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.