If you have some time, listen to this story from 99% Invisible. Because my summary won’t do justice to it.
In Seattle they were going to build a new mall. But one of the homeowners refused to sell. Edith Macefield was in her 80s and she turned down first $750,000 and then $1,000,000 for her home, which was valued at about $120,000.
The news, quite naturally, loved this story and made Mrs. Macefield into an icon about blight of urbanization etc. They projected their own agenda on to the story. Mrs. Macefield mostly refused to speak to them, so they were free to make any story they wanted about it.
If this was a movie, the constructions guys would be the bad guys, but as it turns out, they liked Mrs. Macefield and the supervisor made friends with her. They kept an eye on her, while they build the mall around her tiny little home.
In the end though, it turns out that Mrs. Macefield wasn’t angry at the builders or at the way the world was changing. She was friendly with the construction workers. She was just old and it was hard to change and hard to move around and she already knew where everything in her home was. She had no family to leave it to, therefore the money was just irrelevant to her. So, she didn’t move.
Its important to remember this. Mrs. Macefield’s real story is different than the one projected on her by the news media, who told her story like it was David vs Goliath but with high minded ideals about over urbanization. And so the public of Seattle saw Mrs. Macefield entirely as something she wasn’t.
We view the stories of the world through the only lens we are provided.
And that lens is the news media we consume. We are aware that we are seeing a skewed version of politics depending on which news channel we watch. Aware of the distortion caused by which country’s news we are watching. But less distinct is the everyday things we see as straight reporting.
No matter how its presented, the person writing/reporting a story is projecting their version of the story. That version may not be the same version someone else involved in the story would give. Sometimes the fault lies in lack of information that gets filled in by the storyteller. Sometimes the fault lies in innate views of the storyteller, which inform everything they see.
In any case, the actual events aren’t quite as they are being told.
2 thoughts on “Mrs Macefield vs the Building of a Mall”
You have a very good point there, how the media can alter the meaning of a story while still telling, more or less, the truth.
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So true. Even I, who am as pure as the undriven snow, has occasionally filled in details on a story I was repeating because I either didn’t know them or didn’t remember. I can only imagine what reporters do when their careers are depending upon it.
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