Intra-media criticism probably shouldn’t be fun if you’re doing it conscientiously.
Around the Indy yesterday, no one seemed gleeful when they were reading the website Jezebel’s “exclusive” article “My weekend in America’s so-called rape capital”, the product of Jezebel writer Katie J.M. Baker’s trip to Missoula last weekend in the wake of attention brought by the Department of Justice’s investigation of the way rapes have been handled here.
Baker’s first swipe at the story, from New York, came the week before, in a piece headlined: “Horrible: Entire Montana town under investigation for 80 alleged rapes." It seemed to have been based as much on Baker’s assumptions as the few facts she had. The second piece could have been a more nuanced, informed, interesting article, something more light than heat. She came here, she looked around, she talked to folks, so her opinion should be shaped more by Missoula’s idiosyncrasies, right? Because no two snowflakes are alike and all that.
The first hiccup was her depiction of having, and needing, an unnamed, underage male companion waiting for her outside Stockman’s bar “with a switchblade,” because, “it wasn’t exactly safe to go there by myself.” This is when some of us stopped reading.
Yet it goes on to quote a handful of college-aged Missoula residents, most of whom seem to have the kinds of selfish, sexist things to say that some drunk, stoned 20-somethings would say, here or anywhere else. On the other hand, you can’t help wondering, had Baker looked, whether she couldn’t have also found 20-somethings who didn’t fit her assumption that these kids are ignorant or unenlightened. In fact, she could have stepped into almost any bar or brewery downtown and found kids who didn’t fit her stereotype—had she wanted to.
That’s what got us, finally: that Baker had a thesis she came here to illustrate, which is not the same as open-minded reporting, which we just call “reporting.” It seemed especially telling when, disagreeing once again with the callow attitudes of the people she’s chosen to interview, she says, “I genuinely like Missoula, and I genuinely like Nick’s friends, so I try not to argue with them about, say, pervasive gender stereotypes or victim-blaming.” Baker apparently flew all the way here as much to find out what’s going on as to tell us.
“Missoula is just like any other college town,” she concludes.
Oh, so all snowflakes are alike.
What do you think?