It's a bit of a lottery, as it's a short sampling period, but it's always an interesting morning for me, and I hope for the students.
This year's scores were:
Race: B (with the caveat that most of the diverse faces were wire stories)
Economic Status: A
Age: B to B+
Sexual Orientation: D
Some of the categories are restricted by our demographics.
The Census has us as about 93 percent non-Hispanic white, so there aren't a lot of local stories around race because visible minorities make up such a small part of our community.
Religion is always hit-or-miss. If the sampling was from this week, with a photo/video package on the Blessing of the Animals, a front-page photo of a church steeple among foliage and coverage of the 100th anniversary celebration of the Rutland Jewish Center (in tomorrow's paper), we probably would have had an A. Otherwise, between listing fundraisers and running religious services on Saturday, religious groups have a small but steady profile in the Herald.
Ability is difficult to report on as the emphasis in the community has been integration into society, so institutions that might have been focal points for events, and coverage, have gone by the wayside. And with the change in attitudes, stories on a person succeeding "despite a handicap" have pretty much gone the way of the circus sideshow. So yeah, F is probably accurate.
Likewise, it's my sense from talking to the community that many of the gays and lesbians in Vermont prefer to be recognized for what they achieve, not who their partner is, so we don't have a regular feature on LGBT issues. And given the diversity of the gay community, I honestly can't see one person adequately representing gays as "a group" in the paper.
Age and gender are pretty easy to get good marks on (particularly this year, when the sample was during fair week). I should mention the good work of our sports department, which really strikes a balance between girls' and boys' high school sports. The students give the sports crew high marks every year.
Economic status seems to be getting easier to report on as times get tough. When things are booming, people seem to judge poverty more harshly. With lots of layoffs, job cuts & etc., it seems like many people are more ready to recognize that good people can be poor, too. Still,I was happy to see the mark.
I welcome input from our readers on the subject as well, at email@example.comOne other subject came up. Just before I went to visit the class, we had a brief item in the paper on an educational day for students throwing spears using atlatls ... mechanical devices to improve how far a person can project a spear. It's an annual event at Chimney Point.
The headline read that "spear chuckers" were meeting on the weekend. We used that term -- which, yes, has been used as a racist slur -- advisedly. In the original "M*A*S*H" movie, the ringer for the 4077th's football team was a quarterback (and Ivy League-educated doctor) named Spearchucker Jones. The point of the character's name was that he got the nickname not because of his skin color but because he could throw a football so well that it hit like a spear. Unlike many slurs, there's no reason beyond ignorance why "spear chucker" should apply to a given ethnic group. It derives from an inaccurate, anthropocentric view of non-European societies as intrinsically inferior.
We didn't use it to describe a black person. We wouldn't. But when it's used to describe a bunch of high-achieving math/science geeks from mostly-white Vermont who are gathering, literally, to chuck spears, it sets the derogatory meaning of the word on its head, which was sort of the point of using it.
As I told the class, when I was in college, the Gays And Lesbians On Campus group used to host an annual "Blue Jean Day," and advertise that wearing jeans on that day showed your support for gay rights and understanding of gay students' issues. I didn't really get it until a substantial minority of the engineering student body showed up in suits for a day. Blue Jean Day wasn't about showing support for gays as much as it was about reminding the generally sympathetic student body about hidden prejudices.
Anyway, thanks to Dave Blow and his students for a fascinating day, as always.