Wednesday, June 18, 2014

New York Times pats plucky Corktown on the head

Posted By on Wed, Jun 18, 2014 at 6:05 PM

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Yup, they sure did.

The New York Times has included a report from Detroit, commenting on the city's resurgence. This has become something of a habit for the Gray Lady over the last five years. Mostly, when the paper of record comes to Detroit with an eye for all things culinary, they really, really switch things up. For instance, in 2009, they made Slows Bar-B-Q the centerpiece of a story about the dining scene in our fair city. Then, in 2011, they came back to town and visited a number of other restaurants, including Slows Bar-B-Q. Then, this week, the New York Times did another piece on Detroit dining, starting off with, of course, Slows Bar-B-Q. (Yes, we've commented on the New York Times' predilection for focusing on Slows before.) In an act of mercy, they only mentioned Slows Bar-B-Q once, though all but crediting the restaurant for kicking off the resurgence of the neighborhood, which has changed markedly since Slows opened a million years ago back in 2005.

The piece amounts to a bunch of head-pats for a dining scene that has exploded in the last two years. It skipped the Mercury Burger Bar, which is perhaps the new dining spot most representative of the city, at the tables and behind the counter. It drops hints that the neighborhood is full of all sorts of enterprises, but mentions only five, and not the most diverse bunch of businesses, either. We imagine that if we were Rachel Leggs, owner of nearby Rachel's Place, we'd be a little frustrated that the newspaper has filed all these reports from Corktown but hasn't deigned to recognize her, a business owner of color. Correct us if we're wrong, but aren't all the places this NYT dispatch covers staffed by people who didn't live in the city a few years ago, and serving clientele that aren't exactly a beautiful mosaic of humanity? That's not a dig on the businesses, folks; that's a problem with whatever blinders the folks from the newspaper are wearing.

Jesus, even the pictures exclusively feature white folks. Among the three photographs featured, we challenge any readers to point out a single non-Caucasian face. What's up with that, New York Times? At least the last piece you did dropped in on Torya Blanchard!

Of course, it's true that Corktown is a Detroit neighborhood that has had its fair share of white residents over the years, but it still rankles us that the New York Times comes to Detroit regularly, but only visits neighborhoods like Corktown and Midtown, almost exclusively covers businesses that are white-owned, white-operated and catering to whites, when Detroit is 82 percent black. You'd think you'd like some representative coverage, yes? If it's done once, it could be seen as an oversight. If done twice, it begins to be troubling. But this is the third piece on Detroit, and it seems to be the least representative of all.

Perhaps we should add a qualifier when we discuss the New York Times' interest in Detroit. It isn't really interested in Detroit at all. It's interested in the white minority in certain neighborhoods. That's the "gleam" that catches their eyes.

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In a sea of blue, the New York Times always manages to find an island of crimson worth covering.

More by Michael Jackman

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