Let's just get this out of the way. No, I am not a native Austinite. But, yes, I wish I were.
On Thursday, VICE published an article entitled, "Reasons Why Austin is the Worst Place Ever," written by Luke Winkie. (We're not going to bother linking to it, so just go ahead and Google away.) This piece is the follow-up to Winkie's somewhat nonsensical article (published last week) about East Austin gentrification, a piece so poorly researched that it used an old photo of the newly minted Plaza Saltillo development (with what is now the North Door and Wright Bros Brew & Brew in the background) and captioned it "Downtown Austin, as seen from the city's impoverished east side."
What's offensive about the piece isn't the unoriginal digs at the traffic or the weather, it's marginalizing Austinites as unmotivated and scared shitless.
In today's world of cynical journalists and paychecks that are more of a reflection of the numbers a writer pulls to the site than anything else, it's easy to understand why someone would craft a clickbait piece aimed at infuriating Austinites, rather than actually contribute to the conversation. But that's not an excuse. Sure, there will always be cynics, and there will always be people out to make a buck, but those people aren't typical Austinites.
The article is written as a series of bullet points aimed at being just general enough that when people get mad, the writer can just roll his eyes and say, "They just don't get it." Fine, whatever. But what's offensive about Winkie's piece isn't the unoriginal digs at the traffic or the weather (because we know, and ... we know), it's marginalizing Austinites as unmotivated and scared shitless.
"When you move here you separate yourself from any childhood aspirations and settle down with a job that you’re still not sure actually exists," Winkie writes. He continues, "Everyone in Austin under the age of 25 is sort of plotting a move to New York. They will not move, though, because they are scared. Living in a city where things are actually expected of you is hard. It’s much easier to blame your professional and personal failings on the lack of inertia in Austin."
As someone who moved here from New York City and has a job that most certainly exists, I take special offense to these ridiculous statements. I don't know a single person who is professionally or personally "failing" in Austin. In fact, almost everyone I know came here for the simple reason that they didn't want to do what they want to do anywhere else. Sure, Austinites can party hard, but it's because they work even harder.
VICE's comments section is full of people pointing out that Winkie is a California transplant, but that's missing the point. We all know plenty of people from San Diego, just like we know folks from Seattle, Chicago, Miami and Denver. Where the writer is from shouldn't matter. That he lives in Austin and doesn't seem to like it very much, well, that's fine, too. But the No. 1 rule in journalism is, if you're going to write about something, learn about it. Winkie clearly hasn't bothered to learn about Austin.
The arguments in the article were, at least in my guess, likely culled from a recent Reddit post asking users to explain what they don't like about Austin. Reading it on Reddit was amusing. It invoked a sort of camaraderie ("I hate those car donation spots on KUT, too!") but seeing it written by someone who, frankly, just doesn't seem to get what living in Austin is about, is infuriating.
In its June edition, Austin Monthly published a newcomers guide to living in Austin. It was written by CultureMap contributor Mikela Floyd, and featured a quote by Andy Langer. Langer hits the nail on the proverbial head with what he says about living in Austin. "Fit into our culture and sustain what makes Austin different with this simple approach: When possible, shop and dine local, see live music, support the arts and volunteer for an Austin nonprofit you believe in."
Ultimately, yes, it's VICE, a news outlet that takes pride in being subversive. But a piece like this still elicits pause. Maybe if it were some VICE writer in Los Angeles or Brooklyn taking us to task and not someone who lives here, it wouldn't sting as much. But he does. All we can do is recommend to Winkie that he order himself a breakfast taco, take a deep breath and just relax. And, hey, maybe a dip in Barton Springs will help.
And Winkie, you should probably tell your editor that there is no hyphen between "Live" and "Music" in "Live Music Capital of the World."