Why Am I Just Discovering This Newspaper?

22 Jul 2009

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I need to get out more.

Why did it take me so long to discover the Minority Reporter? After five years of living in Brighton, all I knew, other than the Democrat and Chronicle, was Rochester Magazine. But there was a stack of this free newspaper, sitting on a table at the downtown location of EnCompass Resources for Learning, and it was like I was seeing Rochester for the first time.

Minority Reporter contains articles and ads that I haven’t seen anywhere else, and that focus on issues that show just what different worlds the Rochester area encompasses. It has articles on HIV/AIDS, drug laws, federal stimulus funding, and local leaders, plus several ads for minority-owned businesses. The most striking thing for me was the fact that the April 4 Reporter has, in a span of sixteen pages, four major stories on higher education, two of them discussing Monroe Community College. I’ve always felt that MCC was important, but I had no idea how vital it is to the well-being of Rochester.

The editorials are very powerful, written with an edgy verve that underscores the immediacy of the issues. I particularly liked Gloria Winston Al-Sarang’s column, “Straight…No Chaser,” a furious and unforgiving rant about community leaders and their effectiveness (or lack of it): “Call me a throw back, call me racist, but I am neither and will only be concerned when you don’t call me anything…” And later: “When I look at the limited number of black faces on our ever so popular Mayor’s staff, my blood boils. When I take a look at the number of programs traditionally serving poor blacks and keeping them employed, that suffer budget cuts, I become incensed…” Her writing emanates a feeling of passionate urgency, just like the Reporter itself.

By contrast, the March-April issue of Rochester Magazine has a cover story titled “Pamper Yourself! Best Exotic Spa Treatments,” while other articles, sandwiched between ads for Lexus and Woodcliff, take on Vera Bradley handbags, organic food, yoga facials, spas for men, Finger Lakes Rieslings, and a Hollywood production company. Their website lists several suburbs where the magazine can be picked up — Webster, Canandaigua, Albion, Fairport, Pittsford, Honeoye Falls, and Mendon. The only city address mentioned is 1200 Brooks Ave, a.k.a., The Airport.

One of Rochester Magazine‘s contributors is Pam Sherman, self-styled Suburban Outlaw. In the March-April issue, she has an article about high technology that couldn’t be more different from Al-Sarang’s: “We were in Australia and my daughter’s new camera wasn’t working at the very moment we were seeing our first kangaroo…To my horror, I promptly deleted 150 pictures, including the Hannah Montana concert…” And later: “I am what they’ve labeled a ‘technological immigrant’ (is there a virtual Ellis Island out there somewhere?).” No, I thought, just the real one, and it’s not there to be a metaphor for someone’s inability to plug in their Blue Ray.

I’ve seen Rochester Magazine in a lot of places, even in Boston; Minority Reporter focuses on what’s happening inside Rochester’s wall of highways. And here’s where the difference between the two really hit me: Rochester Magazine is largely about where to go, how to pass your free time, and where to spend your money. For most of its readers, places like Corn Hill and Park Avenue are travel destinations. Or, if they do live there, they are likely to be “urban by choice.” For the Minority Reporter, however, the city is something that happens to you, something that needs to be addressed, improved and even, at times, survived.

As one of the Sarah Vaughan quotes in the April 4 edition of the Reporter says, “There are notes between notes, you know,” notes that may be impossible to hear by the majority of people, or that get drowned out by the slick and glossy C majors that surround them, but that somehow make up the real song of the city.

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