West Side: The Good and The Bad in the News

Diverse neighborhoods, such as West Side St.Paul, can be very interesting when examining the contemporary social and political contexts. This complexity comes from the wide variety of diversity and the fluctuating cultural make up of the neighborhood.

When looking through local newspapers and media outlets, West Side St. Paul is represented in two ways. It is primarily represented in the form of new reports about crime rates and incidents in the area. It is also shown in various articles in the past highlighting the cultural diversity and the neighborhood rejuvenation occurring.

The majority of news coverage regarding this neighborhood is related to crime. West Side has always been known as one of the most culturally diverse areas in the Twin Cities and because of that, it has received a lot of attention regarding its crime levels.

For example, Brady from the Pioneer Press reported about the high levels of crime in West Side last year, noting that:

“West Siders will see more cops on their streets next week as St. Paul police launch a 30-day intensive effort to turn back a recent rise in neighborhood crime. Officers will step up car, foot, bike, motorcycle and horse patrols beginning Monday in the wake of an uptick in burglaries, robberies, assaults and quality-of-life crimes…There had been 17 aggravated assaults, 86 burglaries and 10 robberies in the mostly residential area of the West Side, where the saturation effort will be focused, police said” (Brady).

This excerpt illustrates the image that many residents of the Twin Cities have about West Side. The need for heightened police presence and the knowledge of the cultural diversity in the area causes many people to see this neighborhood as a “ghetto”, where gangs hang out, get into fights and need police always around to control the mayhem.

Other articles have over time painted similar pictures of the crime heavy area. In 2007, Pioneer Press reported about a shooting in the neighborhood, stating that “Shell casings littered at least four corners of the West Side, and at least one other man was shot in the arm” (Pioneer Press). These types of statements are typical of news stories regarding this area, many times leading readers toward the impression of a crime heavy neighborhood where there are bullets all over the street and endless amounts of people being shot.  Tad Vezner strengthens this impression by reporting on the same shooting I previously talked about, stating that “Rival gang members rolled through the residential streets of St. Paul’s West Side on Wednesday evening, firing shots that echoed between tightly packed houses, left one man dead and at least two others injured, authorities said.”

These examples show how West Side is primarily represented in the media, as a crime ridden, poverty level neighborhood. But there are good representations present in the news, which depict a neighborhood that embraces their diversity, lives peacefully most of the time and works together to make their neighborhood a better place.

Jean Hopfensperger, of the Star Tribune, quotes a resident of the neighborhood saying: “We’ve got a little bit of everything over here,” says Fred Frias. “We’ve got blue-collar workers, professional workers, small-store owners, all sorts of races and colors. We have what America is really all about-a melting pot” (Hopfensperger). This is a very accurate portrayal of the community which consists of “Latin Americans, African Americans, American Indians and new immigrants from Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and Central America” (Hopfensperger). Frias positive attitude towards the diversity present in his neighborhood leads me to believe that there is a positive relationship between the cultures.

These more positive stories about the neighborhood can be frequently found in their neighborhood paper, The St.Paul Voice, which covers four neighborhoods including West Side. This is also distributed in Spanish, as La Voz Latina. This serves the large Hispanic community located in West Side and is the only home delivered Spanish-language newspaper in the Twin Cities. These newspapers where created to serve the neighborhoods residents and inform “local residents of the community news and events, and to celebrate the accomplishments of individuals and organizations within the community” (St.Paul Voice). Their monthly issues highlight local events, such as neighborhood concerts and special celebrations, newly opened shops and even stories about local individuals’ achievements. It also highlights nearby neighborhoods and suggested activities in those areas.

It is clear when looking through these publications that West Side has an established community feel already among their residents. The connection to the rest of the city, by advertising for events and suggesting summer activities, shows that as a culture the West Side neighborhood sees itself as a small segment of the city, but still very much attached to the surrounding areas.

Although the West Side is predominantly depicted in the news through crime reports and negative portrayals of their residents, it is clear that that image is not representative of the neighborhood. This is important to note because as we continue to investigate the culturally diverse neighborhood, we must be aware of the biases presented in the news and make sure the true West Side is being shown.

Sources:

La Voz Latina: http://www.stpaulpublishing.com/lavozlatina.html

The St.Paul Voice: http://www.stpaulpublishing.com/stpaulvoice.html

Hopfensperger, Jean; Staff Writer. Star Tribune. 11 Dec 1988. http://search.proquest.com.ezp1.lib.umn.edu/newsstand/docview/417960949/1370A0BEC2B446FABB3/1?accountid=14586

Vezner, Tad. McClatchy – Tribune Business News [Washington] 08 Mar 2007. St. Paul West Side / 1 dead, 2 hurt in gang gunfire: Police: Clash began with two cars, moved through local streets. http://search.proquest.com.ezp1.lib.umn.edu/newsstand/docview/462616637/1370A1E9D9276D39073/17?accountid=14586

Tad Vezner and Mara H. Gottfried. McClatchy – Tribune Business News [Washington] 08 Mar 2007. Drugs behind fatal shooting in St. Paul’s West Side, police say. http://search.proquest.com.ezp1.lib.umn.edu/newsstand/docview/462625269/1370A1E9D9276D39073/18?accountid=14586

Brady. Saint Paul Pioneer Press [Saint Paul, Minn] 22 Sep 2011. In response to increase in crime on West Side, St. Paul police to saturate part of neighborhood. http://search.proquest.com.ezp1.lib.umn.edu/newsstand/docview/893871553/1370A1E9D9276D39073/9?accountid=14586

 

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