Tuesday, February 02, 2016

The curious case of the dog in the headlines

Friends in distant places want to know what it feels like to work in a city whose officials recently stepped in a steaming pile of dog poo that got smeared all over the media. I don't intend to add anything to that pile by commenting on the viral case of Officer Hickey and his dog (read it here), but I do wonder when I'll stop seeing Marietta, Ohio, in the "trending news" section of Facebook, as if the city were a long-lost Kardashian sister.

People all over the world now think of our little river town as a seething hotbed of injustice toward animals when there's so much more that makes Marietta special. For instance, what other small midwestern city can boast a former mayor who released a CD of music about road kill? ("Eat more possum--it's America's other other white meat.")

Wait, that's not helping.

When I travel to conferences I'm frequently asked how I like working in Georgia and I have to tell people "We're the other Marietta," but now I wish I could find a way to show the world another side of Marietta: a place where you can see eagles on a regular basis, get on the river in a kayak or canoe or speedboat or sternwheeler, visit Indian mounds and cemeteries full of the remains of Revolutionary War veterans who first settled here, take part in a CashMob on Monday evenings or visit the Farmers' Market on Saturdays, enjoy street fairs and blues music competitions and amateur theatricals, see Paula Poundstone perform in the restored historic theater or hear the college choir sing in a church built to caress the sound of the human voice.

But this other Marietta doesn't interest the media; it's too ordinary, too boring, too undramatic. They'd rather run with the "Man Buys Dog" story even if it smears a smelly mess all over the city. Which, I guess, is perfectly normal; they're just doing their job, exposing the foibles of city government in the way most likely to lead to clicks and page views. But here's my question: after all the reporters leave and the city falls out of the headlines, who will be stuck cleaning up the mess?

(Watch out--you're stepping in it!)

No comments: