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The Entryway
March 30, 2010 2:44 PM   Subscribe


 
Makes me glad I teach with my journalism degree.
posted by Huck500 at 2:50 PM on March 30, 2010


I like the concept and the photos. I hate the twee font and layout. (And I wish there was more text, less white space--this deserves actual paragraphs.)
posted by availablelight at 2:50 PM on March 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Where is MacArthur Park neighbor carsonb to go give these kids a pat on the head?
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 3:03 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


So I'm sitting here, thinking, "that writing is very portentous". And plus Spanish is a "foreign language" now? So my question is "how do I snark?" It's a difficult one, because there are a couple of different directions to go and no one has posted anything yet and I don't want to just add some indecipherable line noise to the start of the thread. Like "Livin' the vida portent" or "Which languages aren't foreign?" which would make sense to me but probably no one else would find funny. But simply stating these observations would be boring.

I am posting on metafilter.
posted by delmoi at 3:03 PM on March 30, 2010


delmoi, portentous or pretentious?
posted by liketitanic at 3:10 PM on March 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


the layout gives me a friggin headache. Is this family here legally? Does one have to live with a family in order to get a view of what goes on? Perhaps being so embedeed predisposes the writer to be overly sympathetic rather than objective...
posted by Postroad at 3:10 PM on March 30, 2010


Hasn't Spanish always been considered a "foreign language" by most people in the U.S.? I'm missing why that's snarkable.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:11 PM on March 30, 2010


What I wouldnt give for a simple text transcription of this mess.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 3:12 PM on March 30, 2010


Alguien dejó la torta hacia fuera en la lluvia.

(Forgive me, even though I live in Texas, I had to resort to Babelfish for that. In middle school, when it was time to pick a foreign language to study, I wanted to learn French because I thought it was "romantic" and stuff. My parents wanted me to take Spanish because it would be practical. Somehow we settled on German, which is both impractical and not considered all that romantic. Ah, compromise.)

"Which languages aren't foreign?"

The languages you already know? Obviously it's a term that implies a frame of reference, but it's not that unusual.
posted by kmz at 3:14 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


(Okay, I just realized that all of the 'entries' are actually Giant JPGs. (with no alt text). That's some pretty insane web design)

Also, this is interesting
Q: Does not every woman hate to be whistled at?

For the first year I lived in MacArthur Park, I hardly left the house without headphones.

A: No. in fact one woman from Panama said of the whistling: "It's like sunshine." And then her friend from Mexcio City agreed, adding that when she lived in San Francisco ("so gay!") she went out of her way to walk by the Home Depots for the whistles, the catcalls, the sunshine
posted by delmoi at 3:14 PM on March 30, 2010


MacArthur Park.
posted by ericb at 3:16 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hasn't Spanish always been considered a "foreign language" by most people in the U.S.? I'm missing why that's snarkable.

I don't know, the word 'foreign' means "from a different country" to me, whereas obviously lots of people in the U.S. speak Spanish.
posted by delmoi at 3:18 PM on March 30, 2010


Good God - multiple fonts and sizes, center alignment, random insertions of tables and flow charts; this is the presentation from Hell. I'm sorry, I really hate to lay on the early snark, but sometimes it's so apparent.
posted by Think_Long at 3:18 PM on March 30, 2010


OMG, WE'RE REALLY WHITE PEOPLE LIVING WITH REAL MEXICANS AND COCKROACHES!!!
posted by doctor_negative at 3:18 PM on March 30, 2010 [12 favorites]


I don't understand this at all. In the "about" section it says the two reporters moved in with a Mexican family so they can better learn about their own city and country. But one reporter grew up near MacArthur Park and the other in Massachusetts. What don't they already know about their city and country?

