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The Washington Post got itself in a teensy-weensy bit of trouble with a recent Travel section article on a fabulous regional escape. A piece by freelancer Pamela Redmond Satran touted the down-home joys of Lynchburg, Va., complete with recommendations on where to eat, drink, and shop. It ran a bit afoul of the neutrality police, however, in this graph (emphasis mine):

That’s part of what makes Lynchburg, Va., so wonderful. Few people go there expecting much. It’s out of the way, seen as a poor relation to posh Charlottesville, an hour to the north, and genteel Lexington, an hour northwest. Its reputation as home of conservative Christian-oriented Liberty University and the late Jerry Falwell hardly bodes well for style, culture and night life.

Oh, shit—-more fodder for all those liberal-media-promoting conspiracy theorists. And even more fodder a several lines down, where Satran talks about where to get a soy latte.

Anyhow, someone complained to Post ombudsman Andy Alexander about the apparent bias in suggesting that conservatism is inconsistent with culture. Alexander agreed, and so did Nancy McKeon, the travel section editor,
who told the ombo, “Mea culpa.” In letting the line slip through, McKeon reasoned that, hey, a town with a conservative Christian university wouldn’t be a hopping place for nightlife.

Satran’s take on the situation is a touch more curious. Take a look:

“What I meant was that people from more cosmopolitan places like Washington and New York might not guess that a city with a conservative Christian culture would have great style, culture, and nightlife. But obviously I believe that Lynchburg does have those things. Why do city folk assume that a conservative Christian town won’t have cool shops and groovy bars? For some logical reasons, as Nancy McKeon points out, especially when it comes to the nightlife part of the theory: Lots of conservative Christians don’t drink, for instance, or dance. And for some reasons that have everything to do with stereotyping and prejudice. I intended in my story to break down rather than propagate such prejudice.”

OK, well, if that was what Satran was trying to say, why didn’t she just write it that way?

Photo courtesy of Nannette Saunders