As we expected, the Reader has done a hack job of "reporting" the situations occurring in Wicker Park [August 26]. It is curious that the Reader printed Jeff Huebner's story two weeks before the Around the Coyote (ATC) festival, which the Reader is sponsoring this year. The article has been sitting in their office since last year. There was some useful, albeit incomplete and inaccurate, research which will hopefully spur some lively discussion and perhaps action, on the process of gentrification.
The Lumpen Times has attempted to bring attention to this process, and the complicity in it that all less-than-lifelong residents of the neighborhood share. To be aware of the dynamic is the first step toward attempting to change, slow, and reverse (if possible and/or necessary) this process. We are using this space to address a few of the lies printed by the editors at the Reader. Through selective editing and use of soundbites and pictures, the Reader editors have presented an inaccurate representation, not only of The Lumpen Times, but also of the gentrification issue.
First of all we are not a bunch of "frat boys" terrorizing people we don't like. Some of us are not even boys. The Lumpen Times is comprised of an ethnically and economically diverse group of humans who work together to provide an alternative to mainstream dialogue. This is only one of the realities omitted by the Reader's story.
Next, one has to question the validity of a "gentrification" article when the author fails to interview any of the primary losers in the gentrification game (mainly low-income Black and Latino communities). These are the marginalized in the politics of gentrification and aside from community papers, they have few venues in which to express their opinions about the whole mess. The Reader instead made it a point to focus on the drama between business owners and their artist opponents rather than how this problem affects everyone. The article is a journalistic farce as well as an utter disappointment considering these street level points of view were omitted.
The interviews with Andy Sickle and Chris Molnar were done last winter and no follow-up was initiated. The so-called facts of The Lumpen Times involvement in publicizing the boycott of Bookseller's Row (which we are no longer boycotting) and the "censoring and terrorizing" of C.J. Laity and Letter eX, are inaccurate and misreported. Basically, the Reader has rekindled old problems and printed the same old lies. For example, they allow Laity to make bizarre accusations and go on to list unclaimed acts of violence and vandalism implying Lumpen participation. If he's actually imagining "gangs of anarchists coming in to the bookstore . . . [to] lynch" him, perhaps his paranoia deserves clinical attention rather than press coverage.
Kenneth Corrigan, ex-Bookseller's Row manager, is allowed the same latitude in his statements. The Bookseller's boycott was not about Lumpen flyers being removed, but all flyers (which Corrigan does have the right to remove), but we then have the right to call people's attention to the community's response to his actions. The call for a boycott was not in protest of the "upscale look of the store," but to Corrigan's policy of censorship. It is absurd for him to claim that we "escalated" the attack to his person when we were reflecting his own idiocy upon him. In summary, Corrigan has a big mouth and no sense of humor.
Most inaccurate is that Andy Sickle, a former editor, makes the claim that we "knowingly printed lies" and took stands before we had opinions. It is impossible to take a stand without having an opinion, and we are not apologetic nor ashamed of anything we have printed (except the poetry). Sickle may have absolved his conscience of perceived wrongs, but we do not accept his judgment and think that his statements show the revisionist thinking of someone who bailed out. We also have to question why Huebner chose Sickle to speak for an organization he is no longer affiliated with, rather than a current staff editor. However, Sickle's point about "humorous clues" is relevant. Beyond covering serious debate about the issues, we invite our readers to think for themselves, and that includes discerning which articles (like "The Shit") are intended as satire.
The only panic in Wicker Park is the panic of those who are used to seeing gentrification proceed without impediment. We don't counsel panic, we advocate and report the struggle of insurgents against the status quo (which, by the way, does not include In These Times). For those truly interested in the gentrification issue, we suggest reading the whole Gilman Chatsworth article in our 15th issue, entitled "The Hidden Histories of Wicker Park." It calls upon those who talk about these issues to understand the history behind it.
We're glad we have so many mainstream papers in this city so that the misfits can suck each other's thumbs.
The Lumpen Editorial Nodes
Jeff Huebner replies:
To set the record straight, the story had not been sitting in the Reader offices for a year. It was in the works on and off for eight months. I submitted the first draft in April, and I was working on changes up until the very last minute before publication. If I had finished it sooner, it would have run sooner.
The Reader had a promotional booth at Around the Coyote. It also published the program guide and sold ad space in it. However, the paper's participation in the festival did not in any way affect the content of my story.
I stand by everybody's quotes, including Sickle's. It may not have been clear from the quote box that his statement, "We've knowingly printed stuff that wasn't true," referred only to the deliberately inaccurate reporting contained in the Lumpens' "The Shit" column, which, as I pointed out, is no longer running.
I don't dispute the fact that the Lumpens occasionally run some edifying pieces that legitimately contribute to neighborhood discourse. "The Hidden Histories of Wicker Park," as I mentioned in my story, is one of them. However, if the Lumpens didn't also occasionally engage in "borderline traditional ethics in journalism," their publication wouldn't be one of my favorite fun mags either.