In the intro paragraph to her January 25 article, “Daughter of Birmingham Plans Revival”, New York Times reporter Donna Paul writes, “…After a period of prosperity and growth, Birmingham was brought to its knees by the Depression and wracked by the end of segregation. Birmingham has never fully recovered its prominence. Its population today, 230,000, is less than it was in 1930.”
After reading that, I was shocked to find, outside my front door, not one tin shanty, nor a single rusted pickup on blocks. I was equally taken aback that the golf course outside my back door was fairly overrun with golfers and carts, rather than squatters and campfires.
Over the next several days I searched for, but found, no evident signs of the Depression-wracked Birmingham so vividly and heartbreakingly portrayed in Paul’s words. Which led me to think that maybe, just maybe, journalistic accuracy was sacrificed at the altar of melodrama.
After all, told in the context of a Metropolitan area of over 1 million, where the largest employer—the University of Alabama in Birmingham—is anchored by one of the country’s top research hospitals, the story of Paul’s heroine (deservedly well-regarded local developer Cathy Crenshaw) is reduced from sure-fire Oscar status to one of laudable citizenship and rare business savvy.
But then, maybe that’s the point: Sometimes a story is just too good to shackle with mundane facts. Even in the New York Times.