Also, is the Mexican family here legally? If the writers are concerned about the cramped living conditions, why add to the crowd by moving in with them?
posted by Oriole Adams at 3:21 PM on March 30, 2010


Lots of people speak lots of different languages in the U.S. But school foreign language curriculum still includes Spanish, and French, and German, among others. Not exactly sure why that should be the arbiter of "foreign" with regards to language, but there you go.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:22 PM on March 30, 2010


ericb I never thought I'd see that link again.....oh nooooooooooooo, OOOOH NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 3:24 PM on March 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


OMG, WE'RE REALLY WHITE PEOPLE LIVING WITH REAL MEXICANS AND COCKROACHES!!!


you forgot to add: (emphasis and insincerity mine)
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 3:25 PM on March 30, 2010


Someone left the cake out in the rain.
posted by sallybrown at 3:25 PM on March 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


I really enjoyed the layout. It wasn't so hard to read, kind of like reading a comic where you're not sure where the different sentences go: doable, but sometimes difficult. Despite the difficulty I think it adds something to the overall understanding.

I especially liked Parts 5 and 6.
posted by scrutiny at 3:27 PM on March 30, 2010


What don't they already know about their city and country?

Well, they know more about it than you, since they know enough to know what they don't know about.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:29 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's like when Buster went to live with the maid in "Mexico" on Arrested Development.
posted by smackfu at 3:31 PM on March 30, 2010 [19 favorites]


I liked the concept and the splash page. I looked at the first entry, said, "Oh, it's that sort of project," and went away again.

I wish someone had written a thoughtful article about this sort of situation.
posted by Scattercat at 3:32 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is some barrio-tourism bullshit. This entry in particular pissed me off. You want the cholos to open up to you? Accept a beer when they offer you one and leave your friend with the stupid fucking hair home.
posted by joedan at 3:40 PM on March 30, 2010 [14 favorites]


Here's a hint to Mr. Text/Design: if you care so much about layout & whitespace that you have to turn you entries into giant images, don't encode those images as JPEGS.
posted by Dmenet at 3:41 PM on March 30, 2010


Eventually the posts got less and less frequent. After a year they stopped entirely. The families have had no contact with the girls for seven years now. Kara's parents still cling to the hope that the churro they receive in the mail every Christmas is proof of their daughter's survival, and not a coincidental yet tragic mistake by churroofthemonth.com which they cannot resolve due to client confidentiality concerns.
posted by jimmythefish at 3:51 PM on March 30, 2010


joedan: No kidding. What is up with that stupid hair, and the blue sport-coat and bowtie, anyway? If they were really so scared about entering hostile territory you'd think they'd have the sense to consider their appearances for one microsecond. I'm starting to think we've been had. Performance art is everywhere.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:51 PM on March 30, 2010


"Hasn't Spanish always been considered a "foreign language" by most people in the U.S.? "

What most people consider in America about non-white and English speaking culture is not necessarily fact. It's very clear to me as an expat white British person that this is a bilingual English/Spanish country, and that there's really no such concept as "foreign" in a country rammed to the hilt with immigrant culture (unless you're Native American). I think this is a very interesting way of exploring and uniting a community. Sometimes life is pretty isolating, and I don't think enough people are aware of how differently we all live, and that's even without including anyone fresh off the boat/plane/over the border.
posted by saturnine at 3:52 PM on March 30, 2010


delmoi, portentous or pretentious?

I'd say portentous. I mean, it's trying to be "literary" so maybe you could argue that it's sort of meta-pretentious, in that there is a pretense of literary awesomeness. But the text itself is not pretentious. I say portentous because it hints at a sort of, well it's hard to describe, but it tries to convey a sort of cryptic profundity.
posted by delmoi at 4:03 PM on March 30, 2010


I think this is a very interesting way of exploring and uniting a community. Sometimes life is pretty isolating, and I don't think enough people are aware of how differently we all live,

This is absolutely true, but there is a very thin line between exploring other cultures and exoticizing other cultures. This feels very much like the latter to me. Two journalists living with some immigrants (can you believe it?!) learning about "their" America.
posted by Think_Long at 4:04 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


saturnine: Believe me, I know. I live in New Mexico. I speak a little Spanish but not enough to be conversant in the many areas around here that speak it exclusively. Maybe I'm coming from a naive perspective of using school "foreign language" curricula and the formal recognition of English as the U.S.'s only official language as my criteria. Spanish is extremely common here, no doubt. I'm just a little dumbfounded, as I've never heard anyone scoff at the idea of it being "foreign." As though the mere notion were absolutely ridiculous.

