But these articles are written by people who grew up elsewhere, who don’t understand the neighborhood’s evolution they are proclaiming upon, and who didn’t made any serious reportorial effort to learn.
This is a larger problem in the way newspapers cover gentrifying neighborhoods. The Southpaw pieces are typical of how writers who moved to Brooklyn a year ago feel entitled to declare what it is, was, or should be. The New York Times—which loves nothing more than to beat to death a minor dispute among a thin slice of upper-middle class New Yorkers—has run multiple stories about, or written by, single newcomers to Park Slope who complain about the presence of children in bars and the parents who get huffy when being asked not to arrive with toddlers in tow.
“I refuse to share my bar space — the last refuge for single Slopers — with infants,” wrote Risa Chubinsky on the City Room blog in 2010, as if she were a native being imposed upon by a swarm of arriviste parents. Never mind that she opens the piece admitting she only just moved to Park Slope recently.
In 2008, on the front page of its Style section, the Times ran an article about the debate between Park Slope residents who think babies should be allowed in bars versus those who don’t. Somehow, everyone on both sides managed to come off badly. Obviously bars have the right to ban children, or let them in, as they see fit, and patrons who object have the right to simply go elsewhere. And yet the Times only quoted those people who seem to feel personally infringed upon by a single bar making a different decision than the one they would favor. The patrons seemed blissfully unaware, and the reporter did not point out, that ten years earlier they would have been lucky to have any bar worth going to in Park Slope, with or without children.
Likewise, Marantz quotes a poet who has lived in the Slope for fifteen years who complains, “The yuppies are taking over. There’s too many baby strollers already.” My parents were young urban professionals—the people who would later become known as yuppies—when they moved there in 1978, two decades before the poet who Marantz cites to represent old Park Slope.
At a minimum it would have been worth it for anyone writing on the subject to Google Southpaw. The sixth result, right there in the middle of the first page, is New York’s review of the venue upon its opening: “When the folks behind Blue Ribbon opened an outpost on Fifth Avenue, it was a pretty sure indication that Park Slope had completely turned its back on the crunchy identity it had once embodied. So it was something of a surpise [sic] when a rock venue—rock!—opened in the form of Southpaw.”
Life experience, of course, is one way to know the relevant context. But doing your homework in reading up on a subject and interviewing the right people is another. The missing context of these articles is similar in a way to the habit political reporters have of quoting partisans making incorrect claims, and then failing to correct the record. The difference is the constraining factor: writers and editors of politics pieces worry that independent cogitation will bleed into bias, whereas the writers and editors of lifestyle pieces seem simply unaware that there is a larger context at all.