So I woke up Wednesday morning from a late night (why did you have to start that set so damn late) Ryan Bingham concert at George’s. I thought about sleeping for a bit longer, but I decided to crack open my new May issues of CitiScapes and Celebrate. And then I came to a realization.
Before I go any further with this nice opinion, let me say that I own about five years worth of CitiScapes magazines and have often looked to them for some of the best photography and profiles in the area. I am a huge fan of the publication and its editorial staff. I also know that since I freelance for the Fayetteville Flyer and the Free Weekly, it could seem like a huge slap to say what I am about to say. But alas, that’s not my intention at all.
I have been unemployed for about two months now. It has given me a great amount of time to get things done around my house (and for myself) that I never felt I had the time to do before. It has been a real blessing compared to the time that I spent in a cubical. However, at the end of the day, I do worry about finding a job when I am fully ready, my next move in life, and above all, supporting my home and our family of two (plus dog).
Something has changed within me. My affection for these two publications as well as the profiles and lifestyles section of the Northwest Arkansas Times. I fear that they have lost sight of what is really going on in the area, particularly in Fayetteville. Each month we are introduced to some of the same magazine sections that have been there for years. We get a profile of a local celebrity or person of importance, we get pages and pages promoting tons of black-tie dinners that raise money for charity after charity, and we get home tours of massive houses in Northwest Arkansas.
Never before have I felt that publications are so deeply in need of a reality check. Northwest Arkansas is not vendor island anymore. Sure, they may still be there, but the truth is, the vendors are supplying companies that have had to let hundreds of people go. The growth has slowed, the Northwest Arkansas Mall has more vacancies than ever, and even the Promenade has as many disasters (Harold’s) as successes (Pottery Barn). Upscale restaurants are folding in favor of more specialized and economical fare like Hammontree’s and Little Bread. Places like Orange Mango, Trailside, and Bliss are doing well because they are essentially a fairly cheap date. Major luxury hotel brands are pulling product or are going into bank foreclosure.
CitiScapes and Celebrate, however, continue to regularly feature lavish Dickson condo after lavish Dickson condo. A simple Zillow search showcases tons of apartments that are still for sale at prices that don’t seem to catch on. Furthermore, good luck finding a bank that’ll finance a condo in a society where every other one is either vacant or unsellable. Not to mention the problems of the investors who own these buildings.
It seems almost cruel to continually feature events and functions where people are dressed up and spending money left and right when the reality is, that’s a TINY portion of Northwest Arkansas’ people.
This is not just a problem around here. Many national magazines have had to reevaluate their scope in light of the economy. Some have folded, others have scaled back, and others have changed their missions. Vogue is now featuring economy items (for Vogue) and House Beautiful is featuring stuff from Ikea and Target.
I suppose my wish is that these magazines would do a nice demographic study and use their publications to address what’s really going on in Northwest Arkansas. It’s not simply okay to gloss over the issues when people are worried about paying for their homes, businesses are closing, and growth has stalled. If anything, the recent popularity of Fayetteville Flyer, the Free Weekly, and Arkansas Times in Northwest Arkansas have proven that people want and need something different. Something accessible and protective in a harsh world.
With the dwindling society section in the Northwest Arkansas Times, the folding of national magazines, and the shift in perspective, it truly does raise the question “Is High Society Dead?” I would argue that it may not be dead, but people better step up and address the fact that its EKG is slowing down to a grueling pace. Do you agree or disagree? Do you even read these publications? If so, how would you improve them? Or would you?
Wayne Bell is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. He moved to Fayetteville in 2003 for his Master’s Degree and you can almost always catch him at Little Bread Co. or Hammontree’s. For more of Wayne’s contributions, visit his author page.