Every language on earth is spoken basically everywhere. We're becoming a global culture. By that logic the phrase "foreign language" should be deprecated entirely. But I think it still has use today, and I'm not ready to see that happen yet.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 4:04 PM on March 30, 2010


I'd say portentous. I mean, it's trying to be "literary" so maybe you could argue that it's sort of meta-pretentious, in that there is a pretense of literary awesomeness. But the text itself is not pretentious. I say portentous because it hints at a sort of, well it's hard to describe, but it tries to convey a sort of cryptic profundity.

Haha, okay. I was just confused because either could fit.
posted by liketitanic at 4:07 PM on March 30, 2010


I really enjoyed the layout. It wasn't so hard to read, kind of like reading a comic...

I understand that as a young journalism professional, trying to make a break in the super-saturated world of 24 hour news channels, dedicated news websites, indie news groups, and blogs, it's hard to make your mark, but turning an interesting story into something like a photo comic. While I support comics as a venue for serious discussion, this seemed too twee to take any of this very seriously, especially when the issue is a major political hot-button issue (in California, at least - see this tosser's ad, wherein his only message in 30 seconds is that he's here to end tax-payer benefits for illegal immigrants, then decides he shouldn't push a car into a gorge).

By living with illegal immigrants, they could tell the story of people, not faceless job-thieves and system-leeches. Instead, it's cute typography and layout that feels like a teaser for something larger, but it's only a taunt with thin philosophical, moral and social questions (What if silver teeth were not a sign of poverty, but wealth? And if the mobile dental clinics in the neighborhood are free, whose wealth are we talking about? And at what cost?) with a bunch of cute pictures. Maybe they'll get a nice book deal out of this, though it could have made a really good series of in-depth stories about the realities of (illegal) immigration in California.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:21 PM on March 30, 2010


I had a teacher who once told me I was the only person she had ever had in class without a native language.
posted by Postroad at 4:23 PM on March 30, 2010


Q: Does not every woman hate to be whistled at?

I'm not going to go way out on a limb and say all women do. However, it takes an asshole to rely on one anecdote to say otherwise. I live in DC in a now majority Hispanic (perhaps now majority Salvadoran) block and that catcall shit gets really excessive. It's directed at any woman 14-45 by a bunch of cirrhosis-dodging layabouts that hang out in front of probably the worst hole in the wall food joint in the mid-Atlantic sponging dollars off every Spanish speaker they see. It makes young women really uncomfortable and reluctant to spend much time in the area, and of course the jerks shut up when even one either man is around because they know enough to know what they're doing is shameful.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:36 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe I'm coming from a naive perspective of using school "foreign language" curricula and the formal recognition of English as the U.S.'s only official language as my criteria. Spanish is extremely common here, no doubt. I'm just a little dumbfounded, as I've never heard anyone scoff at the idea of it being "foreign."

Yeah, I'm flummoxed by this as well. It would serve me well to know a little more Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin, and Italian in my neighborhood -- I often hear all of those languages spoken before I hear much English during my morning commute -- yet I don't know anyone who would argue with non-English languages being broadly categorized as "foreign languages."
posted by desuetude at 4:51 PM on March 30, 2010


Wow. 7 is pretty awful, but everything I've read so far seems like two white kids of privilege got an idea from watching the Simple Life. Among many things that don't work for me, if they're journalists, perhaps they should knock off the "um, yeah" and "And they were like, um yeah..." Seriously? I thought journalists were at least supposed to attempt to know how to write.

And the jacket. And the hair. The nasty cholos wouldn't talk to you? Maybe you should, I don't know, attempt to blend in a bit better? Or just, perhaps, tone down your act just a tad. This all reads like an elaborate game of dress up, and to hammer the point home, they brought their play clothes and wigs.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:59 PM on March 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


In Southern California and across the southwest, due to the settlement and continual residence of hispanohablantes since before English speakers, I can see the sense of the argument that Spanish is not "foreign" in any important sense. Not that bilingual immersion programs are as widespread as they ought to be. Arguing that Navaho or Ventureño aren't "foreign" seems perfectly sensible to me as well.

