Monday, May 31, 2004

A Tale of Two Cities

If you doubt that a region's major newspaper plays a crucial--perhaps THE crucial--role in setting that area's emotional, political and business temperature, take a moment to consider these two very different initiatives. One is an "ideas" conference to be convened next week by the Boston Globe and a couple of far-sighted local partners, the Boston Federal Reserve Bank and local PBS affiliate WGBH. It looks to be a sumptuous and exhilarating exploration and celebration of the intellectual and civic bounty of the city and its surrounding region. Are Boston's leaders dim-witted idiots? Don't they know that the area has problems that must be dealt with? Do they think they can sweep them under the carpet by focusing on positive developments?

The only remotely parallel initiative by our own Plain Dealer similarly teams with public broadcasters in taking a broad look at the area and its health--economically and otherwise. But the Quiet Crisis, of course, has instead come to be a ham-handed and seemingly endless exercise in spiritual pummeling, driving the region's morale ever lower with its reductive glass-is-half-empty analysis.

When I moved back to town about 15 years ago from Chicago, after having also lived in Washington, D.C., I used to tell people that I longed to live in a town where it took more than about four minutes to read all the important articles in that day's newspaper. I couldn't have imagined then how that complaint would eventually come to pale in comparison with deeper problems with our town's newspaper. Instead, it has come to not merely chronicle our civic crisis, but to actively lead and drive it along as well.

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