26 July 2010

Is it in Northeast, or Northwest?

Photo: 23am.com
This month, the Washington Post ran a couple stories about a homeless man who had formed a basketball league for children. Those stories were followed by a feel-good editorial in last Saturday's edition.

The articles state that the basketball league is located in and serves youth in "Northeast," even when all the photos that accompany the story show that league games are played in the park across the street from Big Bear Cafe at the corner of 1st Street and Florida Avenue NW.

One question I have is this: In which quadrant of the city does the Washington Post believe this story takes place? I realize this is a very pedantic question (many of the questions I ask are!), but there is a serious point behind this. While North and East Capitol Streets may be artificial lines placed on the landscape years ago, our society and media imbue those lines with enormous psychological meaning and power.

Mention "Northwest" or "Southeast" when talking about DC, and you'll often conjure images of rich versus poor, black versus white, and advantage versus disadvantage. A story about the poor in Northwest, or about a fancy restaurant in Northeast, is often framed as a juxtaposition, or an oddity, for those who are not intimately familiar with the city. Media outlets (especially the local television stations) often give only the city quadrant, instead of more specific neighborhood names, when reporting a story in the city.

So which is it, Northeast or Northwest? The Washington Post should publish a clarification.


  1. I linked to you. Good points.


  2. As opposed to SW, where the universal reaction is "wait, there's a southwest DC?"


You can be curmudgeonly too, but let's try to be civil and constructive here, ok?