Saturday, February 5, 2011

Prepare, Charlotte, to be toasted - and roasted

To: Residents of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County

On behalf of our fellow journalists, we’d like to apologize in advance for the less-than-thoughtful analysis and reporting on Charlotte that may be conducted before and during the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

It’s a bit of a tradition in journalism for writers and commentators to reflect upon the shortcomings of the cities that host big and important events. The practice goes back at least 30 years: When Detroit was awarded the Republican convention in 1980, Time Mmagazine dismissed the city as “Cleveland without the glitter.”

We’re not proud of that – although it was a pretty good line.

But what we’re trying to say is: Prepare to be trashed, Charlotte.

We know some of you fret about things like this, that our city historically cares a great deal what others are saying about us. Even in our best moments, we tend to want to make sure people are applauding for the right reasons. On Tuesday, when Michelle Obama announced Charlotte’s selection in an e-mail to supporters, the line that got the most attention was one that noted the Queen City’s “great barbecue.” This prompted convulsions of self-examination across the city, including from our mayor, about whether our barbecue was, in fact, great – or if it should be something that defines us.

The answer: It’s not great, but 95 percent of visitors won’t know the difference. And even if it were great, critics from Dallas and Kansas City would harrumph at it.

Because journalists can sometimes be, well, a little snooty.

Really, it’s true.

This is especially so with national media, who tend to take offense when big events require them to be in cities not named New York or Los Angeles. That may be doubly so when those cities are in the South. At the 1996 Olympic Summer Games, for example, writers spent two weeks being horrified that Atlanta was representing our country to a global audience.

“A city with no charm, no grace and no ambience,” said the San Francisco Examiner’s John Crumpacker, who added delicately: “I’ll miss Atlanta like a boil on the butt.”

Atlanta, of course, did its part to live down to the criticism. Transportation was a disaster, and volunteers were ill-prepared. “The Redneck Olympics,” people called it, which was only slightly worse than “The Glitch Games,” which is what the BBC called Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Games after organizational mishaps that included buses not being able to make it up the hills to ski events.

To be fair, regular folks seemed to have a fine time at those events – at least the Atlanta Games, which I attended.

But journalists can sometimes be, well, a little picky.

No, seriously.

You might see this in more subtle ways in the next 18 months. Writers will note how Charlotte has made some great strides toward being a city like theirs, or they’ll rave about how Charlotte has two or three restaurants they’d go to back home – if, you know, all the good ones back home had a two-hour wait.

Or, there’s a possibility that our city won’t be julienned at all, as happened with Denver, which was widely praised during the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Coincidentally, Denver and DNC officials arranged for free neck, shoulder and finger massages all week in the media room.

In the end, though, Charlotte is burdened with the easy targets of geography and history, which will prove too tempting for some to pass up. Because as all of us know, it’s easier to poke than praise. (We’re looking at you, commenters.)

So again, Charlotte: We’re sorry, in advance. We hope you focus instead on the compliments that surely will come more frequently. And if that’s too difficult to do, there’s always another option:

Imagine how bad they’d rip Raleigh.


Anonymous said...

Oh please. Let these journalist clowns write about "how we've "made great strides to being a city like theirs", and we'll just thank God we're NOT like theirs!

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Democrats will be impressed by a city that grew with a Republican Mayor in a conservative state with unrestrained capitalism.

Anonymous said...

Having lived in both San Francisco and Atlanta, I can only surmise that Mr. Crumpacker's experience was limited to the now-demolished Omni arena and whatever downtown hotel he was assigned to.

As we all know, the south's cities are defined as much by their neighborhoods as their center cities. So is San Francisco, for that matter.

Given his surname, no wonder he was such a sourpuss.

David P. McKnight said...

As a native of Charlotte who was a Democratic candidate for both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives in North Carolina, I am thrilled that Charlotte will host the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Over the years, in working both in the fields of journalism and music, I have compiled a growing collection of one-liners about our beloved Queen City, and if I had enough talent and courage, I would try to do a stand-up comedy routine. But falling short of that calling, I would urge my fellow Charlotteans and Mecklenburgers: have fun and enjoy all the good-natured teasing that will be coming our way. Maybe we ourselves can contribute a few chuckles of our own.

