Did journalism create sprawl?
by, 18 Mar 2009 at 5:22 PM (4110 Views)
When I went to college in the 1970s to study journalism, covering meetings was among the first things we learned. When we got out of college, we cut our teeth on zoning board and planning board meetings -- indeed, covering a town meant covering every meeting in town. Meanwhile, the seasoned reporters often got the glamorous jobs of covering politics, the county board and other high-profile beats.
So, sprawl was left to the rookies and others still pretty unseasoned. While we did a good job of covering the meetings and reporting on what happened -- the board OK'd a developement, the master plan was amended -- I'm not so sure we really did the best we could do, or perhaps we wouldn't be in this sprawled mess today. We were enamored with the big blueprints (this was before PowerPoint, after all), and overwhelmed with just the idea of getting the details right, that I don't think many of us really understood the impact of what was happening. This was before such terms as "loss of habitat," or mixed use, or even "sprawl" became commonplace.
Oftentimes, this occurred with only a few hardy souls even in the room, besides the board members and developers.
And this was still when we as a society thought that all of this growth and development was a good idea. When the new bunch of homes or the new, big retail center meant money for the town coffers.
So, did journalism create sprawl? Or, perhaps more correctly, did our ignoranance of the issues help foster a climate in which sprawl went unchecked? Much in the way that the finance media failed to spot the banking collapse, or the real estate media were slow to see the housing bubble burst, what role did journalism play in setting the sprawl agenda or in ignoring what the sprawl agenda was unleashing?