped on to the local newspaper’s online outlet and noticed a strange little fact. On Thursday evening an “uncooperative” victim had been shot in the buttocks just a block over from my residence. As the story developed it was clear that it was a case of “knucklehead on knucklehead” gang related idiocy. A serious incident to be sure, but not earth shaking. As I scrolled down the list of headlines I noticed that three of the 17 Springfield stories on Sunday night, nearly 72 hours later, were focused on this one incident. That’s 20% of the “front page” to one 72 hour old incident with no one seriously hurt and nothing much new in the story because the self acknowledged gang member victim isn’t cooperating.
(Despite the confusion betwixt the South End and Six Corners neighborhoods in the headlines, these are referring to the same incident) I’m leaving the time indicator on my phone to demonstrate that these were listed at the same time among the top stories. I promise you I did not click through to “additional stories”, all three were on the front page:
So we have one story of poverty and violence in no way linked to the city connected thereto by putting a photograph of the downtown as its header, and one legitimately Springfield related, if obviously minor, story available thrice under the Springfield heading all on the same weekend. Once again, it should come as no surprise to anyone that beliefs regarding Springfield’s dangerousness and dysfunction are greatly exaggerated.