This is an opinion/editorial from the desk of Shelly Green, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau.
It's been a busy two days. My email and phone lines burned up yesterday and today with people upset about the front page article about Durham in yesterday's The Daily Tarheel.
Indignation, disgust, disappointment, outrage...you name it, I heard it all.
So my first reaction was that I needed to assemble and distribute data and educate the author about the REAL facts about Durham! Our organization has plenty of data on our website for the media and the public alike. If you want to know how Durham's crime compares to benchmark cities in the state and country, take a look. But Chapel Hill isn't a peer city. The two are as different as apples and lug nuts.
This story evoked such deep, visceral negative reactions not because it reported on Durham's crime. Durham isn't perfect and its crime rate is average - in fact, it's currently at a 23-year low. The reaction came so swiftly and with such vigor because Durhamites felt disrespected and insulted by the tone. Judging from the comments on the story, many Chapel Hillians did, too. Many question the quality of the journalism, but that's an assessment and debate I'll leave to the academics.
The thing is, if this happened at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, an uproar like this from residents of nearby Des Moines would be unlikely. It just wouldn't be on their radar.
But Durham is different. The level of Durham residents' pride has been measured for nearly 20 years, and although it's always been very high, it's off-the-chart compared to other communities. Orange County residents, by and large, think highly of Durham, too. That's also been measured for the same two decades.
Am I upset? A little, but my emotions are tempered by the fact that so many stepped up to Durham's defense so swiftly. I did, however, send a letter to the writer, Chelsey Dulaney early this morning. I haven't heard back yet, but if you are curious about what I said to her and her editor, read it here.