These hipster journies bore the fuck out of me, but the pix are ok.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:11 PM on March 30, 2010


That was offensive to almost everyone (white, latino, people with a design ethic). It read to me like some "stuff people white people like" stereotypes go to the barrio. It is an interesting topic but the execution just wrong.
posted by birdherder at 5:13 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not going to stick my neck out and defend hipsters, and I'm certainly not in favor of page-size JPGs as web design elements, but I think this: twee kids getting messed up on coke and totally confused about where they left their face = lame and sad, but twee kids getting messed up on experience and getting confused about what's stereotypical, what's true, and what's right = not that bad.

I mean, let's not nominate anybody for a Pulitzer over this, but I'd rather see a dozen of these in the place of yet another On the Road knockoff or Hunter S. Thompson retread.
posted by Valet at 6:10 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


As someone who studies second language acquisition, I can't help but think that this type of immersion learning isn't going to be as successful if you're blogging in English about your experiences in learning Spanish.
posted by joan cusack the second at 6:44 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


NO ME GUSTA IMAGETEXT
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 6:59 PM on March 30, 2010


Turns out that, for the past three years, I haven't just been living in a Latino neighborhood in Brooklyn. I've been boldly engaging in investigative journalism!

You can leave my Pulitzer on the bookcase, on your way out.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 7:31 PM on March 30, 2010


(I will now inform the majority of my neighbors that by being legal immigrants or natural-born Americans, by owning cars or apartments, or by not living in dangerously subdivided spaces, they are doing it wrong.)
posted by evidenceofabsence at 7:39 PM on March 30, 2010


Now I kind of wish I'd framed this as a post about this kind of journalistic embedding--this may not be well-executed, but Adrian Nicole Leblanc's Random Family emerged from the same kind of scenario.
posted by liketitanic at 7:42 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


...this may not be well-executed, but Adrian Nicole Leblanc's Random Family emerged from the same kind of scenario.

That book is terrific -- I was thinking that this thing was probably inspired by work like that, as well as (and maybe a little more directly) Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed.
posted by Valet at 8:06 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


She wonders why people won't learn English so that they can speak with her. That site made me wish I could un-learn English. She says her host family's "America" is: tostadas, telenovelas, Pentecostal churches and ILLEGAL STUFF, then uses Census Bureau figures that indicate that the Latino community is growing as proof that this "America" of tostadas, telenovelas, Pentecostal churches and ILLEGAL STUFF is growing as well. Because, you know, all Latino families and neighborhoods are exactly the same. Looks like poorly presented, badly written drivel to me. I did get a laugh, though, after it took me a while to understand why selling tamales on the street would be in the list of ILLEGAL STUFF. I've been living in Mexico, enjoying my delicious street vendor tamales for too long! Not long enough to understand what she means by a 'small town in Cuernavaca' though. Idiots.
posted by toodles at 8:25 PM on March 30, 2010


One of my friends posted this blog to facebook and I found it to be a good encapsulation of my feelings about this project. I can't believe they are daring to raise money to do this.

And as a person who works with the kids of these immigrants (all of my students look just like that little girl with the silver teeth) this really annoys me. I wonder if they even bother helping the 7 year old with her homework, since the parents may not be able to read or write English or may have only up to a 6th grade education. That could be one positive thing they could bring into the home (besides some rent money).

Nah, it's much cooler to bring your hipster friends over with their bouffant wigs for a launch party and go try to talk to the cholos about the police. I'd much rather hear what those guys thought of the crazy gueros than "omg why won't they talk to US?"
posted by wilky at 8:26 PM on March 30, 2010 [5 favorites]




technically SPANISH is not a foreign language of the United States on account of that little *cough* colony we own called PUERTO RICO.
posted by liza at 8:48 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't stop thinking that maybe this is a joke - or a parody of the type of journalism where the writer assumes he/she is the most important part of the story.

