Monday, July 11, 2011

The Provinces

Point taken re: the bizarreness of the sentence in question (not that country is the most American of genres, but it's certainly not fringe, even if fringe is part of the aesthetic), but what does it mean to accuse the New York Times of "New York provincialism"? It's a national as well as a local paper, with a perspective that, the further you get from hard news, tilts ... probably towards some living room in the West 70s. If you're really that worked-up about New York's cultural hegemony, perhaps try getting your culture news from a paper that doesn't have "New York" in the name.


PG said...

I have a longstanding beef with the way the NYT reports news outside the coasts, but I don't think it's "provincial" to suggest that a genre might have ambassadors to the mainstream. I like country music and romance novels, both of which are enormously popular in the U.S., but are nonetheless genres, and moreover ones with limited intellectual prestige. It's no more provincial to note country's genre nature than to note that of science-fiction.

PG said...

Also, I suspect that if Shelton hadn't been coming from one of the more politically and culturally conservative genres, he would've been more careful than to tweet about how "any man who tries touching my behind is gonna be a beaten, bleeding, heaving kind of guy."

Phoebe said...


"I have a longstanding beef with the way the NYT reports news outside the coasts"

Does it report accurately (cultural news, that is) re: anywhere outside of Manhattan and gentrified Brooklyn? Or is that what you mean by "coasts"?

I suppose I don't see why there'd be "beef" here, given that the paper, when not covering hard news, is provincial, and why not? Isn't that better than a NY-based, NY-named paper claiming to be the highest authority on all of America, region by region? I'd think a stronger case could be made that only certain NYers' lives are covered in those cultural sections, and they're people whose power and influence arguably stems primarily from their having been written about in the NYT.

Anonymous said...

Outside of NY, the paper is marketed as a national newspaper. I don't think it is asking too much to expect it to live up to the image the paper itself tries to project. Provincialism may not be the correct word, but it is not uncommon to encounter New Yorkers who know very little about the culture or geography of the rest of the country. The NY Times is obviously a very good newspaper, but coverage of the Midwest and South is sometimes inaccurate and condescending.

Phoebe said...


The paper is national, but with a local specificity, much like, say, the equivalents from L.A. or D.C. It's not marketed as entirely national, or they'd have to do something about the title, they'd have to chuck the "New York" news section from the sidebar, etc., before even beginning to integrate Kansas into the Style section.

What I find ridiculous is the notion that it's anything worse than provincialism for New Yorkers to be, well, provincial. You complain that "it is not uncommon to encounter New Yorkers who know very little about the culture or geography of the rest of the country." How much do Midwesterners know about the South or Northeast? How much do Southerners know about the Midwest or Northeast? Everyone's from somewhere, and unless you happened to move around a lot as a kid, or have for some other reason undertaken to educate yourself about All Of America, you probably do know more about where you're from than elsewhere.

That in no way excuses errors in reporting, if that's what you mean by "coverage," nor does it excuse being "condescending," and I'll take your word for it on both counts, but examples are always useful, if anyone's to be convinced of this who didn't already think this of the paper instinctively.

Point is, you're not going to get the best - which includes most nuanced - local/culture/lifestyle news about any place but NY from the NYT. If that bothers you, why are you letting a New York paper provide you with your cultural news? Just because of its fine front-page coverage of hard news?

PG said...

My complaint about the NYT's coverage of flyover country is actually more with their hard news coverage of Texas (although just now discovering Mexican martinis? evidently my efforts to introduce these to New Yorkers my first year of law school took a long time to germinate). Anonymous's remark about condescending and sometimes-inaccurate hits the mark. I started reading the NYT when their going online coincided with my family's getting Ye Olde Prodigy internet service in 1996, and I remember being troubled enough by their "of course all these small town Southerners are racists" coverage of the James King case (black man dragged to death by some white guys in a pickup; his kids went to high school with my little sister and me) that I alluded to it years later in my law school admission essay.

For a more recent example, there's my own perspective on the NYT article on a gang-rape in Cleveland, TX that drew a lot of flack from the left because they claimed the Times was blaming the assault victim -- when in fact, they were accurately reporting what some of the more ignorant and misogynistic (including misogynistic women) in town were saying. At no point in the article did the Times say these were their own views or a statement of objective reality.

However, I'm skeptical that the Times would be doing this sort of "community reaction reporting" in its own neighborhoods. I'm sure there were people saying stupid stuff in the streets of NYC wrt the woman assaulted by an NYPD officer while she was drunk and had initially invited him into her apartment. (I'm sure of it because people were definitely saying stupid victim-blaming stuff online.) When trying to represent "what New Yorkers are saying," the Times doesn't seem to look for and print the most ignorant quotes possible.

Phoebe said...


Examples, thanks! (Not being sarcastic, this is giving me a better sense.)

"When trying to represent 'what New Yorkers are saying,' the Times doesn't seem to look for and print the most ignorant quotes possible."

I'm not so sure about that. There's the "styles style" MSI writes about, wherein people from demographics not remotely small-town or Southern (aka rich-to-super-rich NYers) are written about in a way that's on one level flattering, but on another, between the lines yet somehow incredibly obvious way, cruelest (if deserved) mockery. I'm not sure how much this extends beyond "lifestyle" articles, but I wouldn't be that surprised if it did.