Monday, January 31, 2011

the false narrative of small town slang

There is a common critique of journalists that they often let an internal narrative color their reporting, to the point where they simply parrot back the narrative in their head rather than report the facts on the ground (see here for a discussion of this).

My hometown of Chico got its spotlight in the sun recently because its favorite son Aaron Rogers is the star quarterback of the Packers about to play in the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, the NYT's article is a near perfect example of journalists letting a narrative do the talking when the facts blatantly contradict their claims:

The usual slang words like awesome or cool are not heard much. Nice is in. As in: “You won the lottery? Nice.

The narrative this spins is that small towns are all Mayberrys where everyone is pure and innocent and righteous and better than them damned city-folk. It has been evoked routinely in political reporting.

I'm a Chico boy. I graduated from Chico jr. High and walked across the street and graduated from Chico High then walked across the street and graduated from Chico State*. And I can assure you that awesome and cool are every bit as frequent there as anywhere else (personally, I had an unhealthy fondness for hella back in 1987). And believe me, if you won the lottery in Chico, no one would say nice. They would say, "No fukkin way! No fukkin way! Really! No fukkin way!" ... just like everywhere else.

*no joke, those three schools are literally across the street from each other.

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