Just gross, man. Gross.
posted by Kloryne at 8:50 PM on March 30, 2010


Thanks for posting that, wilky. The blogger succinctly explains why 'The Entryway' sucks. I wish it had been included in the SLTI (single link to idiocy) FPP.
posted by toodles at 8:54 PM on March 30, 2010


Thanks for posting that, wilky. The blogger succinctly explains why 'The Entryway' sucks. I wish it had been included in the SLTI (single link to idiocy) FPP.

Yes. I'm sorry I didn't frame it differently, I really am. I don't disagree with any of the critiques here and I think they're worth talking about, but I could have framed it much more strongly. Sorry, all.
posted by liketitanic at 9:02 PM on March 30, 2010


I wish it had been included in the SLTI (single link to idiocy) FPP.

I'm of the opinion the OP doesn't have anything to apologize for. You have objections to the piece's repeated description of illegal activity, but from the blog you're praising (which I've been reading for the last twenty minutes, because I agree that it's really good):

"MacArthur Park-Westlake, of course, already has a Home Depot and a Starbucks, but it remains the social and cultural center for the wave of Central American migration that swept into Los Angeles during the civil wars of the 1980s: a dense, teeming, thoroughly Third World-feeling neighborhood where illegal street vendors operate openly, and where you can still get a fake ID while simply driving through."

So maybe it's worth focusing on what the level of illegal activity in MacArthur Park really is -- or failing that, looking for a way to disagree with people without calling them idiots.
posted by Valet at 9:09 PM on March 30, 2010


Nah, Valet, I'm objecting to them extrapolating their impressions of their host family and of MacArthur Park to all Latinos, particularly within a framework of OMG, the Latino population is expanding!!!! I guess idiots was a poor choice of words. Bigots would be more appropriate.
posted by toodles at 9:34 PM on March 30, 2010


Ah. I see the objection, now, I was perhaps distracted by the caps.
posted by Valet at 9:43 PM on March 30, 2010


Valet- Or, instead, one could ask why the journalists decided that immersing themselves in "Spanish-speaking America" automatically meant finding a Mexican, illegal-immigrant family in a lower-income neighborhood.

It seems an awful lot like the project began with a stereotype, and never really took off from there.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 9:46 PM on March 30, 2010


(Er, what toodles said.)
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:00 PM on March 30, 2010


I absolutely agree with you, evidenceofabsence. I'm certainly not in line to donate money or anything, I in fact feel more or less like everyone else; nice pictures, awful attitude, self-indulgent text, bad design.

I just think that it's counterproductive to criticize someone for using stereotypes or trying to involve themselves in a culture they don't understand -- everybody does that at some point, especially journalists (if the Entryway people had called MacArthur Park 'third world-feeling' like Daniel Hernandez does, we'd be eviscerating them). The point is that they're doing it poorly -- as you say, they never graduate from the stereotype. Even Mao Zedong, in his lucid earlier days, would call this a 'party-internal' problem; the kind of people you try to educate, not the kind of people you try to shoot. So 'portentious' or 'this all reads like an elaborate game of dress up' to me seems more or less justified, and some of the other language in the thread seems more excessive.

But I think that now what I've become interested in is the tenor of the consensus, rather than the content of such (which is what you're rightly talking about), which should be a red flag directed at me. Metafilter is more fun than Metametafilter.
posted by Valet at 10:07 PM on March 30, 2010


Valet: "MacArthur Park-Westlake, of course, already has a Home Depot and a Starbucks, but it remains the social and cultural center for the wave of Central American migration that swept into Los Angeles during the civil wars of the 1980s: a dense, teeming, thoroughly Third World-feeling neighborhood where illegal street vendors operate openly, and where you can still get a fake ID while simply driving through."

