Wednesday, August 15, 2007

West Coast Credibility

Lloyd Thacker, a professional colleague, was recently interviewed by Julia Silverman, a young reporter from the northeastern part of the U.S. She seemed surprised to have been asked to interview him, and one of her first questions was whether he felt that he had any credibility issues in advancing his cause, because he was from the west coast. He got over his incredulity at such an inquiry quickly enough to provide a suitable answer, and the interview continued.

In fact, he is the leader in his line of work in the U.S. I would call him cutting-edge, which the reporter didn't seem to know, even though that's why she had been assigned by a major news outlet to speak to him. He was so intrigued by her peculiar inquiry that he checked into her background and found that she had gone to an upper-scrapings private eastern prep school and a similarly top-froth college in the northeast. It was clear that her cramped cultural world stopped well short of the Ohio River, unless it allowed for access to Chicago (presumably her Far West) by aircraft. If she is a skier, it's at Mt. Mansfield, Vermont, not Aspen, let alone Sun Valley.

Her story, which was picked up in my local paper, the Eugene Register-Guard, referred to Portland, where Lloyd works, as an "outpost," as though she expected to find smelly trappers hauling beaver pelts through Pioneer Square. In fact, metro Portland is larger than any city in Ohio and all but five in the whole Northeast coastal corridor.

Why is it that the west, home of Apple, Microsoft and many other successful leading organizations, including Oregon's Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Leupold optics and many others, is perceived as having an inherent credibility gap? At the risk of unseemly immodesty, I will note for the record that I am probably the best in the U.S. at what I do, too, and certainly in the top few. I was the only person in my line of work to be invited to represent states at a U.S. Senate hearing a few years back. It seems to me perfectly normal that someone from the northwest would be a national leader in his field.

I wish we could see more, not less, spatial and social diversity in the sources of what we read and hear. I subscribe to many journals, and they all seem to feature the same suspects from the northeast corridor bleating at each other the same lines they used ten years ago. Enough of this east-coast upmanship. We're not impressed. We don't need it any more. Our world looks out on the Pacific future, not down into ancient arguments of the North Atlantic and eastern Europe.

The easterner who wonders why we are not worried about our credibility has nothing that we want. We do not envy her cities, her coastlines, her social culture. We have seen them. We know what they are. If we do not shout our gloriousness so that she knows it in full splendor, it may be because we are not a shouting people, or perhaps we do not need to be found.

1 comment:

Maeona said...

As a native Oregonian and a staunch Tom McCall supporter, I used to use the term, "Don't Californicate Oregon". Maybe we could coin a new term regarding East and West coast.