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Media portrayals of Twin Cities leaving some St. Paulites ‘deflated’

By Christina Capecchi | Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008
In its ongoing sibling rivalry with Minneapolis, the Capital City still seems stuck in the shadow of its bigger relative, some are saying.

As members of the national media trek across the Twin Cities, they continue to unravel the sibling rivalry between St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Monica Davey examined it in an Aug. 30 New York Times piece headlined “Shared Convention Billing Sets Off a Bout of Sibling Rivalry.” The article began: 

“After all the geographic gaffes, the snickers, the years of slights, it was a final affront, some who wandered this downtown grumbled this week. Here, on a screaming red sign plastered to the side of the Xcel Energy Center, the Republicans’ convention hall that sits squarely, unambiguously in the city of St. Paul, were these enormous words: Minneapolis-St. Paul.

“These were irksome reminders to some locals who have spent years, even generations, trying to convince the rest of the world that St. Paul really is its own separate, legitimate, worthy (perhaps even superior) city — despite what its bigger, more confident sibling to the west may whisper to the contrary.”

Carol Connolly, St. Paul’s poet laureate, got another chance to weigh in, telling the New York Times: “The convention is in St. Paul, and we should just say that. I think it’s dopey to say anything else, just dopey.”

The Chicago Tribune’s political guru John McCormick, a Roseville native, chimed in Tuesday. His lead: “It has been surprising just how many well-educated and worldly people say they will attend the Republican National Convention in ‘Minneapolis.’

“For a St. Paul native (born two blocks from the convention center and raised in a suburb just a few miles away),” he wrote, “it triggers a cringe the moment it is heard.”

The depiction of St. Paul as an overlooked, dejected twin persisted as the media reported hurricane-induced convention cuts. “The Republican National Convention was supposed to be this city’s chance to pull even with its bigger, richer, slicker ‘twin.’ Once again, however, St. Paul has been eclipsed — not by Minneapolis, but by a city at the other end of the Mississippi,” Rick Hampson wrote in a USA Today piece Monday.

 “I sense this real flagging, deflated feeling,” Brian Horrigan, a St. Paul resident and curator at the Minnesota Historical Society, told USA Today. That phrase wound up in the headline, “St. Paul gets ‘deflated feeling.’ “

 And yet, this much can be said: The convention has educated a number of people — reporters and delegates alike — about the term Twin Cities. In doing so, they heeded the final line in John McCormick’s piece:

“So here’s some advice from a local: If you’re not sure which city you’re in, just say you are in the Twin Cities.”

Christina Capecchi writes about culture and the social impact of technology. Capecchi can be reached at ccapecchi [at] minnpost [dot] com.