Not Our Reputation!

This is a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago on my tumblr, but I think it’s worth the repost.

At 29.2 percent, Oregon has the highest rate of child food instability of all 50 states, and David Sarasohn is wailing over our besmirched reputation.

His Oregonian article titled “An Oregon magazine cover we’d rather cover up” discusses the “humiliating” Nov. 27 Parade magazine cover story featuring suggestions of how people can help their fellow citizens this holiday season. It’s suggestion number two that humiliates David Sarasohn: “Feed hungry children in Oregon.”

It seems this idea hit home with a lot of people. Ellen Dully, associate director of development at Oregon Food Bank, told Sarasohn that OFB has received donations from “nearly all 50 states, including a few donors from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii” for a grand total of 660(ish) contributions amounting to $38,000.

The proper response to that? “Wow. Thank you.” Sarasohn’s response?

Which helps, even if it feels a little like the money came in because Oregon’s hungry kids were out on the nation’s streets holding a hat. One contributor from Georgia said he’d always enjoyed coming here for Cycle Oregon and was shocked to hear what Oregon’s child food insecurity numbers were like.

That visitor reaction won’t make it into a state tourism brochure.

What the hell? Almost thirty percent of our state’s children aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from, and you’re concerned about our fucking tourism?

Sarasohn then goes on to quote the US Conference of Mayors report’s conclusion that, due to likely increases in requests for food assistance but likely decreases in resources devoted to food assistance, “local officials see maintaining the food supply as the biggest challenge they will face during the next year.” That sobering statement is followed, I shit you not, with:

We could end up on more magazine covers, again for the wrong reasons.

David, I’d like to introduce you to the point. You seem to be missing it. The bad news in this story is not the blow these rankings will serve to our state’s image. The horror here is not magazine covers suggesting that people help us. The bad news is that this exists. Stories like this bring attention to the issue, and as your pearl-clutchingly narcissistic article shows, stories like Parade’s work. Oregon has a huge problem feeding our children, and thanks to Parade’s article, we now have $38,000 more to work with. $38,000! Directly to the food banks! That is fantastic news. It is the only thing about this whole situation that doesn’t suck – the willingness of people to help their fellow humans. This should not bring you humiliation; it should bring you gratitude.

At least, it would if your priorities were in the right place. Now, I know David Sarasohn didn’t pick his headline. That’s the job of the copy editor. But a copy editor sources their headline from the copy itself. The headlines are the tl;dr of the newspaper, and, at least to the copy editor for this article, the overall theme of the article was “An Oregon magazine cover we’d rather cover up.”

In case that isn’t clear enough, I’ll put it in less allusive terms: “Starving kids are bad, but not as bad as people knowing that Oregon is full of starving kids. We wish Parade had kept its big mouth shut.”

Posted on January 2, 2012, in Journalism, Privilege, Social Justice, WTF. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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