Re: Francis X. Donnelly’s June 25 report, “Town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula celebrates birthday, harkens back to better times”
Journalists in the comment stream on DetroitNews.com are right to take Francis X. Donnelly and his editors to task for failing to provide a fair, balanced, and complete perspective on Escanaba.
I lived in Escanaba for 8 years and still own a house there. I laughed out loud at the author’s doomsday proclamations about the Upper Peninsula, which were so negative they became absurd. His word choices seemed plucked from a Dickens novel. I half expected Oliver Twist to creep from the shadows and ask for another pasty.
Donnelly described the scenic, lake shore drive on Highway 2 as “bleak,” a “vast wilderness,” “desolate,” “lonely,” and “littered with vacant gas stations.” Locals were “ravaged” on the way to Rosy’s “blood red” diner.
Perhaps Donnelly wrote this piece between chapters of his new novel on the zombie apocalypse. Or drank too much coffee between stops and was jaded by his lack of quick access to a 7-Eleven restroom.
The author (mis)quoted a diner patron who dismissed the upcoming sesquicentennial celebration as an “old- fashioned” party for old people steeped in nostalgia, complete with logrolling, horse and buggies, and Civil War demonstrations.
Donnelly’s writing style is a Civil War demonstration. He favors the grandiose prose of certain war correspondents in the 1860s who waxed poetic from the front lines of battles they never saw. This type of faux journalism belongs in the past.
Communities, like people, are complex. The real story of Escanaba – with all its nuances and varied perspectives – is one that deserves to be told. It’s too bad that this time Mr. Donnelly seemed to care more for inflating his self image as a muckraking reporter than for observing, listening, and capturing the true character of one of America’s great small towns.
Chris Quick, Missoula, Montana