While I usually appreciate the ironic appropriation of official formats to cleverly convey a message, I found the cover story for your Oct. 10 issue (“Washington City Paper Seeks Journalism Bankruptcy”), a mock legal brief, bizarre and insulting. Do you really mean to ridicule and alienate your own readers, upon whom you depend for your livelihood? It seems that the City Paper is displacing the blame for its own poor decisions on its readership, considered, in this piece, as an absolute monolith of idiocy.
Frankly, you’ve done a poor job adapting to the new media environment. On the one hand, I sympathize with your predicament, and I agree that it’s a shame that many people seem to prefer the stupid, superficial, poorly written ephemera of blogs like Brightest Young Things to quality journalism of the kind that you have historically produced. On the other hand, your response to this trend is short-sighted and ill-conceived. Rather than redouble your efforts to provide the kind of in-depth, intrepid reporting that only trained journalists can provide, you have, apparently, opted to transform your paper into something more like those stupid blogs, reprinting blog posts as “news.” Did you ever stop to think that these articles appear old and irrelevant in your print edition when the reader knows that they originally appeared a few days ago in blog form?
One of the strange developments of our hyper-immediate, interconnected modern world is that the print newspaper, which once was considered an ephemeral thing, has attained a degree of permanency or timelessness that it never had before—particularly for a weekly. It therefore has an added value of the kind that can’t be reproduced online. But instead of recognizing this, you have, apparently, decided to deemphasize or even eliminate many of your long-format, narrative stories in favor of the stupid ephemera of blogs, which don’t ever deserve to reach print. A compelling feature story is, obviously, essential to the print edition of your paper—it is precisely what compels a person to pick it up—and yet you are forsaking this format for the flighty fickleness of blogs?
City Paper, you are the anti-blog: recognize your role as such, and leave the blogging to hacks. Other local or neighborhood papers, like the Dupont Current, have proven that quality journalism can continue to exist in print. You’d be wise to adjust your journalistic direction toward that model of quality local reporting and arts coverage rather than quitting your readers on the presumption that they’ve all migrated to the insipid world of blogs. That world will asphyxiate as soon as the real journalism upon which it depends withers away.
va is for assessments
Loose Lips’ October 10 column “Toiling in the Shadow” on Paul Strauss and the property tax appeals board intrigued me for two reasons: 1) it is the sort of reporting we never see in the Post, and 2) I held the comparable position here in Arlington for a decade.
While in that assignment (chair of the Board of Equalization of Real Estate Assessments) my colleagues and I reached out to other boards in nearby jurisdictions, including the one in D.C., then headed by a woman whose name I have forgotten. We wanted to see what we could learn from these operations.
We learned nothing useful from the District.
In any mass assessment process some properties will be over-assessed (at least
in the eyes of the owners) and some will be under-assessed. An appeals board rarely hears from anyone except those perceiving overassessment.
We in Arlington started a program to identify underassessed commercial properties, and when we found them, we would raise the assessments, which was within our powers. The District never did that, and probably does not to this day. (As a matter of fact, we once raised the assessment on a major Rosslyn structure by more than $10,000,000!)
In our conversations with the D.C. board we found—this is a few years back—that they had about two-and-a-half times our caseload and used 40 times as much government money. The D.C. bunch had a suite of offices, we had no office of our own; they had three full-time, year-round employees (for an appeals season lasting six months), we had half a person, half the year. We spent something like $25,000 a year on our operation, while D.C. used up $1,000,000.
While many of us on the Arlington BoE had political connections, none of us ever sought campaign contributions from those before us, and we never had any offered to us. This is unlike the situation in D.C. as described by Loose Lips.
What a difference a river makes!
David S. North
check back in 2028
We request that you publish this letter so that we may defend our daughters and our love for them. Amanda Hess’s blog post of September 9 (The Sexist, “Model Crawl”) referred to our preschool-age daughters as would-be JonBenét Ramseys, Britney Spearses, and Lindsay Lohans for the apparent sin of participating in the Society for the Prevention of Blindness’s American Girl Fashion Show. By extension, Ms. Hess implied we are shameless parents for exposing our children to the trauma of clothing measurements.
We agree with the premise that young girls should not be categorized as being too small, too big, or the “right” size. We also agree that putting little girls in beauty pageants is both ridiculous and shameful. Beauty pageants, the fashion industry, advertisers, and Hollywood create unfair stereotypes that lead many girls and women to feel they are unattractive, have a bad figure, or somehow don’t measure up to the current trend. Ms. Hess clearly sought out this event to make that point. However, confronted with no facts to substantiate her preconceived story, she misrepresented this charitable event, insulted our children, and assailed our character as parents.
First, Ms. Hess seems to have confused the American Girl brand with racy clothing or haute couture. The American Girl brand is based on historical period clothes. If there were any indication that their dresses would be anything but tasteful and modest, we would not be involved.
Second, Ms. Hess wrote that our younger daughter was a “misfit” because she did not meet the dimensions of the American Girl outfits, and that she cried when she was told she did not measure up. More accurately, our younger daughter did not cry, but Ms. Hess did not allow mere facts to interfere with her commentary. Even if true, toddlers have a tendency to cry for many reasons (and often for no reason), which makes this hardly newsworthy. It is true that our younger daughter was disappointed. This is not because she was deemed too small but rather because she wants to be just like her big sister. We are delighted that she looks up to her big sister and we frequently have to deal with her disappointment when certain things (e.g., school grades, size) distinguish her from her idol.
Yet Ms. Hess’s biggest misfire was her nonsensical criticism of the children’s measurements. She suggested this harmless charitable event is somehow equivalent to a beauty pageant. The discriminating factor for this event is size because the girls need to be certain dimensions to fit the clothes. The fact that objective measurements, not appearance, would be the criteria for the show convinced us that the event would be appropriate. Ms. Hess seems to equate body measurements with invidious misogyny. Would she find it more equitable to evaluate how “pretty” they are or how “American” they look?
We were angry that Ms. Hess publicized our names and used our family for her rant. But we will lose no sleep knowing that Ms. Hess looks down on us for allowing our daughter to participate in a charitable event featuring tasteful, historical outfits. As parents, we are more concerned that our children recognize it’s what’s on the inside that counts. We rest assured that our daughters have many friends not because they wear trendy clothes but because they are kind and friendly towards others. We are proud that our daughters are as artistic as they are athletic, as gentle as they are tough. We are comforted that our daughters are self-confident and would not be dismayed by Ms. Hess’s misguided contempt by stereotyping them as “would-be Ramseys, Spearses, and Lohans.” We do not seek an apology.
Rather, we invite Ms. Hess to look them up in 20 years to see how mistaken she was.
Mark and Katie Munson