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Homewood 100 - a concept, and a call to respond

Posted by Elwin Green on January 21, 2011 at 12:16 AM

I have been thinking about how to make "Homewood Nation" better.

One idea I have is based on a post I read at PressThink, a blog by New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen. This idea is simple, but deep.

The idea is to provide 100 percent coverage of Homewood.

That's it. I told you it was simple. But think with me for a moment. What would 100 percent coverage of Homewood look like?

First of all, it would include everything relating to Homewood that is already public record. Every birth, every death, every marriage.

See how deep it's already getting? Think about how Homewood appears in the news now. Death, pain and confusion, right? What if we had a medium that let us all know more of the everyday good news that makes up the bulk of everday life ("It's a girl!")? News that lets us celebrate together, as well as mourn together?

Speaking of mourning, what if we had news that allowed us to share in the peaceful passing of someone who lived a long and honorable life just as well as in the violent passing of someone who lived a short (and sometimes foolish) one?

Then there's marriage. More precisely, weddings, people getting married. When the media repeatedly repeat the statistic that 70 percent or more of Black children in Pittsburgh live in single-parent households, aren't weddings worth noticing?

(My wife says that some people may not want their information out there. I say that it's already out there, in the public record, and that we need to get better about rejoicing for one another. What do you say?)

Public records also include every real estate transaction, every zoning hearing, every business permit.

Real estate transactions and zoning hearings shape our physical world. Who owns the vacant land and vacant buildings on Homewood Avenue and what are their plans? How much of Homewood is owned by people outside of the neighborhood, in different states, or even in different countries? Do you want to know those things?

Business permits shape our neighborhood's economy. Tracking them would let us know what's coming in terms of new businesses. And it would eliminate a lot of guessing and rumor and reacting to guesses and rumors.

All of that is public information, and there could be enough there to keep a person busy full-time.

But 100 percent coverage of Homewood would include a lot more.

It would include, at the very least, announcements of every church event, every event at the Homewood Carnegie Library, every function at Homewood's public schools, every event at the Homewood-Brushton Branch of CCAC, and every event hosted or sponsored by local service agencies - the YMCA, the YWCA, etc.

It would include every midget football game our kids play.

It could include stories of personal celebrations, such as Mrs. SoandSo's 80th birthday, or Mr. and Mrs. ThemThere's 50th wedding anniversary.

It would definitely include continuing coverage of continuing stories, such as the Jordan Miles matter, Homewood Plaza, the Rite-Aid building, Meadow Lanes, the Homewood Childrens Village, the Bridging the Busway project, Cafe 524, and the Race Street Project.

Pursuing 100 percent coverage of Homewood would mean asking every social service agency in Homewood that receives public funding for a copy of its annual report, so that residents can know offically exactly what they are doing, and who pays them.

Do you see why I said that the 100 percent idea is simple, but deep? Can you imagine what that would look like? What would it mean for you if you felt like you could learn everything - EVERYTHING - you need to know about Homewood right here, at Homewood Nation?

Effective dissemination of all of this information would also require doing something in print at some point, but that's a whole discussion by itself...

So what do you think? Do you have ideas for "Homewood 100" that I didn't mention? Concerns? Questions? Toss them into the mix!

Please share your thoughts!

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Reply kitty long
1:48 PM on January 22, 2011 
Elwin,I think it's a great idea..I look forward to a monthly section called"Her Times" in our paper.It's such a refreshing break from the usual headlines of crime and hopelessness.I do believe there are positive things going on in Homewood;this would be a good way to get the word out.I agree that people do want this..Even more important,they NEED a break from the doom and gloom.
Reply Denise Johnson
1:59 PM on January 22, 2011 
Its a great idea and it presents so many opportunities. Kids in the neighborhood could be reporters, photographers, videographers, etc. Remember that "Elders" idea I was kicking around? Something like this could generate cohesion in the Home and be a model for other neighborhoods. Think collaboration with Point Park/SPJ/PBMF. The social service agencies could also benefit. Let's not 4get the Africana/Black studies dept. at the colleges and universities. You get my drift...
Reply PDavis
2:20 PM on January 22, 2011 
Great idea and requires a lot of coordination but certainly worth a try.
Reply Vic
2:36 PM on January 22, 2011 
Elwyn this is so simple, but it makes perfect sense. For far to long, from a distance both near (when I lived in Monroevile) and far (now in Maryland) all I have heard is the negative news from Homewood. This proposal will let us all know the good things that are happening and the every day things that make life what it is. From this vantage point, I can only say it sounds great. Whatelse do you need from us?
Reply Bernadette Turner
2:50 PM on January 22, 2011 
FABULOUS! It's a brilliant idea and genuinely brings valu
Reply Bernadette Turner
2:52 PM on January 22, 2011 
(hit send to soon!) It genuinely brings value to a community and the people! I'll assist where I can.
Reply Elwin Green
3:06 PM on January 22, 2011 
Thanks, everyone, for all the support so far. But I need to make something clear. The point of "Homewood 100" is not to tell positive stories. The point is not even to provide balance, in the sense of "here's a negative story, now here's a positive story." The point is to be thorough in reporting life in Homewood as it comes. If there are three shootings in one day, that's the news. If there are three weddings in one day, that's the news. If the URA announces a plan for a new retail-office-hotel complex on Homewood Avenue to be built by a developer from Boston, that's the news. If the URA announces a meeting for community input on what to do with Homewood Avenue, that's the news. And if only two Homewood residents show up for that meeting....sigh.
Life in Homewood is tragic AND comic, there are successes AND failures.
Oh, and not everyone in Homewood, even among those who are trying to do good things for the community, likes each other. So sometimes the news might be about people just not getting along.
Vic, right now all I need is this, people's responses. Thanks!
Reply denisegraham
3:16 PM on January 22, 2011 
I like the idea. I really like the Library's being a part of this. I am willing to do my part
Reply Denise Johnson
3:21 PM on January 22, 2011 
Hey - Does Homewood Nation have a page on Facebook?
Reply Evangelist Blair-Fuller
4:38 PM on January 22, 2011 
Elwin, my thoughts are this is a positive move toward showing the positive side of Homewood; toward promoting the good along with the other issues/items of the community; towards all the organizations in Homewood that filter fianance through the community visable. In sharing and celebrating each other as we reach out to each other. As always let me know what I can do to assist.
Reply Elwin Green
5:14 PM on January 22, 2011 
[Denise: you have way too many ideas LOL! Definitely, it would make sense (in my mind) to involve kids; maybe they could get class credits for English/journalism/civics (does anyone teach civics anymore?).

