Southeast has as many neighborhoods as Northwest
In light of the recent shootings at 4000 South Capitol Street SE and 1300 Congress Place SE, it seems like the rest of the city is once more going to be given the impression that all of Southeast is the Wild West. One of the ways this idea is perpetuated is by referring to the entire area as "Southeast," compounded, in this instance, by insisting that it is less than a mile between these two incidents.
This is plain wrong. It's 1.6 miles from 4000 South Capitol Street, SE, in the Washington Highlands neighborhood, to 1300 Congress Place, SE, in the Congress Heights neighborhood.
For those who need a Northwest orientation, this is about the same distance from the corner of 17th and U to Metro Center. If two incidents had occurred in those two locations, would the media be referring to all of Northwest as a free-fire zone? I don't think so.
As someone who grew up in Northwest and now lives in Southeast, I shared the Northwest misapprehension that all of Southeast was also called "Anacostia," and that one was taking one's life into one's hands crossing the eponymous river.
Now that I live here, I'm occasionally the neighborhood ambassador for taxi drivers who have to overcome their apprehension to give me a lift home. To make sure I don't get put out of the cab, I usually direct them only to South Capitol Street by the stadium, and then gently guide them over the Douglass Bridge to my home. They are inevitably stunned at the new Giant, the IHOP, the houses - all the things that make my part of Southeast look like suburbia.
Taxi drivers should know the neighborhoods of the city they're licensed to drive in. Journalists should know the same about the city they're reporting on. So my gentle suggestion to DC journalists is to print out a Google map of Southeast DC, which helpfully names the neighborhoods, and take advantage of the lovely weather we're having to take a drive around, familiarize yourself with which area is called what, until it is as familiar to you as the distinction between Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights, Woodley Park and Cleveland Park, and then start using those names in your reporting. At the least, it will lend accuracy to your reporting. It might even make it easier for me and the residents of Southeast to get a taxi home.
image by Ork Posters (buy one to learn the neighborhoods!)