Picture Gives Distorted View Of Community


When I saw the Sunday Republic in the racks last weekend, I didn't recognize the place pictured on the front page.

At first glance, it looked like Las Vegas or some other big city strip. But it wasn't. Oddly enough, it was a picture of my hometown -- but not the hometown I know.

The picture was shot and cropped to emphasize the business signs on the east side of Highway 87 in downtown Payson. Many of the businesses in the picture have been in the same spot since I was a kid.

The headline above the picture read "Changing Arizona" and the story beside it promised to give readers an "in-depth look at the changing face of rural Arizona."

The story was disappointing in that context. It breezed past the real issues that those of us in rural Arizona face and instead bemoaned the fact that Payson -- "that quaint cowtown to the north" -- is changing and losing its charm.

Certainly the town is changing. It's not the same ranching community it was 35 years ago when Jackson's and Wilson's markets on Main Street were the only places to buy groceries and there wasn't a single stop light in town.

But it hasn't lost its charm. That, too, has simply changed.

Now, instead of a grassy meadow in west Payson, we have three fishing lakes and a world-class park.

Instead of winding country lanes, we have wide inviting streets lined with sidewalks. Instead of friendly Wilson's market we will soon have three full-service grocery stores.

The picture the Republic painted of Payson was not what Payson is or what Payson is becoming, but a two-dimensional cliche of vanishing small-town America.

Ironically, the area of our community depicted in that picture hasn't changed much in decades. The real change is taking place farther north on Highway 87 and to the east along Highway 260 and Tyler Parkway, and in the way we handle development.

But you can't capture that in a single picture.

Katy Whitehouse, editor

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