Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Diverging Perceptions on H Street

Judging by the traffic on various listservs, a story about H Street NE in today’s Washington Post by reporter Paul Schwartzman seems to have been read by just about everybody. But what just about everybody DIDN'T see was a whole lotta mention about the amplified preachers who assemble every weekend at the intersection of H and 8th Streets--except for one small reference in the 12th paragraph.

The story, Whose H Street Is It, Anyway?, explores the dispute over restaurant zoning on H Street NE. It probes the potential reasons for the dispute--from bureaucratic bungling to gentrification to racism.

The fact is, Schwartzman knows about the preachers from the Israeli School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISUPK). He's even seen and heard them in action.

After reading my blog (Quest for Quiet), Schwartzman contacted me and visited the corner of H and 8th Streets NE on two cold and windy Saturdays in January (Jan. 14 and Jan. 21). He wanted to hear the noise for himself.

While we’ve never met in person, I had a sense of Schwartzman’s story angle after receiving this Jan. 23 email from him:
The invective was upticked a bit when you were gone. i'm still interested but this may be more of a warm weather story.

there could be a broader story about H Street and changes, and clashing cultures

His words “clashing cultures” confused and concerned me.

I reiterated to Schwartzman again that the residents (of all shapes, sizes and colors) in and around the 700 block of 8th Street NE simply want the preachers to stop using the amplifier so that the residents can enjoy peace and quiet in our own homes.

Further, I emphasized that my neighbors and I see this as a noise issue--not an issue of speech content or a group’s right to assemble.

I’ve not heard from Schwartzman since January, but anticipated a story like today’s. My guess is he has several more H Street stories in the works. I’ve emailed him to see if plans to include the noise issue.

Like it or not, the story illustrates one thing: Everybody has a perception--true or false--about the changes happening to H Street NE. It was evident from today’s story that some of these perceptions are very real to some people.

And just as perceptions differ, so do views about speech content. That's why our neighborhood is focused on solving this issue on the merits of something easily measured: the loudness of sound using a decibel meter.


Anonymous omar said...

Clearly, Mr. Schwartzman has already made up his mind about H Street so now he's just looking for spot information to support his hypothesis. Today it’s the fight over fast foods joints opening without a special exception hearing and likely this Summer it will be your fight to end noise pollution at 8th and H. I can't wait until someone takes up the fight against public urination. I'm sure Mr. Schwartzman will be on the scene to vilify this person with a nice story including “quotes” (Mr. Humphries alleges Mr. Schwartzman misquotes interviewees) from H Street community members attributing racist motives to the effort so he can spin it into more evidence of a culture clash on H Street. Pathetic. PS, awesome blog, Dave!

12:57 PM  
Blogger inked said...

Nice post. I'm sorry he didn't mention your noise issue in the story.

2:23 PM  

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