St. Louis Alderman to Critics of Salvage City: "Relax"


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Discovery
Our mini freak-out over Salvage City comes on the heels of several media panic attacks in 2013. Other examples include reactions to a New York Times look at crime and murder in St. Louis, and a humorous Art Forum takedown of an overwrought guided bus tour of St. Louis art venues that culminated with a violet-hour visit to SLAM's expansion grand opening. The story, and the predictable freak-out. (See RFT's "Snobby New York Art Critic Scowls on St. Louis.") Writers snapped our photo when the light wasn't flattering, and we didn't like it one bit.

A gentleman charged with promoting St. Louis as a convention destination mentioned to me that the New York Times article was a "serious setback" for his work. Many others complained that Alderman Antonio French let himself be quoted in the article. (Apparently all these folks just hang up the phone when the New York Times calls.)

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YouTube
But St. Louis didn't actually have a bad national media year compared to cities that did have bad media years. Pity poor Detroit, which is facing both the reality of the largest municipal bankruptcy in history, and the punishing reportage of the event itself. Article after article described Detroit as a place where "Half the streetlights are off, and there's no money to turn them back on." Fighting that narrative would be a challenge for even the most adept conventioneer. But there is no comparable story about St. Louis; all our streetlights are on.

The flip-side of this phenomenon was the fawning over two articles by recent St. Louis transplants and writers Curtis Sittenfeld and Sarah Kendzior. The response could be characterized as, "Oh, look, the New York Times says we're not so bad after all!" But to my ear, both these articles seemed to damn St. Louis with faint praise. I found the column by Sittenfeld, who also published the well regarded novel Sisterland this year, particularly galling. Perhaps it was the title, "Loving the Midwest" followed by a teeth-grinding litany of St. Louis stereotypes and complaints about being a new person in a new town. (See RFT's Top 10 Reasons Transplants Criticize St. Louis and Rebuttal: 10 Reasons St. Louis Hates Outsiders.)

Relocating to an anonymous suburb in your thirties would be a challenge anywhere. That's not a St. Louis thing. The column resolves from frustration into appreciation after she stops being the new girl. But love for St. Louis? It was not. Certain civic cheerleading outlets fawned nonetheless. "We're in the Times , and they like us, they really do!" Did these folks make it past the headline?

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Discovery
Sam Coffey breaks into something.
What it boils down to is a little hypersensitivity about how St. Louis is portrayed in national media, positive or negative. It is this nagging worry that folks on one coast or the other will write us off the same way one of Kendzior's article headlines refers to us, as flyover country. But here's the secret: It doesn't really matter either way. After Jersey Shore-gate blew up, Fairleigh Dickinson University conducted two studies about American's perspective of the State of New Jersey. Despite the Jersey Shore cast being the most annoying collection of humans ever crowded onto a single screen, people who had seen the show felt pretty much the same about New Jersey as those who hadn't.

Here's the deal: The front-page headline of today, good or bad, is buried beneath tomorrow's avalanche of words and news. We're free to ignore them either way, and we bear no responsibility to condemn writers that notice our warts or heap praise on those who grudgingly admit our merits. If we don't like Coolfire Media's portrayal of Sam, Chris and Mia, rest assured their success or failure will neither hurt nor help us nationally. Rather than fret that the wrong stories are being told, we should probably worry that the best homegrown stories aren't being published in St. Louis.

Perhaps our New Year's resolution should be a little bit thicker skin, and a renewed confidence in telling, and hearing, all the stories about our city: good, bad and indifferent. Rather than make one story carry the burden of representing all the facets of our city, let a thousand voices rise in song or storytelling, each with its own particular perspective. If the Mississippi Valley's incredible legacy of homegrown storytellers, from Mark Twain to Jonathan Franzen, is any indication, we're plenty interesting, and there's plenty to tell.

Scott Ogilvie is alderman of the 24th Ward in St. Louis.


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40 comments
crukked
crukked

salvage city makes me want to buy some bolt cutters and start breaking into buildings to find my own stuff. thanks discovery channel for the ideas

Elizabethstl
Elizabethstl

Salvage City ratings were impressive!...So much that Discovery Channel is re-airing the show on SAT Feb 1st 10/9amC. Tune in! St. Louis Stand Up!

Mark Bland
Mark Bland

Well lets look at this from a very strong position thinking of RFT in this situation. You guys don't like anythign you didn't find or create to make popular....hence why you refuse to do an article on me and a few other successful entertainment people. And no one is holding it against you. It like tipping. Your predecessors treated people that way, and passed it on to you. Like grandma and mom passing their tipping people habits on to you. The more you talk about them, the more free press they are getting. I haven't watched a single episode before now and I will record it to see what its like. Unless that was your purpose...then you are just a horrible rag that promos anyone who'll pay you. I don't know. But maybe you are being too hard.

Almas Farmhouseantiques
Almas Farmhouseantiques

Run em out on a rail Bragging up stealing and looting(it is all a fake our city leaders gave them permission) Calling our city a city of ruins. You are not being harsh enough. We need shows that show preservation and architectural art in restoration Not this kind of trash. I really think the whole show needs to be shut down. I am for reutilizing and art but pretending you are stealing is no way to accomplish that and sets a bad example for youth and the impressionable.

Martin Goebel
Martin Goebel

It's a rip off of about 7 other reality "building" and "sales" shows. Like American Chopper, Pawn Stars and American Pickers had a threesome and Salvage City is what was left on the sheets.

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

I like the idea of salvaging useful items for re-use or re-purposing. I do not like the idea of entering private property to get the salvage. If these are city property and destined to be demolished, fine. If the owners just are afraid of the liability of having people on derelict property, fine, too. But do we know if the owners had plans for that stuff? Not cool making it seem like people are stealing.