How's this one, for example:

You've heard of the proverbial City on the Hill. Well, some folks think Charlotte is so Republican that it could be called the City on the Fairway.

Anonymous said...

Who cares what the lib journalists think.

Anonymous said...

I can hear the "uptown/downtown" jokes coming already *sigh*

Larry said...

I am surprised you did not quote the Observer.

Anonymous said...

Charlotte is too boring to be a decent target but journalists have to make a living so I'm sure they'll find something. If anything we'll take heat for being a snoozefest with a wanna-be light rail system but in the end we'll probably get a free pass due to the Mayor's ethnicity.

Anonymous said...

Charlotte worried about what others say?

You don't say!

I've never lived in a town with such a chip on its shoulder. It was written once in the Observer, "Charlotte is like a woman who married rich - always trying to buy her way into something."

Dead on.

Anonymous said...

I'll take that friendly southern smile, the traffic jams around the churches on Sundays, the "y'alls" and the drawls, the lovely ladies and distinguished gentlemen, the pickup trucks and men who hunt and fish, the grits and the "que,"the generous helping hand that seems always to be there when needed... yes, I will take the American South and Charlotte any day and any time!!

Anonymous said...

"Prepare, Charlotte, to be toasted - and roasted"

You forgot to mention prepare to "victimized by the victims" as kudzu likes to day.

I can't imagine walking around downtown with so many "victims" in one place!

Anonymous said...

Don't you worry Peter baby. We are use to poor quality produced by you and your "fellow journalists".

Anonymous said...


you are so insecure, you have to bring Raleigh into your. That's why the rest of the state laughed when Wachovia collapsed.

Last I checked, Raleigh trumped "charlotte, North carolina' in virtually every article written by journalists in national magazines.

and it just kills boneheads like you that a city who really doesn't care about rankings and how its 'perceived' is still rated higher than the home of NASCAR.

Anonymous said...

I work within a block of the TWC and 2 blocks of the BOA stadium. Thats why I'm planning a vacation well in advance of this circus.

Anonymous said...

8:15...if the rest of the state laughed when Wachovia collapsed, that was both cruel and foolish. I'm sure, in your heart, you know that since so many North Carolina lives were negatively impacted.

As far as journalists rating Raleigh is concerned: most of that rating rides on the 3 triangle universities. I'm a Chapel Hill alum and proudly so, but beyond those schools, what is it that the Triangle offers that's so much better and different? A top 10 airport? Light rail? An arena and multiple museums in the center city?

The Triangle is a great place to live but c'mon. Methinks you're just angry over the attention about the convention and the Duke acquisition of Progress.

pstonge said...

Good morning, all, including our friends from Raleigh. (Just having a little fun with the rivalry.) A reminder: Let's try to keep it clean as we tell each other why they're lacking.


Anonymous said...

I constantly have to go to Raleigh-Chapel Hill for concerts that bypass Charlotte.

Anonymous said...

Charlotte: The city that never paid no mind.

Anonymous said...

Well, 9:33, you should move to the Triangle so that you can reduce your carbon footprint by not having to constantly drive there for the concerts that bypass Charlotte in favor of a built-in 20-something college crowd.

Oh, your job is here?

Oh rats! Dilemma!

Anonymous said...

If there's anything "Charlotte, USA" needs it's a little dose of reality from outside observers.

Anonymous said...

"Redneck Olympics in Atlanta"... LOL I had forgotten about that statement from back then. Too funny.

Anonymous said...

Your carbon footprint would be just as large in the Triad. I've never seen a place that is as spread out as durham-raleigh area. You have to drive 20-30 mins to go grab lunch. Everywhere is a long drive not my personally cup of tea.

Anonymous said...

Hey 11:39, I'm 40 and drive to RDU/Chapel Hill (and Asheville) all the time for shows. It has nothing to do with 20 somethings and everything to do with Charlotte not supporting much outside of what's playing at the stupid ampitheater.

wiley coyote said...

