TUESDAY, JULY 6, 2021
But also at ESPN: According to her LinkedIn page, Kim Severson is National Food Correspondent at the New York Times.
Her official New York Times bio offers more detailed fare:
Kim Severson is a Southern-based correspondent who covers the nation's food culture. She reports on food news, contributes to NYT Cooking and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues.
Ms. Severson has been on staff since 2004, and served as The Times’s Southern bureau chief, where she covered a mix of breaking and political news.
Before she joined The Times, Kim spent six years writing about food and culture for The San Francisco Chronicle...
Severson's 2010 memoir was called Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life. It was the third of her four books. The publisher, Penguin Random House, describes it thusly:
Somewhere between the lessons her mother taught her and the ones she is now trying to teach her own daughter, Kim Severson stumbled. She lost sight of what mattered, of who she was and who she wanted to be, and of how she needed to live her life. It took a series of encounters with female cooks—including Marion Cunningham, Alice Waters, Ruth Reichl, Rachael Ray, and Marcella Hazan—to reteach her the life lessons she had forgotten, and many she had never learned in the first place...
There was a time, not long ago, when Our Town was sustained by such uplifting fare. That is no longer the case
By any measure, Severson has had a long and impressive high-end career. On Monday morning, she appeared on the front page of the New York Times with a lengthy profile, one which captures the state of upper-end press culture in Our Town in these modern times.
As published, Severson's dateline was "DIRT TOWN VALLEY, Ga." That's a very colorful name, but, for better or worse, Dirt Town Valley isn't exactly a place in the normal journalistic sense.
There is no city or town in Georgia bearing that colorful name. We'll guess the name was simply too colorful—too close to Dogpatch or God's Little Acre—to be passed by in a front-page travelogue of this type.
More precisely, Dirt Town Valley isn't a "community of 26,000"—and that's the way Severson describes the place where the subject of her profile lives. Instead, Severson seems to be referring to Chattooga County, Ga.—population, 26,015 in the 2010 census—where Stacie Marshall lives with her husband and their three daughters, residents of the small unincorporated community of Gore.
Why do we say that Marshall lives in Gore? That's the location she cites on the glossy web site she maintains for the 300-acre family farm she will fully inherit when her father dies.
(On the website, she has named the place Mountain Mama Farms, possibly after herself.)
On yesterday morning's front page, Severson offered a detailed account of Marshall's current attempted role in her broader community. In an early nugget, we're offered this overview:
SEVERSON (7/5/21): For almost three years now, with the fervor of the newly converted, Ms. Marshall has been on a quest that from the outside may seem quixotic and even naïve. She is diving into her family’s past and trying to chip away at racism in the Deep South, where every white family with roots here benefited from slavery and almost every Black family had enslaved ancestors.
“I don’t have a lot of money, but I have property,” she said during a walk on her farm last winter. “How am I going to use that for the greater good, and not in like a paying-penance sort of way but in an it’s-just-the-right-thing-to-do kind of way?”
It’s not easy finding anyone in this farming community of 26,000 she can talk to about white privilege, critical race theory or renewed calls for federal reparations. She can’t even get her cousins to stop flying the Confederate flag. It’s about heritage, not hate, they tell her.
According to Severson, some might find Marshall's quest quixotic, even naïve. You see, Marshall is "trying to chip away at racism in the Deep South."
Racial cluelessness inside the New York Times will have to wait for someone else to come along. Marshall is trying to "chip away at racism in the Deep South"—in places with exotic names like Dirt Town Valley!
As a matter of basic theory, that sounds like a good thing to do. That said, it isn't an easy task, as Marshall is said to be learning.
According to Severson, it isn't easy finding people in Chattooga County who want to talk about white privilege, critical race theory or even about renewed calls for federal reparations. Part of the reason may be found in this passage:
SEVERSON: The rolling farmland in this northwest corner of Georgia has never lent itself to the plantation agriculture that once dominated other parts of the South. Today, about 300 small farms raise cattle and broiler chickens, and grow soybeans and hay.
Few make much money. The poverty rate has edged close to double the nation’s. Ms. Marshall, who is on the board of the local homeless shelter, sees people in need all around her. “It’s really hard for people in Chattooga County to understand white privilege because they’re like, ‘We’re barely getting by,’” she said.
Over the years, her father and grandfather drove trucks or took shifts at the cotton mill to keep the farm running. At 68, her father, Steve Scoggins, still works 3 p.m. to midnight as a hospital maintenance man.
Few farms make much money in Chattooga County. Marshall's father, who is 68, still maintains a full-time job. The poverty rate in the county is high.
(Severson never explains the current job status of Marshall or her husband. At one point, she places their ten years of employment at Berry College in the past tense.)
Chattooga County isn't a high-income place. But for Marshall, it's hard to get people at the homeless shelter to appreciate the extent of their white privilege! Down at the local homeless shelter, they just don't seem to get it! Or so Severson maybe says.
Stacie Marshall may well be doing God's work, or at least trying to do so. That said, we found Severson's front-page profile a little bit hard to swallow.
We're not sure we should have reacted that way, but we'll report that we did. In the next few days, we'll describe various parts of the profile in more detail.
We had a more clearcut reaction to another sprawling front-page report in yesterday's New York Times—this time, to a sprawling report on the front page of the paper's Sports Monday section.
Here too, the Times attempted to offer instruction concerning matters of race. The mammoth report concerns "the scandal" which ensued at ESPN when sportscaster Rachel Nichols was unknowingly recorded, more than a year ago, during a telephone conversation.
Nichols was recorded making remarks which we would have to score as massively less than scandalous. We'll also discuss this second front-page report as the week proceeds.
This second front-page report has apparently created a world of reaction and uproar. We've seen one journalistic reaction which is about as baldly disingenuous as journalistic reactions get.
(Explosive headline on the report: A Disparaging Video Prompts Explosive Fallout Within ESPN.)
In the larger sense, Our Town is in a world of hurt, as is our failing nation. It has often seemed to us that the fatuous nature of Our Town's most famous newspaper has played a key role in that unfolding mess, dating back into the early 1990s.
That predisposition may help explain our reaction to Severson's front-page report.
According to experts, the Times has recently moved from complete indifference concerning matters of race to the massive and unending performance of moral greatness. The reports we've mentioned are part of the slough of "manifestations" to which these experts refer.
Is there something for subscribers to gain from yesterday's trip to Dirt Town Valley? Concerning the trip inside ESPN, we'd say the answer to a similar question would quite plainly be no.
That said, these manifestations never stop at this point in time.. Neither does the performative virtue, and perhaps the shaky judgment with the occasional bit of bad faith.
As Dylan was "tangled up in blue," Our Town is now tangled in "race." We hope we can move on to Einstein next week, but there aren't many Einsteins here.
Tomorrow: The female sportscaster's tale
Concerning Chattooga County: According to the leading authority on Chattooga County, its population was 26,015 as of the 2010 census. The county seat is Summerville (no relation).
The county contains four incorporated cities and twelve unincorporated communities. Gore is one of those smaller communities. You can see them all listed here.