Finding out that the neighborhood elotes lady was operating illegally was one of the biggest WTF? moments of my childhood.
posted by joedan at 12:05 AM on March 31, 2010


Why silver teeth? Is that a common way to hide the gaps of lost baby teeth? Gaps are cute!
posted by dabitch at 2:47 AM on March 31, 2010


Why silver teeth? Is that a common way to hide the gaps of lost baby teeth? Gaps are cute!

They're the very inexpensive crowns used by charity/low cost pediatric dentists to save a tooth that's begun rotting before its time (i.e. on schedule to fall out and be replaced by a permanent tooth).
posted by availablelight at 6:48 AM on March 31, 2010


This is just gross. This is not journalism. As a journalist you don't make yourself the story, you make your subjects the story. I know nothing about the subjects after scrolling through eight pages of this garbage. I do know more than I care to know about two cute little hipster chicks playing 'embeded' reporters in LA.

The photos on this page Entry 6 sum it up perfectly. Just scroll down. Don't read just watch the photos and you get a very very clear idea of just who this project is all about.

Also a repost of a critique of the project by a real journalist Daniel Hernandez. Really well put. Daniel Hernandez
posted by WickedPissah at 7:20 AM on March 31, 2010


There aren't really enough words for me to describe how much I hate this.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:26 AM on March 31, 2010


Hey! Called out in a thread I haven't been to yet, whoo! (Hi mandyman!) Actually, I saw this yesterday but the neighbor's internet has been spotty and the link wouldn't load until just now.

Well, so yeah, I just moved into the MacArthur Park hood (I can see the park from my building's entryway—have I updated my location yet? Oh, yep) this month and, as usual in this wonderful city, I'm at the forefront of neighborhood gentrification. It's easy to imagine the studio I'm in now costing hundreds less a few years ago. Thankfully, it's still not too ridiculous here in this building, with this management company. But it was an anomaly—the leasing agent told me this place had been on the market for months and she only got a bite after reducing advertised rent to about $300 below market. Other landlords/leasing agents I spoke with talked freely about moving out undesirables and courting USC students (there are lots of USC students around here). But Tarnita, the leasing angel here in my building, seemed to have a pretty solid understanding of the economic and cultural situations in these parts, seemed genuinely distressed when I used the g-word, and really promoted the fact that her bosses give her a budget towards reducing tenants' rents every month. (Ususally via lottery.)

Anyway, these girls are cute. I think that's the nicest thing I have to say about them and their writing. I'll keep an eye out for them as their house is on my bike route to work every day. The Daniel Hernandez links are excellent, however, and I look forward to exploring his site more. He makes some very, very good points about what the entryway ladies have posted so far, so here's another rec for those of you who didn't like the link to go read his critique and maybe explore his site a bit more.

So I'm still new here, but so far I love it. It's fucking nuts, what with the park scene and the streetlife (Sunday nights, for blocks and blocks and blocks, there are hoards of people patronizing blanket vendors* and buying who knows what from the shady minimalls; there's a truck bodega**, well actually two, on my street; there's a retirement/disability home down at the end of my street that always has some characters hanging over the rails and asking for quarters...) and roiling cultural integration, but it's the kind of crazy that, for me at least, isn't at all scary—it's exciting, and intriguing, and enlightening. Sad, too, in lots of ways. Whatever it may be to me though, it's living. It's people, waking up in the morning and doing what they think they need to do to live in the United States of America, and sleeping (when the helicopters don't fly too low), and eating (EATING! the food around here is mind-blowingly handmadingly good) and loving and fighting. Mostly in Spanish, yeah.

I'm lucky enough to have a boss (who lives across the park from me) willing and eager to teach me Spanish in very small doses. I'm not a great student, but I'm getting better and feel comfortable comporting most of my day-to-day personal business in Espagnol. I'm looking forward to using the joke she translated for me today at the carneceria around the corner: "Tienes patas de puerco?" "¡Si!" "¿Como usas zapatos? (Estaba bromeando, joven. ¡Odelay!)"

