D.C. has gotten used to the New York Times discovering—seemingly for the first time, every time—that D.C. is home to more than just sharp-elbowed lobbyists and crack-smoking mayors. (If we're doing our job, D.C. has also gotten used to City Paper giving the Grey Lady the bird.)
Yesterday morning, it looked like Gothamist, a New York-based news website, had fallen into the Times' well-worn trap. "5 Reasons You Should Actually Spend A Weekend In D.C." is a shallow, condescending ("After surveying a few friends, it seems shunning the capital isn’t abnormal") listicle that reduces D.C. to a few blocks around Dupont Circle and, despite its breathless revelation that "there’s legitimately a lot going on" outside of politics and the monuments in this metropolis, manages to cram in two House of Cards references.
You don't have to be a journalist to recognize that Kara Cutruzzula relies on stereotypes more than research in her, uh, reporting of this piece. She claims that D.C. has a "dearth of rooftop anything," but anyone who's walked a neighborhood or two in the District on a nice day could find nearly as many rooftop bars, concerts, prix fixe restaurant gardens, yoga classes, and dog agility courses as there are roofs. "[D.C. is] Home to Underground Artists," one of the article's subheads reads, only to qualify, "Well, sort of." No qualification required—there are scores of independent artists doing imaginative, highly skilled work in the District, and if you want to get literal with the underground thing, there are plenty making art in basements, too.
But the fishier part of Cutruzzula's piece is its preoccupation with the Embassy Row Hotel, where she suggests travelers stay, and its environs. The (gasp!) rooftop venue she recommends is a not-yet-opened bar atop the hotel. One of two food options mentioned is the hotel's small-plates restaurant; the other, Union Kitchen, partners with the hotel to source local food vendors. Dupont Underground, another listed attraction that's not yet open to the public, is one of the hotel's promotional partners. In fact, out of five reasons to "actually" visit D.C., the only one not connected to the Embassy Row Hotel, as far as I can tell, is the Phillips Collection. Where's that, by the way? "Right around the corner from the Embassy Row Hotel."
Turns out, Cutruzzula attended a paid-for media junket that the hotel hosted last month after its extensive renovation. According to Sarah Vining, Embassy Row Hotel's comms director and “Chief Culture Engineer,” the hotel paid for journalists' travel, lodging, and other expenses.
Read more Gothamist Writer Goes on Media Junket, Distills D.C. to a Few Blocks in Dupont