Friday, July 18, 2008

Conflicting Reports

I wasn't able to go to last weekend's performance in Library Park by the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra. The Republican-American ran a very short article about it the next day. As described in the newspaper, only 150 people attended and the highlight of the performance happened when the police had to force a man to leave because he was getting in the way of the filming of the performance. Based on the newspaper coverage, I was left thinking that this was an event that was worth missing.

Then I talked to a couple of people who attended the performance from start to finish. They estimated a crowd of at least 500 people, and in their minds the highlight was an adorable little girl who was brought onstage to conduct one piece. In the newspaper report, the incident with the man who was in the way sounded dramatic and scary. According to the people I talked to, the incident wasn't newsworthy: the man in question is mildly retarded and was simply enjoying the music, unable to understand that he was in the way. Because it was a hot day, the crowd was spread throughout Library Park's shady areas. The best guess is that the reporter stopped by for five minutes, didn't look around the park to see how many people were really there, and make a big deal out of something that was barely memorable.

Over the past ten years, I think I've heard nearly every downtown organization complain about the newspaper's coverage of their events. The consensus seems to be that the Rep-Am prefers to publish bad news only about downtown. This is a large part of the reason that downtown has a bad image. If the article about the WSO performance had been written by the folks I talked to, everyone who read it would have wished they had been there to enjoy a great afternoon of music. Instead, I'll bet most people who read the published article felt glad they weren't there.

1 comment:

Peter said...

Estimating crowds for any sort of non-ticketed event is very difficult. It's hard to have anything but a very rough estimate. Of course the difficulty rises with the size of the event, but making an estimate even for a relatively small event like this performance is surprisingly hard. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that the people who made the 150 and 500 estimates both thought they were being accurate.

The most extreme example? It's been computed that if all the people who supposedly watch the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena were actually in attendance, tens of thousands of people would die of suffocation.