One might think since the "crimes" are recorded and broadcasted, the owners could file a police report, unless they already knew and did not care.

Jay Hemp
Jay Hemp

If you think St Louis sucks, move to Norfolk! I can't wait to move back to the Lou!

1Sunnyone2
1Sunnyone2

@salvagecity ; perfect... so many all around the world ~ not just St. Louis ~ should consider doing it! I personally enjoyed the show.

Marshall Patrick
Marshall Patrick

Saint Louis City, has turned into a eye sore SHITHOLE........you can cover it up , but it still stinks !!!

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

Whatever Scott, I don't care how cool your bro is, the show is whack and it shows him pretending to break into private property to 'save' shit that he fucking then sells. Just what I want a bunch of fucking clowns in the city starting to do because they see this fucking tool doing it on tv. Maybe have a few people get shot breaking and entering to follow his lead and you might change your fucking tune. Fuck him and fuck his bar while we are at it.

Tiffany Pfaff Trautwein
Tiffany Pfaff Trautwein

Dude, the real problem with show is that, dude, the main characters are really obnoxious and not at all entertaining. Dude, I just hope they aren't actually that irritating in real life. Duuuuuude.

Jeff Mcghee
Jeff Mcghee

still havent seen over 2 shows hope it comes back on soon

Michael Mahler
Michael Mahler

I know most of it is staged... however, I don't appreciate the idea that one can just waltz onto someone's property and take, er salvage... whatever you feel like. It just encourages people to steal and strip whatever is left of the city's old neighborhoods. Not a fan.

Timm
Timm

 Why is an Ald elected to protect and support the City championing these people that are proporting to be kicking down doors, breaking and entering, stealing, running from the police etc? either the entire premise of the the show is a fraud or they are trafficking in stolen goods. Doesnt seem like either is a thing our Ald should be supporting

T.R. Dudley
T.R. Dudley

Where is the outcry when they are tearing all these great old buildings down?

Jeff King
Jeff King

Reality show formula storytelling aside, my main issue with the show is that it's basically a lie. They had permission to be in these places and didn't "break in" anywhere.

Justin Deming
Justin Deming

HOW DARE the RFT represent different voices regarding the same, one subject! WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO THINK?!

Suzette Eich
Suzette Eich

I was just in St.Louis city feeding homeless & went up & down the streets. St.Louis needs to clean up. So don't tell us to shut up! The best rated town in Missouri is OFallon,Mo. Do a show on it's history!

Bowls MacLean
Bowls MacLean

Funny comming from the RFT; as you guys slammed the show in an article only a couple of days ago.

Kathy Rogers Weir
Kathy Rogers Weir

I haven't seen where it hurts our city. There are quirky creative nice people, cool venues for parties, people with the financial wherewithal to buy the created items, and funky old locations. I assume that the fact they are breaking in without the owner's permission is a lie, but on the whole, I thought it was kind of fun.

Laura Dee
Laura Dee

Writer of this article is buddies with the 'star' of this show. His arguement is invalid, IMO.

Andy Lee
Andy Lee

St. Louis. We can afford to keep the street lights on!

Daren Cortez
Daren Cortez

Locals born in a toilet think it's a swimming pool till they get outta here. St. Louis sucks.

mozzy636
mozzy636

"doesn't paint St louis in a good light" ???? really??? have these "protestors" been to downtown St Louis in say the last 40 or 50 years? There really isn't a good light if the bulbs are all broken.

jjohns
jjohns

Amen.  If you don't like this tv show, make your own.  Show just how creative and inspiring our city truly is.

themadhistoryman
themadhistoryman

@SouthSideLove  Any show featuring STL on a huge network like Discovery is GOOD for Saint Louis' economy and business. Anyone who isn't a child knows that. Since you seem to have placed yourself in a position to JUDGE, what have YOU done to help Saint Louis? Complaining on internet comment sections doesn't count. 


This show is fun, entertaining, AND it started a conversation about urban decay in our beloved city. You are fighting against the people who you should be thanking for helping STL to grow and succeed. Shame.


themadhistoryman
themadhistoryman

@jaco1175  Any show featuring STL on a huge network like Discovery is GOOD for Saint Louis' economy and business. Anyone who isn't a child knows that. Since you seem to have placed yourself in a position to JUDGE, what have YOU done to help Saint Louis? Complaining on internet comment sections doesn't count. 


This show is fun, entertaining, AND it started a conversation about urban decay in our beloved city. You are fighting against the people who you should be thanking for helping STL to grow and succeed. Shame.

ducksauce
ducksauce

@Timm  Are you the only person left in the world that doesn't understand "reality" tv is a work of fiction?  Do Las Vegas or Miami politicians lobby against the CSI shows because they depict excessive amounts of murder in their cities and are bad for public image?  And he's not supporting the show, he's saying get over it and stop treating it like it's the only representation of our city.  So a TV show used our city as a setting, does every citizen need to cast a vote on whether or not they agree with the characters and their scripted actions?  Should we pass a law that any future media set in our city must follow a strict good to bad image ratio?  4 shots of The Arch, beautiful parks, doctors walking the streets of the Central West End to every 1 picture of the thousands of vacant/derelict buildings that also make up our city.  Is that ratio too low?  20 to 1?  Is St. Louis that insecure that we believe one crappy television show showing abandoned buildings and theft will completely ruin the pristine image the rest of the nation has of our fine city?

m.j.bones
m.j.bones

Have YOU been to downtown lately? ! It's a lot nicer than it was 10-15 years ago. ..

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