Tuesday 31 May 2011

Grand Rapids, Michigan ain't dying! (video)

This is the amusing story of a city - yes, an entire city - fighting to retain its honour and reputation in the face of the bleak forecast of its future made by a major national magazine. On January 21, 2011, Newsweek published an article entitled "America's Dying Cities". Noting that in the first decade of this new millennium the U.S. population had its smallest rate of growth of any time since the Great Depression and labelling it another sign of the financial woes of the country, Newsweek set out to find out which metropolitan areas with a population exceeding 100,000 suffered the steepest population decline in the same period. In looking ahead to the future of these regions, the magazine looked at the drop of those under the age of 18 as an indication of an even greater decline in these areas due to a lack of young people.

The article consisted of the 10 cities with the steepest drop in overall population and the largest decline in the number of residents under the age of 18.

10. Grand Rapids, Michigan
down 2.1 percent; youth population dropped 2.2 percentage points

9. Flint, Michigan
down 10.8 percent; youth drops by 2.5 points;

8. South Bend, Indiana
down 3.9 percent; youth down 2.5 points

7. Detroit, Michigan
down 4.2 percent; youth off 2.6 points

6. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
down 6.8 percent; youth down 2.7 points

5. Cleveland, Ohio
down 9.7 percent; youth off 3.1 points.

4. Rochester, New York
down 5.7 percent; youth down 3.1 points;

3. Hialeah, Florida
down 3.3 percent; youth off 3.1 points;

2. Vallejo, California
down 1.8 percent; youth down 3.2 points;

1. New Orleans, Lousiana
down 26.8 percent; youth off 5.1 points.

MLive.Com, a online web site representing various Michigan newspapers, fired back with an article on January 21, 2011 listing various good things happening in Grand Rapids which indicate anything but a dying city.

The label of Dying City is hard to swallow, based on developments on the ground. Here's a half dozen big events that show Grand Rapids is very, very alive:

1. Just-opened Helen DeVos Children's Hospital;

2. A LaughFest this spring

3. Remember ArtPrize?

4. Record ticket sales at Van Andel Arena;

5. 50,000 tickets sold at both art museum's Diana exhibit and public museum's “Bodies.”

6. Meijer Gardens listed as one of world's most frequently visited museums;

Three out of the ten cities are in Michigan and yes, the state has had more than its fair share of the financial pain due for the most part to the decline in the auto industry. Okay, this seems kind of glum. The beginning of the end? Well, it seems that one of the above ten cities decided to not take this lying down and carefully planned out a rebuttal that is now is the process of going viral on YouTube.

Grand Rapids and local sponsors came up with approximately $40,000 to pay for the production of a video highlighting the good points of the city and advertise that the city was not dying but very much alive. Produced and directed by promoter Rob Bliss, the video features a tour of the downtown, crossing the Pearl Street bridge and ending at the Gerald R. Ford Museum. Various locals are out dancing and lip syncing to the song American Pie by Don McLean and the effort is being billed as the largest professionally produced lip dub in the world. - A lip dub is a type of music video that combines lip synching and audio dubbing. - The project's overall goal was to paint Grand Rapids in a good light and with the video nearly a million hits on YouTube; people from all over the world are now hearing about Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The single shot 10 minute video features more than 3,000 people with marching bands, dancers, weddings, and motorcades. Local news reported that the video featured familiar faces, including entertainers, political figures, media celebrities surrounded by hundreds of football players, musicians, cheerleaders, police and firefighters, swing dancers, kayakers and more, adding that many of the faces probably aren't familiar unless you're familiar with Grand Rapids.

Obviously the video made its point as Newsweek itself responded on a Facebook page dated May 26, 2011:

To the Grand Rapids crowd:

First off, we LOVE your YouTube LipDub. We're big fans, and are inspired by your love of the city you call home.

