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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.

Tough crowd

For example, when I wrote  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 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.    

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 , 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. 

A day later there was  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?         

Add a comment by clicking on the speech ballon below.


Jean April 22, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Guess I'm one of the ones who loves Chesterfield Patch and your Column but don't necessarily want everyone to know my opinion on much of anything.
Chesterfield resident April 22, 2012 at 02:20 PM
I take offense to your categorizing Rush in the same category as James... James was a criminal... And whether you like him or not ( and some people do)... Rush is just exercising his first amendment rights...as are you... Should we classify you as infamous since some people might hold different opinions??? You wanted comments... Mission accomplished.
Tom April 22, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Funny, the Post's website just went to linking comments to facebook users and there were a number of complaints because people wanted to remain anonymous. The comment sections were awful - the same group of trolls leaving back and forth insulting rants, always steering things to their agendas (i.e. how raising Metrolink fares is because Obama is a socialist Muslim Atheist). Once people could be ID'd through their profiles, it really chilled this. But, some have gone out and actually created profiles specifically to leave their nasty comments. I think that the lack of comments on the Patch site reflects that people are aware of the local nature of these stories and that comments could be read by people you actually know.
Jean Whitney April 22, 2012 at 04:06 PM
I think Chesterfield's Smitty's bar and grill has some of the most delicious clam chowder I've had in a long time. It actually tastes like clam chowder.
stephan D'boyd April 23, 2012 at 11:25 AM
Maybe you do not get any responses because your "fluff" articles are meaningless and pointless. You are critical of everyone else's opinion. If you would have done an article of your favorite places in St. Louis and not worried about being critical of someone else's opinion, you might be better received. When you try to do an investigative article, you are clearly biased. And it shows. Your clear contempt for the firefighters of our community which most of us endear is appalling. Therefore in the words of a longtime respected talk show host, "you can't fix stupid".

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