Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Between The Lines

One of the nation's most iconic nonprofit organizations, founded 166 years ago in England as the Young Men's Christian Association, is undergoing a major rebranding, adopting as its name the nickname everyone has used for generations —The New York Times, July 12, 2010

Stephanie Strom, in an article for the New York Times, advised the Village People to change the words to their popular song because “the lyrics in your biggest hit need an update. The organization previously known as the Y.M.C.A. is henceforth to be called ‘the Y.’''

      Neat. Of course, the writing itself is  a reporter’s lead advising us that    things change (and to keep reading),  but it also offers insight into how  news is reported. Anyone who has ever  read a local story in  the  newspaper knows mistakes happen, and especially for those close  to the  event. Even the New York Times can make a mistake, or slant facts  that  often highlight a point unrelated to the story. This can be  unintentional or  deliberate, as many detractors to the New York Times will  attest.

But this is not about the New York Times; rather a look at what reporters are trying to tell us. The article in the New York Times uses a source, unmentioned, that reads like a public relations press release. This article is not a serious piece of investigative reporting, but illustrates a weakness in all journalism.

Strom reports that the Y's new name coincides with its efforts to emphasize the impact its programs have on youth, healthy living and communities.

“Its affiliate in Sioux City, Iowa, for instance,” she reports, “is working to change zoning regulations to promote sidewalks, which it hopes will encourage more people to walk.”

This is great. Walking is important. Unfortunately, the affiliate in Sioux City, Iowa, at one time, was surrounded by sidewalks. In fact, in the past those who visited the affiliate were right downtown, where walking around was what people did.

Sidewalks work great, and Sioux City boasted an exceptional system. In fact, even someone a good distance away in the city could easily get to the downtown transit hub and walk to the Siouxland Y (or could have).

The women's Y, a few blocks away, had similar walk-up service.

It is interesting that the Y in Sioux City is doing its part to help people walk more. Perhaps this is because the location of the new affiliate in South Sioux City is built beside a park in a suburban-like area.

A few years ago the Siouxland Y decided to move from its urban center in downtown. Not far really, but more sensible perhaps. The Y.W.C.A. building had been abandoned, and the Y.M.C.A. building, which had become the Siouxland Y had closed its residential facility.

Although once a clean and inexpensive place to room, the men's housing did not age well, and it was reported to house vermin. In fact, a man living in a room upstairs in the 1980s said hot takeout brought cockroaches streaming out of a hole in the wall.

There is no question the Siouxland Y needed a new home, but many believed leaders should have rebuilt in the downtown location. In fact, some members left the affiliate because it was moving across the river.

Ironically, the downtown boasts four major parking ramps, as well as its huge transit hub. A parking ramp is only four blocks away from the old building.

The original article, written by Strom, has appeared in many publications.  The new Siouxland Y is in an area where there is little need for sidewalks (as of yet), although it too can be reached by walking from a South Sioux City bus stop. There are also many new parking lots close to the building.

One reason for the move, according to employees working the front desk before the Y left downtown, was better parking. The old area had limited downtown parking (the ramps were blocks away and cost money), and for those in a hurry after a busy day, it was impossible to park close to the building. The real story here is that the Siouxland Y moved into the suburbs.

Kids in the Sioux City, Iowa, public school system use to say “believe nothing of what you hear, and only half of what you see,” or at least a kid named John said it a lot.

"Believe only half of what you see?”

The park-like setting of the new "Y" needs sidewalks so members can get out and walk around in the park more, or from where the bus stops, or from their cars apparently. The people over there need to walk more—just not downtown where there are too many sidewalks.

And the new building?

It is a wonderful facility; but still, true understanding is a process of actively thinking. Sometimes the New York Times and all good reporting get it right. Sometimes not. It’s up to us to figure out the difference.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds great. Keep up the good work!

July 16, 2010  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home