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Comments: Week of October 10, 2011


1. The reaction to Lisa Miller’s story on maternity (and paternity) after 50 (Parents of a Certain Age,” October 3) began with the cover image. “I was so ­repulsed by your recent cover story that I trashed the entire magazine without reading anything,” wrote James Romanella in a letter. The blog Coverjunkie was more impressed: “Pretty ace to see variations on a classic cover like this.” The story itself provoked more nuanced ­responses. At Babble’s Strollerderby blog, Rebecca Odes praised the story for “parsing the knee-jerk objections to older parenthood, and laying out some data to defend these people’s roundly criticized choices … There are many kinds of suboptimal childhoods and suboptimal parents. Some don’t have enough money. Some don’t have enough time. Some don’t have partners. And some might be less likely to be around when their kids turn 30. But does that make the 30 good years any less good?” At blog Being Pregnant, also hosted by Babble, Monica Bielanko took the opposite side. “My thoughts: Respect the body. Respect organic deadlines,” she wrote. At Slate’s XX Factor blog, Jessica Grose argued that disdain for older mothers was less about age and more about wealth. “The science Miller discusses is all compelling and convincing. But the one thing she can’t ­really wholeheartedly defend is the extreme privilege of these women … Some of the reaction toward women who have children so late in life is not just visceral disgust at the idea of a 60-year-old suckling an infant … it can appear somewhat Marie Antoinette­ish to be paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to thwart biology.” One parent featured in the piece, John Ross, wrote in with a bit of housekeeping. Quoted saying he wasn’t happy with how he and his first wife had raised their son, he wanted to amend the record: “I believe that my ex-wife was quite devoted to our son and that he prospered as a consequence.”

2. Patrick Radden Keefe’s portrait of crime-ridden Newburgh, New York (Welcome to Newburgh, Murder Capital of New York,” October 3), offered locals a chance to reckon with recent history, which they did at length in comments on ­ “After growing up in Newburgh, I was extremely sad to see the title of this article,” wrote one commenter. “Newburgh started sliding in the fifties, when all of the industry began leaving, taking livable-wage jobs with them,” wrote another. “Decades of corrupt and incompetent government exacerbated the problems.” “I was all for rebuilding Newburgh, the sustainable master plan … on and on,” added a third. “My belief is that the ­mayor, the special-interest popular groups, the damn city council; all need to step away, move on somewhere else, and let people like this man who initiated this task force to step up and do what needs to be done.” And what is that? “Newburgh needs confidence,” offered one local. “Confidence from within that the current struggles with joblessness, drugs, gangs, a dismal financial outlook and some very questionable decisions made locally and afar over the past half-century will eventually right some of those wrongs—confidence from outside the city that Newburgh can be a good place to live or visit or do business. Mr. Keefe’s article didn’t set out to be promotional fluff for the city, and I probably wouldn’t have read it if it was, but it’s a shame that the troubles of the city entirely crowd out the positives in this story, delivering yet another blow to people’s confidence in Newburgh’s future.” A few locals found the story a bit melodramatic. “Newburgh has its problems, yes. But not really many more than other cities. Its problems are top-down. Where’s the story about the corrupt politicians who have bankrupted this city in a span of twelve years? Where’s the story about the county’s disregard for its largest city? We have problems all right, but no one is taking their lives into their hands by coming here. This nonsense satisfies the wonks in the FBI, but it does nothing to show why there is a city here that’s worth saving.

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