We're Playing To A Tough Audience in Chesterfield
Other towns get more than 300 comments over neighbors upset by a book.
Listening to talk radio, I don’t really care what "Bob from Affton" thinks about the Cardinals’ bullpen or if "Alice from O’Fallon" wants Congress to ban abortions.
But Chesterfield Patch likes feedback from its users. That's why you see weekly surveys asking about your favorite type of restaurant. Although after 45 weeks or so, we could run low on types of restaurants and be down to a survey on favorite Mongolian eateries!
While I don’t set out to write a column that will generate a lot of feedback, I have done a few that I thought would get comments—but was surprised when few or none appeared.
At first, I thought nobody was on the site, or looking at my columns.
However, I have been told otherwise, which leads me to believe that St. Louisians in general, and West County residents specifically, like to keep their opinions to themselves.
For example, when I wrote Top 12 Things to Do in St. Louis and compared it to a list by radio host Charlie Brennan, I thought Chesterfield Patch users might write their own lists or at least add an item or two.
But the only responses were from Brennan himself, and two others saying I was sarcastic and Charlie was full of himself.
Another column suggesting separate memorial wings at the state capital for famous Missourians (Walt Disney, Mark Twain) and infamous Missourians (Rush Limbaugh, Jesse James) did get a lot of views, but generated only one comment. (It was something about how Bloody Bill Anderson was known for killing women, children and Union prisoners, but was misunderstood.)
But no one added their own candidates for either wing!
Frequently, the responses to my columns aren't seen on the Patch website. Instead, they come in the form of angry phone calls and emails to a regional Patch editor. The rants come from local politicians who complain my facts are wrong, when the truth is—I've put the truth out there, and they aren't happy about it. So instead, I am asked to rewrite, with links to factual documents and government websites.
Another one of my columns was about how the West County suburbs could be named "Snoburbia." My reasons included new houses with five-car garages to house a BMW convertible and overwintering the $100,000 Porsche sports car. I pointed to "mixed-breed" dogs that weren't from a shelter, but were expensive combos of pedigree dogs—I called them "something-doodles."
So I borrowed from comedian Jeff Foxworthy ("You might be a redneck...") and suggested Patchusers give examples: “You might live in Snoburbia if…”
But zero comments on the Patch website.
How it goes Elsewhere, USA
However, I then got an email followed by a phone call from Siah Fried, who lives in an East Bay San Francisco suburb of Pleasanton. Fried co-authored the novel Tales from Swankville.
She works as a health educator at a local community college. The book poked fun at parenting by the rich.
Apparently, when the book was released, neighbors started seeing themselves in the pages of the novel.
Fried’s neighbor across the street decorated her two-car garage that faces Fried’s house. She claimed the book was about her, and she wasn't happy about it.
A Pleasanton Patch contributor Susan Schena wrote an article about the developing controversy, which resulted in 264 comments, 756 Facebook "recommends" and 49 tweets. ThePatch article was also posted on Huffington Post. . .more tweets and FB recommends followed.
Within 10 days of the Pleasanton Patch article posting, the two authors were deluged with TV and radio interview requests.
Then another Patch article described how the local Pleasanton bookstore was being threatened with boycott if it carried the book. A local restaurant canceled a book signing, due to protests over it. This brought another 119 comments and 43 more Facebook recommends.
A day later there was another Pleasanton Patch article with the two authors being interviewed. Fried reported that her home was “egged,” her middle school and elementary school daughters were being harassed over their mother’s book. Fried said she was asked to leave a local school where she taught a health class because of anger over the book.
This meant more comments, tweets and Facebook activity.
The Pleasanton Patch editor Tanya Rose told me the overall response to the issue was overwhelming.
“I couldn’t do my job for a week. I spent all my time monitoring the comment boards,” Rose said. “People here showed their ugly side then went back to being normal. Now, we are lucky to get three or four comments on an article.”
Longing for someone
If I could only find someone in Chesterfield like Fried, someone who wrote a book about how parents' hero worship of the Cardinals baseball teams is bad for children’s self-esteem. Or find a writer who believes the Parkway and Rockwood school districts try to isolate children from a real world environment…then, we might see some serious numbers of comments.
Since poking fun at a talk show host’s St. Louis list didn’t get responses from residents here, I might as well ask: Hey, what’s your favorite place in West County for clam chowder?
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