There's no HN Facebook page. I would have to think hard and converse well with some smart people before doing that. First, because Facebook holds NO appeal for me personally; second, because any content created on Facebook is not accessible to non-Facebook members. The first is nearly irrelevant ( it might just mean having someone else create and manage the page), but I think the second is really important.

For those who want to help, the first thing you can do is what Denise Graham has just done: share information you already have about anything you know of that's happening in Homewood, or that could affect Homewood) by posting it on the calendar. Thanks!

Gotta go do the night shift thing at the Post-Gazette...
Reply Albert W
6:02 PM on January 22, 2011 

An excellent idea! This will provide a fair and complete image of Homewood as a neighborhood. As you said,? let all the news out? and in the long run Homewood will be seen as a viable community full of joy as well as sadness.
I still want to start the ?Westinghouse Forever? blog. I have some spare time now, but I will need some help. Let?s get in touch.
Reply Monica
7:28 PM on January 22, 2011 
Hi Elwin,
It's your old colleague Monica Haynes. I LOVE this idea. How can I be a part of making it happen?
Hit me up at monicahaynes30@yahoo.com
Reply GTO
8:33 PM on January 22, 2011 
This is a very deep idea. But someone with your balanced perspective and your love of great challenges could make it happen, Mr. Green. Homewood would certainly benefit from it. (And honestly, wouldn't Pittsburgh as well?)
P.S. - Does the PG link readers to "Homewood Nation" like they used to link to "My Homewood"? curious..
Reply lynne williams
6:00 AM on January 23, 2011 
i was reading this and i think its an xcellent idea, not just 4 homewood but 4 all pittsburgh communities that are plagued with problems like violence, gangs, drugs, various crimes, rundown tenements, vacant lots and bldgs and whatever else. Though i dont reside in homewood, i ws raised in manchester on the northside and currently reside in bellevue, i am one of those people who is actually kinda scared 2 go 2 homewood because as long as i can remember, ive nevr heard anything positive about homewood, never! So it would be nice 2 hear bout other thngs goin on tht promote the positive side of homewood as well as other areas. Good luck with your mission
Reply Cynthia
10:31 AM on January 23, 2011 
I think this is an excellent idea. This would give the community a sober assessment of itself and could act as a proponent for change. I love this idea, which could also be re-applied to other disentranchised communities in Pgh. I live in NYC now, and would read something like this even from here.
Reply SamT
11:55 AM on January 23, 2011 
I'm on board. Keep us posted!
Reply kxm
1:23 PM on January 23, 2011 
Elwin - just a quick thought - there is a new website, the Forest Hills-Regent Square Patch that is covering all sorts of stuff happening in those two neighborhoods and the surrounding areas (e.g., Park Place, Swissvale, Edgewood, parts of Wilkinsburg). It seems like the Patch model would be a good basis for what you're talking about, and I know that at least the editor is paid (how much, I don't know). You might want to check it out:


The Patch.org Foundation was formed in March, 2010 to improve the quality of life in underserved communities across the globe through access to trusted local news and information.
What we do

The Patch.org Foundation plans to partner with community foundations and other organizations to fund the operation of Patch news and information sites in communities that need them most: inner-city neighborhoods and underserved towns around the world.
What we look for

We will look for communities of 15-100k population that are underserved by media and would benefit by having access to local news and information about government, schools and business. These could be inner-city neighborhoods or distinct towns. For more information email foundation@patch.com. "
Reply kxm
1:28 PM on January 23, 2011 
homewoodnation says...
[First, because Facebook holds NO appeal for me personally; second, because any content created on Facebook is not accessible to non-Facebook members. The first is nearly irrelevant ( it might just mean having someone else create and manage the page), but I think the second is really important.

Elwin -- a FB page can be a very powerful tool. I think it is unwise to use it alone for the reason you give, but if you create a FB page as a *complement* to this site, you can have it feed your blog posts and you can use it to make announcements so they would show up on my wall, and I would come to the website more often. The FH-Reg. Sq. Patch website I linked to above also has a FB page which helps get the word out about the site and directs people to the articles there.

FB provides a great central feed for a lot of people and will increase traffic to your site. I don't think to come here very often, but if every time you posted a blog entry, it showed up in my FB feed, I'd come read more and it makes it easy for those of us on FB (500+ million people) to share with friends and repost things. Don't underestimate its usefulness.
Reply L. Perry
5:12 PM on January 23, 2011 
Elwin...sounds interesting. I think it would be quite a difficult task to not leave something out as there's so much to be reported on. I look forward to hearing more as things are decided and if the decision is to have such an opportunity for Homewood, I will do what I can to assist. I applaud your creativity and your commitment; Homewood needs this kind of energy to keep the momentum for change alive...