Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hometown news

I moved to Raleigh when I was less than a year old, returning to where my father was born and grew up, and only about an hour drive away from where my mom grew up. Raleigh's a rather urban city. It's the biggest city in North Carolina besides Charlotte. Although I was raised technically in the South, I never really got the Southern experience. My father has read the News and Observer since he was little. My grandfather, although I never knew him, was a real news addict. My father's family was very, very tight on money, but always found enough for the daily News and Observer. My dad still reads the News and Observer every single morning, just about cover to cover.

Because of this, I personally feel a strong pride for the News and Observer. I've read it almost daily (although not cover to cover) with breakfast since middle school. It is without a doubt my favorite newspaper. At breakfast though, as my dad read it at the same time, I would only take the sections he was done with. He was first usually finished with the Local and State sections of the paper, so that's the section I read most days--I normally only spent about half an hour a day on the paper. I didn't start reading the political news until high school. I used to simply glance at the headlines and then read the lengthy feature stories about cute little towns near Raleigh where people still farmed, or cool stories about Raleigh natives who beat the odds.

I live in the Raleigh suburbs, but I went to high school in the heart of downtown. Raleigh Charter High School is located just a few blocks from the North Carolina Supreme Court and Legislature. I really got into political news my sophomore year, my first year on my high school newspaper.

My brother drove me to school every day freshman year, his senior year. My school was in a former cotton mill, in the middle of housing projects and abandoned buildings. In 2004, a few years after the school was opened, many of the abandoned buildings were torn down and replaced by fancy, very expensive townhouses. Driving to school one day, we noticed soccer field orange cones in front of some of the houses. My brother asked a man in the yard why they were up, and he replied that the neighborhood no longer wanted students parking in front of its houses, so a few neighbors put cones up. My brother was infuriated by this, as many students relied on these spots. Girls had to walk about half a mile by themselves through downtown by themselves without these spots. My brother saw it as that these were public streets, and he paid taxes, so he had as much of a right to them as the homeowners. So my brother knocked down the cones and parked on that public street. From then on, my brother kept parking on the street, but was harassed and verbally threatened by neighbors. His car was even vandalized once. Double sided nails were placed on the curbs so students were having to buy new tires. My brother was not the only one, either--many students faced the same problems, who did not have spaces in the school parking lot to park in.

The neighbors submitted a bill to the city council to make parking on that street 2 hour limited, unless you had a special permit--in other words, most everyone except students could park there. It wasn't until my sophomore year that this bill actually saw recognition. I went with my high school paper to this meeting, and listened to the neighbors complain about my school. They complained that we would just sit in our cars for several minutes, and that once one citizen even walked out on his front porch to see two students making out. Because you know, last time I checked, making out was against the law.

There were two major things that bothered me about this: our school was there before their homes were built, thus, if they had a problem with high school students parking near their homes, perhaps they should not have bought those homes. Second, if the neighbors blocked us from parking in those spots, then we would just be pushed back farther and farther within the legal "safe" limit for Raleigh--which I think was around a mile and half. Speaking from personal experience, you walk a mile and a half away from my school you're in an area with the highest crime rate in the city. A girl walking by herself for a mile and a half in that area is absolutely not safe.

But the city council voted, and collectively felt that providing parking for the students was not the city's responsibility. The neighbors won.

This is when I personally realized the impact that local government had on us. This decision affected me much more than any made by the national government. So I started to read local government news.

As for how my community gets news, however, quite frankly I'm not sure. Raleigh is a big city with all different kinds of people, so it's hard to generalize. I've met plenty who were very well informed from local to national, but I once met a man in August of 2008 who did not know who John McCain was.

Very few people I know, however, are subscribed to a newspaper. Most people I know who are read the News and Observer. A few people I know get niche publications. A friend of mine receives a Jewish newspaper, and as far as I know, that is her only source of news.

Internet media is obviously very popular among students my age. Many people I know read news on I've used Digg before, and it's entertaining, but I don't find it an adequate source of news. There's some political news, but most of it is super high profile or sensationalist. Health Care stuff typically makes it on Digg, science news occasionally, but there's so much that never makes it up there. It's so filtered that once cannot rely on single sites like this as their single source of news.

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