Just be glad there isn't another Raleigh west of Charlotte.

If so, Charlotte would be just like Columbia, a slab of SPAM sandwiched between Greenville and Charleston....

Anonymous said...

Wiley, where is Greenville???? NC where ECU is ???

Anonymous said...

I have to agree Greenville nc is a horrid place that deserves to be thrown in SC. The only thing worth a damn in SC is Charleston the rest is comparable to Greenville nc.

Anonymous said...

Atlanta's Olympic Games were awesome. I went to many events and stayed there for a week..there was no traffic, the trains were packed and running around the clock, and only a few busses had some difficulty (and they were on loan from other cities). Those Olympics featured 11M spectators and it was the largest games of all time, until Beijing.

So even with a successful event (even the summer weather was good), no Southern city will catch a break from the national media.

This writer is right-on, get ready Charlotte to be represented as a racist, anti-union, undeducated backwater. Very uncool!

Adrian DeVore said...

Charlotte will be under very harsh journalistic and political microscopes for the next eighteen months.

Anonymous said...

NC=NJ just trash and swamp lands.

Anonymous said...

Raleigh is quite possibly the most overrated, overgrown college town in the USA.

An arena in the middle of nowhere.

An art museum in a field.

A mall that floods.

Most of the growth (north Raleigh) in the way of air traffic at RDU.

Filled with scrubby pines, yet inexplicably calling itself the city of oaks.

No light rail.

Soon to be no F500 co.

Rapidly being eclipsed by its own suburb, Cary. Now there's a Stepfordville for the ages!

Built solely, such as it is, on the backs of North Carolina taxpayers.

Now tell me again why Raleigh is so wonderful?

Cedar Posts said...

Well done Mr. St. Onge.

To those who don't agree with the author's story line, I'll say just think about it, the first week in September, it's still summer!

Ahhhh.. Summertime like a great aunt, whose girth blocks out the Carolina blue sky, swoops down on Charlotte and the Piedmont, her gelatin like flesh moist in perspiration, a suffocating grip that refuses to let go.

Oh hell ya they will write about Charlotte, they will complain about how humid North Carolina is.... and it will be best thing that could ever happen to us.

Nothing like a little negative PR to keep the Yankee Carpet Baggers away.

Back in the 1950's Joseph Massoletti invited a group of New York sports writers to the Outer Banks, but the ocean was rough, the fishing was terrible and the mosquitoes were so big you needed a hammer to kill them.

When the writers went home not one gave a good review of North Carolina and instead they told of the horrors of trying to fish in a God forsaken place that was impossible to get to, and that kept the OBX unspoiled for another 30 years.

Bring on the media!

Anonymous said...

In response to anon at 8:15pm:

Wachovia collapsed and we still have Wells Fargo and BofA and 7 other F500 companies headquartered here, oh that's right, Raleigh now has zero after Duke (based in Charlotte) purchase Progress Energy.
Raleigh seems to be the only city patting itself on the back for those dumb and meaningless magazine city rankings. It Shows how much those rankings really mean when your city is losing F500 headquarters and your city is never chosen to host any major events, and yes that stupid NHL all-star game is not a major event, not even on a national level, I couldn't even find that game on my tv. Raleigh is a joke! It's not even a city it's just a big suburb for CARY. But it does serve as a nice place to stop when needing to use the bathroom on my way to the beach.

Anonymous said...

But they have a really wonderful museum in the woods. Also they have the best stadium in the state.......located in the woods. That is something to really hang your hat on. Also they have no companies worth note in the city. Even Winston Salem is more important in the business world than Cary.

Anonymous said...

Raleigh has hung on quite well after losing its hub. But if Charlotte loses its hub, you all and Raleigh will be looking for jobs in Statesville.

Jude Nagurney Camwell said...

I love Charlotte, its people, and and the wonderful towns and cities nearby. Although I'm a New Yorker, I've come to know Charlotte very well throughout the years and have come to call it my home away from home. I'm thrilled to know the DNC will host its convention there! What a great opportunity to showcase the best of your city and surrounding communities. I appreciate David McKnight's advice about keeping it light..all part of showing the true spirit of the vibrant New South. I'll be out here singing the city's praises through the all the roasting.