But so you know what was up with the list you're responding to, we want you to know it was done by a website called mainstreet.com--not by Newsweek (it was unfortunately picked up on the Newsweek web site as part of a content sharing deal)--and it uses a methodology that our current editorial team doesn't endorse and wouldn't have employed. It certainly doesn't reflect our view of Grand Rapids.

Uses a methodology that out current editorial team doesn't endorse? *sound of a horn beeping* Too late! However, Mainstreet.Com has issued a response as of May 27/2011:

As we noted in the original piece, because the numbers are based on a 10-year period, they may not always paint the most up-to-date picture. New Orleans, for example (spoiler alert), ranked as the #1 dying city, due to the number of residents who were forced to move away after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, yet the city’s population has actually begun to grow again in recent years. Since the total population is still far below what it was in 2000, it tops the list.

That said, we stand firmly behind the methodology used in this study and believe it provides a valuable glimpse at population and demographic changes throughout the country. The results were in no way intended to pass judgment on the people or the quality of life in each of these cities.

The energetic response from Grand Rapids residents in producing all of the videos, articles and Facebook pages in support of their city should serve as proof that with a bit of energy and creativity, any shrinking city can band together to defy the demographics and show off its true vitality.

Other cities should take note.

Newsweek may be distancing itself from Mainstreet.Com but Mainstreet stands by its article. However, I think Mainstreet hit the nail on the head in saying that numbers are one thing, but with a little gumption, one can beat the odds. Britain's Daily Mail has an article on the Lip Dub video. Gawker's article is amusing entitled "‘Dying’ Michigan City to Newsweek: Drop Dead" and the Hollywood Gossip says "Grand Rapids, Michigan to Newsweek: Rank This!". In Salon's article "Grand Rapids' lip dub versus Newsweek", the author Drew Grant raises the interesting question as to why would Newsweek publish an article it didn't agree with. If the article is published, wouldn't anybody assume that Newsweek's editorial approved it? Should publications like Newsweek post articles from other publications "not endorsed" by the editorial team? Or do different ethical guidelines apply for the Internet content of a magazine than for its print version?

May 26/2011
The Grand Rapids LipDub (New World Record)
The Grand Rapids LipDub Video was filmed May 22nd, with 5,000 people, and involved a major shutdown of downtown Grand Rapids, which was filled with marching bands, parades, weddings, motorcades, bridges on fire, and helicopter take offs. It is the largest and longest LipDub video, to date.

Final Word
Hey, Newsweek, if you don't agree with an article, don't publish it. Oh, and one other thing. Don't mess with Grand Rapids, Michigan!!!


Wikipedia: Lip dub
A lip dub is a type of video that combines lip synching and audio dubbing to make a music video. It is made by filming individuals or a group of people lip synching while listening to a song or any recorded audio then dubbing over it in post editing with the original audio of the song. There is often some form of mobile audio device used such as an MP3 players. Often they look like simple music videos, although many involve a lot of preparation and production. Lip dubs can be done in a single unedited shot that often travels through different rooms and situations within a building. They have become popular with the advent of mass participatory video content sites like YouTube.

Wikipedia: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Grand Rapids is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan. The city is located on the Grand River about 40 miles east of Lake Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 188,040. In 2010, the Grand Rapids metropolitan area had a population of 774,160 and a Combined Statistical Area, Grand Rapids-Muskegon-Holland, population of 1,321,557.

Facebook: The Grand Rapids LipDub Video

Twitter: @GRLipDub

Newsweek - Jan 21/2011
America's Dying Cities
We used the most recent data from the Census Bureau on every metropolitan area with a population exceeding 100,000 to find the 30 cities that suffered the steepest population decline between 2000 and 2009. Then, in an attempt to look ahead toward the future of these regions, we analyzed demographic changes to find which ones experienced the biggest drop in the number of residents under 18. In this way, we can see which cities may have an even greater population decline ahead due to a shrinking population of young people.

The Chicago Sun-Times - May 29/2011
Roger Ebert's Journal: The greatest music video ever made

Thanks to Annie Parker (Twitter:@bitterdivorcee) for pointing this out.


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