* Blanket vendor: not someone selling blankets. A blanket vendor arrays his/her (illegal, black market, stolen, copied, whatever) wares on a blanket on the sidewalk and then stands precariously between the blanket and the veering traffic, hawking.
** Truck bodega: A pick-up truck or van that is parked on the street and has been customized to display wares. The one in front of my building actually spans three trucks: the first is like a little convenience store good for snacks and soda, with a tarp that is propped up over the sidewalk and a nice woman who sits there all day, every day. The second and third are tiny little trucks with humongous panels attached to the beds, are only available by appointment, and vend various (bikes, dvd players, chairs, furniture, etc.) and home appliances, respectively.
posted by carsonb at 12:28 PM on March 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


thoroughly Third World-feeling neighborhood where illegal street vendors operate openly, and where you can still get a fake ID while simply driving through.

Yeah, it sorta blew my mind the other day when I tried to park in a pay lot (clearly advertised as such) and the people minding the lot couldn't believe we weren't there to buy fake IDs.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:51 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a journalist you don't make yourself the story, you make your subjects the story. I know nothing about the subjects after scrolling through eight pages of this garbage. I do know more than I care to know about two cute little hipster chicks playing 'embeded' reporters in LA.

Sadly, I think this is all too emblemematic of what are seen as cutting edge ideas from the future of journalism.
posted by Miko at 12:57 PM on March 31, 2010


This is probably designed to get the authors a book/tv/multimedia deal. They're not really hurting anyone, but the idea that the public should fund it (they're soliciting donations) is nonsense. Count me among those who was interested at first but later recoiled when realizing it's the story of two naive girls rather than the story of the neighborhood. The neighborhood is interesting, they are not.
posted by cell divide at 3:34 PM on March 31, 2010


I hear what all of you are saying, but for those of you who are critiquing this as being not journalism, that is in fact what the two young ladies in question are claiming:
Q: This is not journalism.
A: The Entryway is a personal narrative written by two journalists -- it is not journalism...
So maybe we can criticize them for being tourists or hipsters or for making the latino family the "other," but they don't claim that what they are doing is journalism, it's something more personal and subjective than that.
posted by MythMaker at 4:10 PM on April 1, 2010


Q: This is not journalism.
A: The Entryway is a personal narrative written by two journalists -- it is not journalism...


I hate to start a big semantic argument, but I think it basically is journalism, regardless of how the writers are positioning it.

It interests me that 30-40 years ago, Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson were writing personal narratives about topical subjects and arguing that it was journalism in the face of a media that had come to institutionalize a degree of objectivity, while now perhaps it's hipper to claim that your personal narrative about a topical subject is not journalism, because objectivity has been challenged.

In fact, to find people writing topical nonfiction in this vein we can go back a lot farther - Eric Blair, Mark Twain, the muckrackers and reform journalists of the late nineteenth century, and the penny press of the eighteenth. What these women are doing fits right in with all of those journalistic traditions.

They also repeatedly characterize themselves as "reporters," both in their drop-down menu and in the description: "The Entryway is the story of two reporters who move in with a family from Mexico, now in MacArthur Park, to learn a foreign language so that they may better report on their native city and country...." They are reporters, and they are reporting - not just learning quietly behind the scenes and gathering background, but actually seeking non-fictionalized experiences and then representing them to inform the public, supported by their words and images.

I suppose at some point it becomes tricky to classify what is a personal essay, what is journalism, etc. One thing that comes to mind is that 'journalism' actually implies a mode of publication with institutional structure - writing for some sort of journal. However, it's possible to be a one-person journalistic outlet. And in fact, by using the open-source model they're using, there is an institutional context : "Spot.us is an open source project where the public commissions journalists to report on important, and perhaps overlooked topics. "

If they're journalists, reporting, then I think it's journalism. I can't think of any other viable ways to approach this text unless it is revealed as a creative fabrication. I'm not sure you can be a reporter and write in a journalistic vein for a journalism outlet and say 'this isn't journalism.' You can certainly say it's not conventional journalism, or this is documentary-style journalism, or this is journalism via personal narrative - but it's journalism.
posted by Miko at 6:25 AM on April 2, 2010


Well, maybe it's just semantic, but another thing it could be, besides journalism, is something more akin to autobiography or memoir. The people they seem most interested in aren't their Mexican immigrant roommates. It's themselves. The essays are fundamentally personal, about their experiences as middle class white people slumming. They seem fundamentally inward-focused.

