baltimoresun.com

« Don't get tense over tenses | Main | The manufacture of bogus rules »

Where is Mount Vernon?

For starters, Google searchers, this is about the Mount Vernon neighborhood in Baltimore. We have George Washington, in a toga, on top of a column. This is not about the Mount Vernon in Virginia, which has his body.

Last week a reader from the Mount Vernon neighborhood sent an irate note to one of our reporters about an article that had identified a shooting as having occurred in Mount Vernon: “In your nightclub shooting story you put the 800 block of Linden Avenue, near West Madison Street, in Mount Vernon. It's not, by all accounts. …”

The reader helpfully appended a map from Livebaltimore.com showing Linden as being outside the neighborhood. Livebaltimore.com is a nonprofit organization with a goal of “selling” city living. How much authority to give its map is an open question.

The map from the city’s planning department (the one that does not identify Hamilton, the neighborhood I live in) agrees that Linden is outside Mount Vernon. It shows Linden as part of a two-block strip extending north from Downtown, between Mount Vernon and Seton Hill. Perhaps the strip should be identified as the Downtown Panhandle.

But wait. The Baltimore City iMap appears to show Linden as lying within Mount Vernon.

And by the way, according to the various maps, if you are standing on the south side of Read Street, you’re in Mount Vernon. Cross to the north side, and you’re not; it’s Midtown-Belvedere or some similar appellation.

I tried to address the difficulty of neighborhood identification in “Not my neighborhood’s keeper” and “Crime in the neighborhood.” These are the issues that reporters and editors have to deal with in establishing locations in articles:

1. Nobody wants crimes located in their neighborhood.

2. Neighborhood boundaries are not firmly and officially established; they are not like the boundaries of cities, counties and states. And local understanding and usage varies.

3. Confusions abound. The neighborhood directly south of Federal Hill is called South Baltimore. It has a neighborhood association of that name. South Baltimore is also the name for the southern section of the city — Federal Hill, South Baltimore, Riverside, Locust Point, Cherry Hill, Brooklyn. The copy desk struggled for years trying to differentiate between the two and finally gave up. We try to establish in context whether we’re writing about the larger or smaller South Baltimore.

4. The reporter’s job is to identify a location in a way that will be meaningful to the readership. Since neighborhood boundaries are often approximate or disputed, we often wind up giving approximate locations. We do the best we can.

5. Precision cannot be achieved with imprecise measurements.

 

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 1:18 PM | | Comments (3)
        

Comments

Living in "Midtown-Belvedere", Howard St. does feel like a boundary, possibly because of the light rail tracks. I don't feel a similar sense of boundary going to the east until you get to the JFX. Not precise, but there it is.

It's funny: When I read the coverage of this story, I had the same thought. "That's not Mount Vernon!" I was quite indignant at first, but then I recognized that, in fact, neighborhoods are not definitive entities and that the lines that divide them are arbitrary. The reporter did have to give a location to allow readers to place the location in question, and although it may not be considered Mount Vernon by many, classifying it in this way was the writer's best option. I do agree with the Angry Reader, though, that there is a difference between Mount Vernon Square and the area in which the crime occurred.

The city ordinance defining the neighborhoods of the Midtown Community Benefits District (http://midtowncommunity.org/prof_ordinances.html)define the western boundary of Mount Vernon generally as Tyson Street, the alley that runs between Park Avenue and Howard Street (except for a one block zig out to Howard Street).

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
Baltimore Sun Facebook page
-- ADVERTISEMENT --

Most Recent Comments
Sign up for FREE local news alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for local news text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Stay connected