Cincinnatians don't like their city to be pigeonholed. At least not in a manner they perceive to be off target.That's so Cincinnati.
BuzzFeed's "BuzzFeed Community" site helps the list-empire target specific cities and regions, resulting in one of the more shared links of the week, at least locally — "31 Ways to Tell You're From Cincinnati."
At first, many seemed to celebrate more attention for our fair city. Then they read the list. It has proven to be far more controversial than BuzzFeed's "11 Cincinnati Foods That Are Better Than Yours" from earlier this year, likely because that list actually reflected contemporary Cincinnati. As far as I know, all those "Cincinnati foods" still exist.
It was clear to many that the "community contributor" who wrote the piece either hadn't been to Cincinnati for a while or was simply parroting one of the Enquirer's old "Cincinnati is so crazy and distinct — we say 'Pop' and 'Please' " articles from the past.
As commenters immediately pointed out, BuzzFeed's list was great … for anyone taking a time machine back to Cincinnati circa 2001 or earlier. While the list was mildly accurate, it reinforced some old stereotypes, like "You will die if you step foot in Over-the-Rhine" and how we can't shut up about George Clooney's Cincinnati roots (he's not from Cincinnati, he's from Kentucky). Elsewhere, items like "You hung in there with Reds’ pitcher 'Cool Hand Leake' even after he was booked for shoplifting" suggest the writer found an old sports page from 2011. That was hardly a big deal when it happened; I would wager most but the die-hardest of Reds fans have forgotten it even occurred. And things like Cincinnatians saying "Please" instead of "What did you say?" or calling Coke and Pepsi "pop" are local quirks that seem to be dying a little more with each more-widely-connected-to-the-world generation.
But what does it matter what Cincinnatians think? BuzzFeed got their big hits surge from Cincy residents and ex-pats. All for something that appeared to take about 10 minutes to put together. "List bait" works.
Yesterday, the folks at the site Cincy Whimsy responded with an "answer list" (oh, if only rap feuds were solved this way). Their "31 Ways to Tell You're From Cincinnati List: An Improved Version" list rang a lot more true to a lot people. The first item set the tone, calling out BuzzFeed for not correctly spelling Servatii and Procter & Gamble. Check it out here.
Last week, the local web buzz was all about the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber's "hip" ad for "Cincinnati USA," featuring a dude in capri pants and sandals talking about how Cincinnatians "do what we love." Unlike people from Pittsburgh, who strictly do things that they hate?
The video was also widely shared and, though well-intentioned, widely mocked.
Enter local comedienne Kristen Lundberg (aka Mammyspanx), whose equally-giddy response video is pretty pitch perfect.
When journalists interview people, it's more often than not about something very specific. When we interview the governor, his press person would definitely give us a dirty look if we threw in questions like, "What's your favorite '90s boy band?" or, "Did OJ do it?" We're there to discuss something specific, and straying too far outside that topic is viewed as either a waste of the interviewee's time or an invasion of privacy.
The reality is that there are more facets to the people we interview than we'll ever know. What was Senate Chef Daniel Wright's favorite toy when he was a kid? What does CityBeat editor-in-chief Danny Cross order at Taco Bell?
The answers to questions like these don't define a person, but neither do their jobs, possessions, political leanings, philanthropic efforts or social status. It's a little bit of everything. In this blog series, I'll be picking random Cincinnatians who are doing something interesting, call them on the phone/harass them on the street and ask five or six weird questions and hope I don't get yelled at. Feel free to comment if there's someone you'd like to suggest.
As a practice go, I'm first interviewing my cubicle mate and reporter extraordinaire, German Lopez. If you don’t recognize the name German Lopez, it’s because you probably never read CityBeat, so shame on you. Around the office, he's known for his dry sense of humor, really liking donuts, ditching all of our happy hours and one time writing almost an entire issue by himself. He's the one we all go to when we need him to explain in plebeian language the meaning of complicated political and economic data.
Hannah McCartney: What's your favorite most recent viral video?