Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Imagining Madison

Forest talks about the key role played by the gay press in constructing a holistic notion of West Hollywood as a "gay city" and resolving internal tensions and contradictions about the identity of the place. I would say that a principal social function of local media generally is to foster a holistic quality of place, real and imagined, that is the basis for civic life. Problem in a place like Madison is that the place has changed so much so fast in recent years, in terms of both its size and demographic complexity, that mainstream media here are struggling to hold onto a holistic concept of the place without coming across as conservative or even reactionary social forces. So it was kind of amusing when, a month or so ago, the State Journal asked readers to write in with ideas about what makes Madison special and "cool".


Linda said...

I moved here in the early 80's and back then Madison had much more of a sense of being a gay mecca and also a hippie town. It began changing in the 90's and I remember the State Journal being a big force in Madisonian's transition from thinking of the city as a funky liberal town to wanting to be considered a modern urban space with upscale museums, restaurant, etc. The mayorship changed hands from Soglin (hippie guy) to Sensenbrenner (straightlaced business guy.) Madison magazine came into being and has really pushed this metamorphosis along. The local tv stations also began hiring anchors from that were not local, and usually came here from bigger markets, however briefly. This gave people the notion that somehow not being from here was much cooler. Is this transition inevitable as a city grows?

Mark said...

We're seeing this more and more now as the mainstream media picks up the debate between whether Madison needs to be "business friendly" or "consumer/local friendly." As we discussed in sectino this past week I love watching the inherent East vs. West debate creep into this debate as well.

Often, the Eastsiders are portrayed as against business whereas the Westsiders are pro-business. It's the old debate between suburb and city. As the suburbs become increasingly homogenized and "Everywhere, USA" becomes an increasing reality, any battle to minimize sprawl appears to be framed in reductive terms - in this case hippie versus responsible bussiness and growth.

Mayor Dave seems to be caught at the cross-roads in this debate.