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Let's march on, and not let an article define us

McGaughey mug

WORTHINGTON — There was the Spirit of Worthington Trojan Marching Band, making its way up Luverne’s Main Street just as expected. My wife and I (along with our son and my dad) were sitting in the bleachers near the judges’ stand, having watched several fine high school bands perform their routines while we waited excitedly for our daughter and her WHS peers to have their turn in the spotlight.

As the Worthington band neared us, I saw the front row of the approximately 170-member band holding the sign it has carried since it began playing its current show in the summer of 2018. I’d seen it many times, but it took on a different kind of meaning upon spotting it this time around.

The sign states the name of the Trojan’s band show: “We the People.” And, just a few short days after The Washington Post published its infamous article about how divided the issue of immigration has supposedly rendered this community, it seemed as if the sign was indicative of something much more than merely a band show with a patriotic theme.

Much has been written and said about the Post’s piece, and I think it’s safe to say that my initial reaction to this journalistic effort was somewhere between surprise and disgust. As a lifetime enthusiast of newspaper reporting, I grew up in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. as a frequent reader of The New York Times, and eventually became introduced to The Washington Post via the fantastic film “All The President’s Men,” which told the story of Bob Woodward’s and Carl Bernstein’s coverage of the Watergate affair in exacting and exhaustive detail. The Times and the Post represented, to me, the epitome of excellence when it came to newspapers. How lucky I would be to work for either someday.

Now, sadly, I’ve seen that the Post is guilty of sensationalism, misrepresentation and flat-out inaccuracy, which happens to be the critique of so many these days when it comes to the mainstream media.

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The Post story didn’t represent our community; it almost read like a play with characters bursting at extremes — the angry old white male who hates immigrants that don’t look like him, an undocumented teenage Latina girl who also happens to carry the burden of pregnancy, a person of color who chooses to blame the repeated failure of our school referendums on white people.

The story features a small “Yes” window sign that’s identified as a show of support for the November referendum; it seems as if it wouldn’t have been too hard to determine that it in fact represents a place to stop for a school bus. And while Miguel Rivas’ MetroPCS business is correctly identified in a cutline as a place that sells cell phones, Rivas’ entrepreneurial efforts are represented by his son’s pinatas — a safe albeit stereotypical representation of Hispanic culture if there ever was one.

Perhaps a reporter could have spoken with Rivas, a member of both the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce and Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. boards of directors, and gotten the type of perspective that the story sorely lacks. Instead, we get a quick snapshot of an immigrant teenage girl unfamiliar with the school dress code. And, rather than any sort of thoughtful comments from the Rev. Jim Callahan, an ardent defender and protector of our community’s immigrants, we have him reduced to the target of heckling and a death threat.

I almost feel bad for the Post reporter — he probably had to churn out a story, on deadline, with a limit on word count, on an unfamiliar community’s undeniable struggles with the thorny issue of immigration. Note, though, I said “almost.” This is the Washington Post, for Pete’s sake. What happened to truly thorough research, reporting and fact-checking? Granted, we at The Globe are by no means perfect, but I’ve got to believe that if any of our reporters went into a community we didn’t know much about to do a story, we’d be sure to do some serious homework.

These thoughts, and others, continued to flow through my mind as the Trojan Marching Band — “We the People” — proceeded up the street. The band was filled with students of all types of backgrounds, performing together as one. They’re almost certainly not all friends, and some of them probably don’t get along well. It’s safe to say they all don’t share the same political perspective. As is common among high school students, there are probably rivalries and jealousies … but there are also tight bonds that will last lifetimes.

Watching this large band, I couldn’t help but swell with pride for our school system and our community as a whole. Worthington is so much more, of course, than just an article in any newspaper. It’s about more than just where people stand on any given political issue. It’s about more than one bus driver, or a small sampling of immigrant newcomers to our city.

It’s about all of us — the collective unit of We the People. I hope we can keep that in mind as we do our own collective marching into the future.

Ryan McGaughey arrived in Worthington in April 2001 as sports editor of The Daily Globe, and first joined Forum Communications Co. upon his hiring as a sports reporter at The Dickinson (North Dakota) Press in November 1998. McGaughey became news editor in Worthington in November 2002 and editor in August 2006.
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