Monday, March 28, 2016

"Miami Snark" a new genre of journalism.

Wishful Thinking by New Yorkers?

So, the whole "I hate Miami" refrain is a very popular meme among the New York journalism establishment.  Dating as far back as Time Magazine's seminal 1981 article "Paradise Lost" there has been a steady hope from New York writers that Miami just "fail".  Amazingly the "Magic City" does just the opposite.

 I want to start by  giving credit to Pamela Druckerman and the New York Times for spawning an entire sub-genre of journalism. Her 2014 article  defines what I call "Miami Snark".  It works like this: basically a young reporter, almost exclusively female, comes to Miami Beach in the winter, drinks, sunbathes, drinks, shops and then gloriously proclaims that Miami and its 2.5 million residents as shallow pretenders. Writing that Miami doesn't deserve it's reputation for having great beaches, shopping and sunshine but should be more "cultural". They say they are looking for "depth", but not really.  I mean if they were looking for "depth" where are the interviews with at least one local leader. They could call Ruth Shack, Paul George, Edwina Danticat, the Estafans, Mitchell Kaplan just to name a few. If they wanted "depth" they would bring a Spanish translator and head on down to Domino Park or El Municipio de Santiago and chat with the old Cuban exiles. 

It is so wonderful for writers like New York Magazine's Jessica Pressler, to confuse all of Miami with what's happening a new millionaire's condo/resort on South Beach.  Or NYT's Brent Sokol's piece begrudging the gentrification of Little Haiti....A New Yorker criticizing gentrification......Didn't they invent and gentrify the whole concept of gentrification? He lives in New York, by writing in the NYT he takes a small local issue and elevates it to some kind of international crisis.  He didn't bother to mention that there are more Haitians in North Miami than in Little Haiti. 

I don't really understand the fascination and contempt people have for Miami.  No, it's not Boston and it's certainly not "New York with better weather".  As a 3rd generation Miamian I understand that. However, I don't read similar tropes about Kansas City, Atlanta or other cities of similar size.  I truly believe at it's core it has to do with envy, that there's a beautiful, glamorous city built and run by Latinos.  That its a city with an identity that doesn't compare itself to other places or feel intimidated by self important(albeit pasty) New Yorkers.   Most importantly, it is a city with deep cultural roots that can't be understood if you don't have an affinity for Latino culture or don't speak Spanish.  These aren't Margaret Mead types, they arrive here with preconceived notions, talk to some "local" on South Beach (apparently home to all our local intelligentsia) and make the determination its a cultural wasteland.  

A big part of me wants to say "just make an effort" to the Pamela Druckermans of the world. Figure the city out, get off the beach, talk to someone other than an out of town condo developer or South Beach waiter, or in Pamela's case: her mother.  Show some journalistic pride.  Because Miami Snark is really about willful ignorance and shallowness, things I'd least expect from people proclaiming to be "journalists."