For a town to take pride in itself, and thus its local newspaper to tout the accomplishments and ties of residents, is one thing. But I think my hometown has moved into an entirely different realm, perhaps including obsession and feeble attempts to reclaim a good name.
Although I was only seven years old when President Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, I still recall the publicity my hometown paper – which was recently renamed to The (Scranton) Times-Tribune – gave to him and his wife simply because Hillary’s father, Hugh Rodham, was born in Scranton, Pa. Over the years, including 1993 when Rodham died and was buried in Scranton, that particular factor carried significantly more importance to Northeastern Pennsylvania community.
Then, when (Hillary) Clinton began her campaign for the Democratic nomination, her relationship to the former coal-mining city was often prominently displayed on the front pages of every publication, looming over their Web sites on a fairly consistent basis. Officials considered Clinton’s chances in NEPA, and the entire state, rather well considering her ties — Sorry folks, I rarely keep up with politics and have no idea how she eventually faired in the primary election. — almost labeling her a “shoe in” for the presidential nomination.
Clearly, we all know how that played out.
And then, after months of speculation over who Democratic candidate Barack Obama would choose as his vice presidential running mate, what did he do? He chose a Scranton native, turning the city into an uproar of excitement over the possibilities for Pennsylvania’s sixth most populous city – despite Forbes magazine recently listing it among “America’s Fastest Dying Cities.” Go Scrantonia.
Since the VP announcement, The Times-Tribune Web site has been clouded with various references to Sen. Joe Biden. Apparently CNN was filming around the city, allowing for a five sentence article today about the media outlet’s endeavors. As of this moment, I count four separate Biden-related stories under the local news category. A bit heavy, in my opinion.
I may have moved away from Scranton – primarily because the journalism opportunities there were few and I always yearned for life elsewhere – but the city has made various commendable efforts to regain a positive name.
For too long, my hometown has had a negative reputation as “a hole,” a place where successes are few and crime has continually increased; a place that was once known for coal mining and electric cars, but has since been fairly unable to create a prosperous economy for the region following the decline of those two industries. This is a point the Forbes article blatantly states, “Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, Penn. are no longer thriving coal towns, and the region has struggled to build a post-industrial economy.”
All of that is very true. But the current Mayor and many officials throughout both the city and county have worked continuously to regain the positive reputation held nearly a century ago. But rather than those accomplishments being nationally recognized, or even locally at times, those progressive steps have been trumped by politicians – who, HELLO!?, left Scranton! – and comedic syndication. (Yes, I’m talking about The Office, and I’m not even going to start on that topic.)
As both a journalist and someone who spent the majority of her life in Scranton – a girl who terribly misses Catholic churches and bars on every other corner and the taste of NEPA pizza, not to mention Church picnics, kielbasa, pizza fritas, poppyseed stollen, the Electric City sign, the Times tower and “Jeet yet? No, j’ew?” – it bothers me terribly to see these lackluster ties overshadowing the progressive attempts toward creating a better city.
The publications there should be recognizing those milestones, rather than the newest “celebrity” whose grandmother once ate a turkey sandwich from a downtown diner. It’s about taking pride in what/who still remains and the steps being taken to revive the unfortunately dying coal region. Misplacing the city’s importance in politicians and fictional television shows will do little when the world is laughing at Scranton as a place that “could have been” or “would have been,” but simply “isn’t.”
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