City Desk

Lynchburg: Cultural Wasteland?

The Washington Post got itself in a teensy-weensy bit of trouble with a recent Travel section article on a fabulous regional escape. A piece by freelancer Pamela Redmond Satran touted the down-home joys of Lynchburg, Va., complete with recommendations on where to eat, drink, and shop. It ran a bit afoul of the neutrality police, however, in this graph (emphasis mine):

That's part of what makes Lynchburg, Va., so wonderful. Few people go there expecting much. It's out of the way, seen as a poor relation to posh Charlottesville, an hour to the north, and genteel Lexington, an hour northwest. Its reputation as home of conservative Christian-oriented Liberty University and the late Jerry Falwell hardly bodes well for style, culture and night life.

Oh, shit—more fodder for all those liberal-media-promoting conspiracy theorists. And even more fodder a several lines down, where Satran talks about where to get a soy latte.

Anyhow, someone complained to Post ombudsman Andy Alexander about the apparent bias in suggesting that conservatism is inconsistent with culture. Alexander agreed, and so did Nancy McKeon, the travel section editor,
who told the ombo, "Mea culpa." In letting the line slip through, McKeon reasoned that, hey, a town with a conservative Christian university wouldn't be a hopping place for nightlife.

Satran's take on the situation is a touch more curious. Take a look:

"What I meant was that people from more cosmopolitan places like Washington and New York might not guess that a city with a conservative Christian culture would have great style, culture, and nightlife. But obviously I believe that Lynchburg does have those things. Why do city folk assume that a conservative Christian town won't have cool shops and groovy bars? For some logical reasons, as Nancy McKeon points out, especially when it comes to the nightlife part of the theory: Lots of conservative Christians don't drink, for instance, or dance. And for some reasons that have everything to do with stereotyping and prejudice. I intended in my story to break down rather than propagate such prejudice."

OK, well, if that was what Satran was trying to say, why didn't she just write it that way?

Photo courtesy of Nannette Saunders

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  • Reid

    Who cares whether a travel essay is biased? It's supposed to be opinionated. You might as well call out a movie review for being judgmental.

  • Mr T in DC

    Yeah, I don't have a problem with the original wording - it's obvious without going into great detail why a town in a conservative Christian area is unlikely to have a vibrant nightlife.

  • Q

    Satran was biased and showed her ignorance. Sounds almost like Bill O'Reilly's comment when he had lunch with Al Sharpton at Sylvia's.

  • sara.h

    i think "Q" is trying to get the title of "commenter of the week" based on sheer volume of comments.

  • Pingback: Waldo Jaquith - Is “conservative nightlife” an oxymoron?

  • Q

    LOL. Not hardly sara.h. After doing a search on "sara.h Says:" you aren't too shabby in the comment category yourself. 77 and counting!

  • Ted Scheinman

    OH IT'S ON

  • sara.h

    that's over like a year and a half!! not all in one week, Q.

  • Q

    Since this blog has degraded to counting one's postings per week, let's get back to the article. My mere comment here was that ever so often writers make too many assumptions and fall into basic stereotypes. Those stereotypes, or biases if not carefully checked misinform readers and distort the facts. Lynchburgh was thriving long before Jerry Falwell was born. Instead of a blanket comparison to an urban area, maybe just maybe, they don't WANT a nightlife as they want their town to be unique in another way. That neither makes is conservative or liberal, but Satran has linked the two.

    I know by saying all this I've added more to my comment's average. Don't blame me for the First Amendment or the somewhat ridiculous state of affairs in the DC Metropolitan area that people need to speak out on. Silence is DEATH!

    Finally, while I may have you beat this week, my 37 postings over a two year period still make you the Commentor of the Year per capita, Your Highness! :)

  • Ashley

    I go to Liberty, and I don't really take any offense at what the original wording said. People do stereotype the school as a monastery of sorts. But, if anyone goes to Liberty and sees how it really is, they realize that LU kids like to get off campus, see sights, and shop & dine as much as anyone else. Often times, we go to Charlottesville or Roanoke just to get out of town. Why don't we have stuff to do in Lynchburg? Nobody really knows.