We may question whether or not this makes the entire exercise a waste of time, but I think positioning it as a personal essay is probably a more accurate representation of what these "reporters" are actually doing. I mean, after all, just because someone calls themselves journalists doesn't mean that everything that they write is journalism. If I moved into this house, and made this exact same project, the description would be "one filmmaker moves in with a family from Mexico..." That doesn't make the project a film.
posted by MythMaker at 1:37 PM on April 2, 2010


If I moved into this house, and made this exact same project, the description would be "one filmmaker moves in with a family from Mexico..." That doesn't make the project a film.

Sure, but if you presented it in your medium, film, it would be a film. This is their medium - and more than that, the site is a journalism site. It might be semantic, but if it were a personal project with no connection to journalism, I wish they'd identified themselves as "The Writers" or "the Narrators" rather than "the Reporters," and used a different site than an open-source public-journalism site. Even if it is journalism about themselves, autobiographical journalism, I think it's still journalism.
posted by Miko at 1:46 PM on April 2, 2010


Alright, I think that's fair. Whether or not they call it journalism themselves, they are certainly going down a slippery slope by referring to themselves as journalists.

It seems to me that the challenge of a work like this is that the audience really expects journalism to be outward-focused. In a more traditionally journalistic piece, we'd hear more about the biographies of the roommates, who would be the real subjects of the piece, it would cover the history of Latin-American economic relations, might even discuss how California used to be owned by Mexico. It would cover immigration issues, the larger political topics, and situate the subject in a larger socio-economic context.

What these women have done is made themselves the subject of the piece, and the larger context is about how they grew up real white and middle class, and now they have to ignore cockroaches, and discover that they do what the police tell them to do. It's a radically different exercise, and I think what many of the commenters here object to is that they think that it's an exercise that shouldn't be done in the first place. Correct me if I'm wrong, but many MeFites seem to think that the first type of writing is valid, and that the second isn't. Because the women are privileged (and acknowledge as much), their personal narrative of encountering "the other" and trying to figure them out just isn't okay. It's not the politically correct perspective that writers are permitted to write from.

I'm not saying that what they are doing is very good, but I think they have every right to do it, and to deal with their own issues of privilege and figuring out what it means to not be privileged. Yes, they are tourists in this less privileged world, but as a kind of travelogue into the barrio, I think that writers are permitted to write from this perspective. Another writer can write from the objective or activist perspectives. They are writing from the perspective of the privileged trying to understand the other. Is that not allowed?
posted by MythMaker at 8:29 AM on April 3, 2010


Mythmaker it's totally allowed. It would be great if they wrote from that perspective. But I think that the frustration with this piece is because the actual output is so very thin.

Insightful brevity would be great, I'm not saying they should ramble on for pages about how the cockroaches make them feel, but there's so little there there.
posted by desuetude at 10:24 AM on April 3, 2010


the audience really expects journalism to be outward-focused.

I guess I jumped in because this kind of work is starting to seep into more traditional, 'outward-focused' journalism. When journalists put their heads together to try to figure out how to survive and serve the public in a new-media marketplace, there are always people saying that the very parameters need to change; that reporting can be personal and self-focused as long as it's 'transparent,' that objective reporting is an archaic style not suited to an age in which everyone wants to feel connected to one another across a flat world, etc. To me, it's a problem, and work like this that's sort of liminal journalism/not journalism is one result of thinking about reporting in that way.

Personal narrative is certainly "allowed," it's just the journalistic context that makes calling this only a personal narrative ambiguous. They're certainly not the first journalists to live among the people they cover and experience the conditions of their daily lives - most journalists in the past have considered this 'background' and not focused on it outside something like a memoir, because as you said, we expect journalism to about something other than the author, or when personal experience is used, it's illustrative about a larger point.
posted by Miko at 11:34 AM on April 5, 2010


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