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Southeast Side seminar sparks criticism

BY MARLEEN LINARES | FEBRUARY 04, 2010 7:30 AM

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While Iowa City’s Southeast Side often sparks heated debate, some residents suggested Wednesday that the neighborhood’s residents rarely get the opportunity to voice their opinions.

Iowa City residents gathered to discuss the issues of ethnicity and media relating to the Southeast Side at a seminar Wednesday night.

But some in attendance said the event’s location kept the city’s southeastern residents from attending.

“This was very much an academic setting with a lot of students and UI officials,” said Cindy Roberts, a Southeast Side resident. “I’d like to see more representation of the Southeast residents next time.”

The three-part seminar series, “Media, Space and Race: The Case of the ‘Southeast Side’ of Iowa City,” is hosted by the UI’s Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry.

At Wednesday’s hour-and-a-half long seminar, “ Words Matter: On-line Postings in the Iowa City Press-Citizen,” three panelists — Jeff Carlson, the Press Citizen’s opinion-page editor, UI Associate Professor Frank Durham, and UI Assistant Professor Andre Brock — examined an article about the Iowa City City Council’s passage of an underage curfew and the associated online commentary.

Carlson defended the “story chat” feature, noting the publication tries to ensure that the minority opinion is protected against the majority’s.

“We’ve had to kick many people off whose comments are clearly wrong and violate our terms of service,” he said.

However, Durham said, comments on articles do not provide any insight, noting they are often off-topic, profane, and unrepresentative of the community.

“Journalism is the product of enlightenment; blog posts are the very chaos articles [seek] to order,” he said.

Sue Loving, who lives on the Southeast Side, said the comments posted often are over the top, and she noted that the violence often attributed to the area is citywide and not confined to her neighborhood.

But she said she finds it hard to disagree with all of the comments after the August shooting occurred right outside her home.

“These comments are made out of anger, so they seem fake, but they’re not,” Loving said. “It’s not fair for me to worry about making comments and hurting someone’s feelings when things like this are happening.”

Brock said that after studying the comments on the article, he became worried and fascinated at people’s expressions about ethnicity that they’d otherwise be too uncomfortable to reveal off-line.

“The Internet showcases the best and worst in people because it was designed that way,” Brock said.

The next seminar in the series, “Maps Matter: Iowa City Boundaries and ‘Neighborhood Imaginaries,’ ” will be March 3.


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