The Times Article and Fighting Hunger

July 18, 2019

When I saw that familiar soaring symbol of change on the front page of the business section of Wednesday’s New York Times under the caption “…city officials are trying to transform the local economy, which was once dominated by the tobacco industry, into a biotech center” I thought to myself, “Hot Dog (yes, I am given to such archaic expressions), we’re getting some national attention!  Imagine my excitement when I read the subhead, which exclaimed in part, “Winston-Salem, like some other cities, “(is) trying to build a new path to prosperity.”

Well, that wasn’t quite what the article by Eduardo Porter was really all about.

The article was essentially about how Winston-Salem “reflects a larger social and economic challenge: the widening income gap between small cities and a limited set of (larger) successful cities, which draw both highly education seek well-paid jobs and high tech companies that want to employ them…”  It did throw a bouquet our way by saying that if any city could close that gap, it would probably be Winston-Salem.   And there are solid indications that the gap is narrowing.   For example, the city has added 45,000 jobs since 2008 and the real estate market is called “hot” by those in the business.

So, while Mr. Porter did a good job pointing out the challenge, (a UNC professor at Greensboro said the article “hit the nail on the head”), I would have preferred that the article described some of the things the city is doing to close that gap, including the recent city initiative The Partnership for Prosperity.   The article came out on the same day I attended The Partnership’s work session on Hunger.  For a couple of hours I sat with three women who are deeply involved in working on the problems of poverty in our city.  We were presented with 14 ideas on how to alleviate hunger and we were asked to prioritize them. We did, but the real contribution of our working group was to suggest that the 14 ideas were excellent outcomes, but needed a way to be coordinated, a process, a system, a way to make them work better, in other words.  Ultimately, we suggested that an entity be created to 1.) identify the sources that have food to donate, 2,) develop a distribution system that will ensure the food (3.) gets to the places that have been identified as where those in need routinely go, such as schools, doctor’s offices, recreation facilities, or churches, of which Winston-Salem has one on practically every corner.   There are so many Not For Profit organizations in Winston-Salem working of alleviating hunger that almost any of them could institute such process on a more intensive way.

The experience was like being at a management meeting on PERT (Performance Evaluation and Reporting Technique, in case you’ve forgotten) or an MBO meeting (Management by Objective, which anyone who has ever been through it can never forget.)   The point is that a lot of people are trying to make a difference and they’re thinking outside the box.

So, in that regard, the article in the Times was incomplete.

On the other hand, Mr. Porter works for a great newspaper, not a Public Relations firm.   While I was disappointed and can sympathize with those who might have wanted an acknowledgement of the energy and commitment thousands of citizens of Winston-Salem put in daily on the struggle against a huge problem, I would prefer to think of the article as noting that we “are trying to build a new path to prosperity.”


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