It was like a gift from the gods.
Or, more specifically, a gift from an Upper West Side freelancer.
In this case, the writer was Gail Bryce, a woman who had a witty but stinging take on what it was like to visit her neighborhood Starbucks and be accosted by the unruly children of the neighborhood.
We slapped on a headline: “Your Kids Are Driving Me Crazy.” Then I pretty much sent it on its way. There was not much to do with the copy of Bryce, who writes in a clean and smart fashion.
So we published her critique, which I thought was humorous and on-target, of the child-rearing skills of her neighbors. She was asking parents to control their kids. I though it might touch a nerve. It did.
We were flooded with mail. Remember snail mail? We got it, big-time, after this story appeared in 2000. The New York Times even wound up doing a kind of follow-up to the piece in a metro column. Over at West Side Spirit, we got so many missives that we wound up doing another cover story, allowing the writers to express themselves.
It’s one of the things I’ve always believed about journalism: the whole idea of the marketplace of ideas. We should not be afraid of controversial ideas. We should present them, at least when they are presented in a clear and entertaining way. Then give lots of space to the responses.
That’s what we did with Bryce and the readers who reacted to her. I’ve always been proud that we published her provocative essay and that we allowed those who were offended (and lots of people were) to take aim.
But I have to say: I think often of what Bryce said. As an uncle, I know just enough about child-rearing to realize how little I know. As someone who dodges baby carriages while walking the city’s streets, I also know that Bryce had a point about people who take up space and make noise and seem not to care about their urban footprint. As long as we’re all sharing the same city, this argument will continue.
Christopher Moore, a blogger and journalist, was an editor at West Side Spirit from 1999 to 2008.