Institutional Mindsets and Impressive Minds

Article excerpt

THIS COLUMN BROUGHT to mind Robert Louis Stevenson's "world so full of a number of things" . . . enough to make us all "as happy as kings."

People usually don't agree on what makes them happy or unhappy. The woman caller who chided me is typical: "You are a readers advocate only for African-Americans. You were hired by an African-American (et tu, Cole Campbell?)

"You must have swallowed Bartlett's Quotations." No ma'am, I swallowed a great education. Try digesting one. Anyway, the "number of things" in this column includes the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, St. Louis Science Center, Sylvester Brown Jr., Carolyn Tuft, the Belleville police, the Post-Dispatch copy desk and critics. Jackson accused a contractor of a construction site at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry of unfairly firing a black subcontractor. So he blocked workers from entering the site. The "country preacher" was arrested, refused to post a personal bond and, like his spiritual mentor, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., chose to spend a night in jail. And I chose to segue from the Chicago Museum to the St. Louis Science Center. A week ago Saturday, the Science Center opened in its new inflated Exploradome a national exhibit, "Africa, One Continent, Many Worlds." St. Louis is one of only 15 cities where this major exhibit on Africa is going to tour. Now that's class. Callers wanted to know why the Post-Dispatch had not covered the exhibit. "Is it because it's about Africa?" asked one woman. No, ma'am. The paper published three stand-alone photos, one two days before and two the day after the exhibit opened. A 12-inch story appeared Friday. "The Post-Dispatch hid the stories," insisted a caller after I returned her call. "We were a little disappointed at the Post's coverage," conceded a Science Center executive who preferred anonymity. "We were led to believe we would get a cover or a center spread in Get Out." As St. Louis homie Yogi Berra put it, "It's not over until it's over." That gives entertainment editor Ellen Futterman plenty of time for her planned major feature on the exhibit in late February. She explained that the paper is planning an in-depth look not only at the Africa exhibit, which ends May 11, but also the Exploradome. But go beyond this Africa exhibit to a larger issue. Sylvester Brown, Jr., publisher of the monthly, Take Five, reminds the Post-Dispatch in a guest column Sunday (Page 4B) that, despite its majority readership, he still expects "St. Louis's only daily paper to be representative of its city population." Toward that goal, the Post-Dispatch could have taken the same audacious step the Philadelphia Daily News took five years ago. An exhibit was held at the Philadelphia Art Museum of the paintings of a distinguished black artist, Henry Ossawa Tanner, who has been honored on a U.S. postage stamp. In cooperation with the Ford Motor Company, the Daily News published an eight-page broadsheet supplement that the Museum distributed to the city's schools and to the exhibit's attendees. …