There’s been a lot of talk over the past few months about whether Boston is a world-class city. We’ve heard some arguments that said status has already been triumphantly attained, while others have implied that we are close but need a crowning material achievement like the 2024 Olympics to seal the deal. Either way though, what’s clear is that the Hub is already front and center on the international news stage, a point I was reminded of on a recent trip to the polar geographic opposite end of America, Southwest Oregon.
I flew out on Super Bowl Sunday, leaving right before the game began and landing shortly after it ended. As a result of the insane nature of victory I expected plenty of flak from the natives, largely Seattle fans, but what I encountered was another level of strange altogether. As it turns out, Boston really is the hub of the universe, or at least the cable media universe.
My “Holy shit!” moment came on night one in Grants Pass, Oregon, a city of about 35,000 on the California border, four hours south of Portland. I was unpacking in my hotel room when the local five o’clock news came on and—bam—there was Mayor Marty Walsh giving a press conference about parking during snow storms. I smacked the side of the television the way Mouth does in The Goonies when he can’t distinguish the real car chase from the televised one, and Walsh was still there. On the local news. In Oregon.
Of the several dozen Massachusetts mentions I encountered in the Pacific Northwest, most were pegged to the bombing trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and more specifically the postponement in jury selection due to weather conditions. It only began there though; area reporters also spit copy about the Aaron Hernandez proceedings, the Patriots victory, horrendous gridlock, and in one case, our Olympics bid. On my third day, one early morning show seemed to feature more news about Boston than it did about Portland.
The whole experience, for better or worse, was enough to make me feel like I really do live in world-class digs. Once I settled in and made some friends, everybody seemed to want to know about Boston, and not only our murder trials but also the good stuff, like the Marathon itself, and all the innovation. The woman who set up the continental breakfast at my motel every morning, upon a report about the East Coast coming on the Weather Channel, told me that she wished that she could be in Boston just to see the snow. She didn’t know I lived there, and for a moment that made me even prouder to call the commonwealth my adopted home. I considered telling her and the couple next to me that I’m the news editor of a paper there, but then the image on TV switched to one of savage Pats fans hollering on Boylston Street and jamming up T platforms. I grabbed my spoon, put my head down, and continued eating my granola.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.