The output of the city’s paper of record has been a little lackluster lately. After the ink dried on BAT’s acquisition of Reynolds a couple of weeks ago, the Journal has largely ignored issues of importance to residents in Winston-Salem. Instead, they have covered a high-profile murder case in Davidson County and other stories that just aren’t that relevant to Winston’s urban core.
To my dismay, Friday the Journal published a story on Craig Engels. Engles, an Olympic-hopeful runner from Pfafftown is perhaps more famous for his mullet haircut than his running. Engles is planning to get rid of his mullet for charity. Great. But that’s not a story that belongs on the Front Page of the Winston-Salem Journal, above the fold.
Fortunately, there are other sources for serious local news. The Triad Podcast Network on a good week can be an excellent source of in-depth interviews with local newsmakers. But other weeks they focus on beer and HVAC related issues.
The Triad Podcast Network’s recent interview of Gayle Anderson, the soon-to-be retiring longtime CEO of the W-S Chamber of Commerce was excellent. It filled the news void left by a local newspaper that appears to be on summer break. Anderson spoke about Downtown Winston, the Innovation Quarter, the new Central Library, and the coming closure of Business 40, among other topics.
Anderson has been in Winston-Salem since 1976. Here memories of Downtown Winston are valuable. Her observations on Winston’s future should be taken seriously.
Even for long-time residents that have witnessed Downtown Winston’s death and rebirth, it’s easy to forget just how desolate downtown used to be. Up until the mid-2000s, Downtown Winston was a place where people worked or conducted government business and nothing else. It was a Monday-Friday 9-5 place. After office hours the sidewalks were rolled up and the place was deserted.
Anderson, who was interviewed by Jason Theil of the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership, recalls in detail how Winston recovered from its nadir in the late 1980s through reinvention. As Reynolds retreated from Downtown Winston a plan to repurpose its old factories was formulated. Years later, we have the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.
The Innovation Quarter anchors Downtown Winston. As amazing as the transformation has been, the miracle that is the Innovation Quarter hasn’t benefited the entire city. Impoverished neighborhoods just a short drive from the Innovation Quarter are a testament of that.
Gayle Anderson at the Chamber and Jason Theil of the Downtown Winston Partnership and other local business leaders have an amazing vision for Downtown Winston. But where is their vision for the rest of the city? East Winston and other parts of Winston are being left behind.
Anderson admits that it took years to formulate a plan for Downtown Winston. For a while, Anderson remembers they just tried one thing and then another until they came up with a plan that worked. That’s the approach that we need to take towards East Winston today.
But don’t take my word for it, listen to the Triad Podcast Network and form your own opinion.