Sunday, November 27, 2005


The Sunday Springfield News-Leader boasts one of the best Page One shots in recent memory. Played huge, it made for a compelling visual. But was it -- and the stories about Hmong in the Ozarks -- worth the space?

We read it all, not because it was especially riveting (it wasn't) or because the topic made it a must-read (again, no). We read it all because we were amazed at the use of three-quarters of the front page, and two full inside pages in the A-section, to discuss an estimated 200 Hmong families living in "the region." Who's doing the estimating? Apparently no one; this is the fourth graf of the mainbar:
Today, it is estimated that 200 Hmong families, or at least 1,000 people, have moved to the area from across the country, especially Wisconsin and Minnesota, where tens of thousands of Hmong sought refuge after the Vietnam War.
Reporter Didi Tang writes of people who moved "here," but where is here? A specific boundary is never drawn, but it extends at least as far south as Gravette, Ark. Glad to see the News-Leader covering Arkansas with vigor.

Good graphics, nice layout, helluva photo report from Noppadol Paothong. But the stories? A lot of words, not much depth. Absolutely no mention that we could find of the 2004 slayings of six deer hunters in Wisconsin by a Hmong immigrant from Minnesota. That story is relevant because it revealed racial tension between white locals and Hmong immigrants. Many of the people quoted in Tang's News-Leader package were from Wisconsin and Minnesota. We're certain the case -- settled just this month -- was discussed by local Hmong immigrants. Why no mention?

And why no discussion of serious cultural issues? Tang quotes locals fawning over things introduced by Hmong immigrants -- like chopsticks, new foods, ginseng tea. Mighty trite. How will local law enforcement deal with inevitable tensions between foolish Ozarkers and freshly arrived immigrants? If there aren't any tensions or incidents, that's a helluva news angle that should have been covered. If there are such tensions, who's dealing with them? And how?

Have local social service agencies had to change strategies to deal with new Hmong families? What's the impact of local churches sponsoring new families? Is interracial dating an issue among the Hmong and native Ozarkers?

Beats us. Everything is peachy in the News-Leader report. To quote the city clerk of Wheaton: "I had a shrimp and fresh bean dish and stir-fry chicken. It's really good."


Anonymous said...

"One time a farmer out west of this town got behind in his subscription to the Springfield newspaper, and the editor wrote him that if he didn't have no money, he could bring in two or three bushels of corn. "Heck," says the farmer, "if I had any corn, I'd have cobs. And if I had cobs, what would I want with this darned old paper?"

With apologies to Vance Randolph.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Noppadol Paothong is/was a photographer for that story, not a reporter. That's a wrong information.

Ron Davis said...

Anon: You can read, can't you?

... helluva photo report from Noppadol Paothong.

That's a right information.