mountain_xpress_big_ideas_2014A growing group of readers of the Mountain Xpress, Asheville’s alt weekly, is criticizing the newspaper’s cover story package this week recounting “big ideas” in the city’s history. A main story, a timeline and a selection of quotes written and compiled by reporters Jake Frankel and David Forbes aims to “look at some of the ideas that have shaped the Asheville area in enduring ways.”

But critical readers, including Jodi Rhoden and Beth Trigg, say the story falls woefully short by emphasizing the ideas of white men. In an open letter to Mountain Xpress published online and being shared online, a growing list of signers say they want to bring attention to the “blatant bias” of the story package.

The most egregious example of this bias is the “Big Ideas” timeline, which mentions 10 individual men by name and only 1 woman, and 10 individual white people by name and only 1 person of color.  So for example we see the names of Wally Bowen, Julian Price, and Monroe Gilmour, but not those of Wilma Dykeman, Karen Cragnolin, Issac Dickson, Marjorie Lockwood, Emoke B’racz, Viola Spells, Lillian Exum Clement, Newton Shepherd, Irene Hendrick, Oralene Simmons, James and Barbara Ferguson, Al Whitesides, Annette Coleman, Leni Sitnik, Etta Whitner Patterson, Elizabeth Blackwell, or Marvin Chambers.

The open letter goes on to document the bias, then encourages people to share the big ideas, and the people behind them, that should have been considered or included.

We know that Asheville’s rich history was shaped by many big ideas, ideas that came from communities and people as diverse as our city is today. We are dismayed to see XPress present such a skewed, biased view of the history of our community, a version of history that excludes women and people of color.

In the interest of shining a light on this inaccurate historical record and uplifting and honoring the leaders who were omitted from the XPress’s article, we invite community members to contribute names and “big ideas” important in the history of Asheville that were ignored by the XPress. By compiling a more inclusive list of people and ideas that shaped our community we look forward to presenting a more accurate and less biased history of our community.

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13 Comments

  1. Want some cheese with that whine?

  2. How do the reservoirs and water system not make this list?

    • For the companion piece, “Cranking the Gears”, XPress asked for & printed my suggestion on the best “Big Idea” (I suppose, knowing what my answer would be):

      “In my view, the best ‘big idea’ to ever hit this area was when the officials, voters and taxpayers of the city of Asheville purchased and developed the watershed properties that deliver water to the Asheville water system. The benefits of that investment [in the 1920s and ‘50s] have helped foster growth and prosperity to the whole region, and they should be applauded for their foresight. That some are attempting to rip those assets from the city qualifies as my suggestion for worst ‘big idea.’” — Barry Summers, Asheville resident and blogger for SaveOurWaterWNC

  3. We should remember to be more gender-inclusive, but if they selected those people by Asheville demographics as they stand today, there should be an entire 0.7 extra persons of color represented. Historically, that percentage would be lower.

  4. It’s a fucking article, not an encyclopedic history. Get over it!

  5. Besides people of color and women, the Mountain X “big ideas” article also ignored significant events in Asheville’s arts history; for example, the founding of the Asheville Symphony over 50 years ago (with roots going back to the 1920s) and the Asheville Art Museum, over 60 years ago.

    • Laura Potter says:

      I agree. If it hadn’t been for the Asheville Symphony and the Strings in the Schools program back in the 80s, my childhood would have been a meaningless void without my violin. Orchestra was all I had.

    • On the other hand, I moved to Asheville largely for the culture–the arts and music. In 15 years I have not been to the symphony, nor have I set foot in the museum. I have been meaning to go to the symphony. It’s very easy to forget that those two entities exist, and I can’t say I feel a void for not having been yet.

      • The Art Museum seems to be a publicly-financed money pit that serves an elite few.

        The ASO is overpriced. I am much more satisfied by the Blue Ridge Orchestra.

  6. I would like to sign this letter in support, as I agree.
    Nina Zinn

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