Anonymous said...

Other than BBQ, NASCAR, trucking and banking, Charlotte was always called the city of churches and deep south traditional southern bible belt city. There are more churches than any other in America plus the worlds alltime #1 evangelical was born and raised here plus has his headquarters on Billy Graham Parkway. Where is this in the DNC briefings?

Just curious what is the official DNC position on homosexuality and if they take Gods position of abstinance or Satans position that is the opposite of Gods Word?
Would the DNC admit God is conservative and Satan liberal and God creates and sustains life while Satan is behind death? Would the DNC believe God is good and Satan is evil?

Anonymous said...

meta-reporting. interesting.

Anonymous said...

Quick HISTORY of the "City of Churches" for the record with its attractive clean living family oriented conservative wholesome christian lifestyle.

Mecklenburg County was initially part of Bath County (1696–1729) of New Hanover Precinct, which became New Hanover County in 1729. The western portion of New Hanover split into Bladen County in 1734, its western portion splitting into Anson County in 1750. Mecklenburg County formed from Anson County in 1762, with further apportionment in 1792, with Cabarrus County formed from Mecklenburg, and in 1842, with Union County formed from Mecklenburg's southeastern portion.

The area that is now Charlotte was settled by people of European descent around 1755 when Thomas Spratt and his family settled near what is now the Elizabeth neighborhood. Thomas Polk (granduncle of United States President James K. Polk), who later married Thomas Spratt's daughter, built his house by the intersection of two Native American trading paths between the Yadkin and Catawba rivers.[6] One path ran north-south and was part of the Great Wagon Road; the second path ran east-west along what is now Trade Street. Within decades of Polk's settling, the area grew to become "Charlotte Town," incorporating in 1768. The crossroads, perched atop the Piedmont landscape, became the heart of Uptown Charlotte.

In 1770, surveyors marked the streets in a grid pattern for future development. The east-west trading path became Trade Street, and the Great Wagon Road became Tryon Street, in honor of William Tryon, a royal governor of colonial North Carolina.[8] The intersection of Trade and Tryon commonly known today as "Trade & Tryon" or, simply, "The Square", is more properly called Independence Square.

After the American Revolution Charlotte is traditionally considered the home of Southern Presbyterianism, but in the 19th century numerous churches, including Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, and Catholic, formed, eventually giving Charlotte its nickname "The City of Churches."

In 1799, in former Mecklenburg (Cabarrus) County, 12-year-old Conrad Reed found a 17-pound rock, which his family used as a doorstop. Three years later, a jeweler determined it was nearly solid gold, paying the family a paltry $3.50. The first verified gold find in the United States set off the nation's first gold rush. Many veins of gold were found in the area throughout the 19th and early 20th century, leading to the 1837 founding of the Charlotte Mint. North Carolina "led the nation in gold production until the California Gold Rush of 1848.

The Reed Gold Mine operated until 1912. The Charlotte Mint was active until 1861, when Confederate forces seized it at the outbreak of the Civil War. The mint was not reopened at the war's end, but the building, albeit in a different location, now houses the Mint Museum of Art.

The city's first boom came after the Civil War, as a cotton processing center and a railroad hub. Population grew again during World War I, when the U.S. government established Camp Greene north of present-day Wilkinson Boulevard. Many soldiers and suppliers stayed after the war, launching an urban ascent that eventually overtook older city rivals along the arc of the Carolina Piedmont.]

The city's modern-day banking industry achieved prominence in the 1970s and 1980s, largely under the leadership of financier Hugh McColl. McColl transformed North Carolina National Bank (NCNB) into a formidable national player that through aggressive acquisitions became known as NationsBank, eventually mergin with BankAmerica to become Bank of America. Wachovia experienced similar growth, and was acquired by San Francisco-based Wells Fargo. Measured by control of assets, Charlotte is the second largest banking headquarters in the United States after New York City.