Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Ground-up Perspective -- at the Washington Post and in Youngstown

Predictably, some folks were unhappy with Anne Hull's recent Washington Post article on how the recession is affecting Youngstown.  They complained that the article never mentioned all the great things going on, all those jobs being created at the Business Incubator or the area's potential for green technology jobs.  They're understandably tired of Youngstown's story being a tale of economic struggle.  And they're right, that it's an old story.

It's also a true story.  And while some reporters write versions of that story without visiting Youngstown, Anne does the real work, journalism from the ground up.  That kind of reporting comes from asking a lot of questions not just of people in official positions but of people on the street, in the parking lot, at the grocery store.  It comes from careful observation, and it comes from understanding how to look at a situation through the perspective of the unofficial -- of the ordinary people whose lives are so often affected by social and economic forces over which they have little control. 

That's the kind of reporting that led Hull to a Pulitzer Prize, for her reporting with Dana Priest, on the conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  In our interview, Anne talks about how she and Priest pursued that story and about her reporting since on the experiences of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. 

That's also the kind of reporting we need to listen to here in Youngstown.  I'm all for drawing attention to our assets and achievements.  There's more to Youngstown's story than our continuing economic struggles.  So, too, is there more to our story than Youngstown 2010, the YBI, and YSU.  If 10,000 people in our community lose their jobs over the course of two years, we need to pay attention.  We need to understand what that's like and how people are surviving.  We may not like what we read in stories like Anne's, but we need to listen to them nonetheless.

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