Update: Obviously, The Town Talk has felt at least some heat. This is what they ran with in their print edition:
“Cenla’s 15 Minutes: Economic Impact of ‘Cajun Pawn Stars,’ Other Reality TV Shows Hard to Pinpoint,” an unabashedly negative and dismissive headline.
And here’s what they’re currently running with online:
Too little, too late. However terrible, at least the first headline was honest about the real theme of the article.
The Town Talk sucks. I know I’ve said as much before; it’s a running theme here, but this really takes the cake. The headline, A-1, above-the-fold story this Sunday is about how there’s no way to prove people are making pilgrimages to Alexandria to see, for themselves, the mecca of Silver Dollar Pawn. Silver Dollar, for those of you unaware, is the subject of the new hit reality show “Cajun Pawn Stars,” which has been a smash success despite the stilted acting and the blatant phoniness.
Hey, don’t get me wrong: I am a fan. It’s reality television; I don’t expect unscripted reality. And besides, it’s funny and interesting, particularly if you’re from Central Louisiana.
And that’s why I am disappointed in The Town Talk. Their reporter, Jodi Belgard, interviews the star of the show, Jimmie DeRamus, the head of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Sherri Smith, and the President of the Hotel-Motel Association, Tracy Godwin, and then publishes a tortured and almost mean-spirited article about reality TV tourism, as if such a thing has ever existed. I doubt any of the folks she interviewed knew her angle, and with all due respect to Ms. Belgard, I detest this type of journalism. It’s petty; it struggles so hard to assert its own objectivity that it it inadvertently destroys all credibility. It takes a positive and mutates it into a negative. Mr. DeRamus’s show garnered 3.6 million viewers in its debut; that’s incredible. But for the paper, apparently, it’s not good enough. He earnestly seeks to promote the area, and Ms. Belgard contextualizes his statements by way of pointing out that his show hasn’t booked a single hotel room… at the Holiday Inn Express. Seriously. To borrow a favorite expression of the paper, boos to The Town Talk for running with this.
And boos to Tracy Godwin. She should know better. Maybe her hotel hasn’t experienced any increase in business because of film projects, but I know for an absolute, take-it-to-the-bank fact that several other hotels have.
Tracy Godwin is the general manager of Holiday Inn Express on MacArthur Drive and the president of the Central Louisiana Hotel-Motel Association. She’s been in the hotel business in Alexandria for 15 years and said “Cajun Pawn Stars” and similar projects have brought exactly zero guests to Holiday Inn Express.
“The hotels in town that are the newer properties generally stay sold out during the week purely with business people,” she said. “On the weekends they stay sold out with teams for sporting events. We always ask our guests what they’re here for, and we’ve had zero at Holiday Inn Express that have said they’re here for ‘Cajun Pawn Stars.'”
As a matter of fact, television rarely brings visitors to Central Louisiana hotels.
“I don’t know that anything like this has ever brought in business,” Godwin said. “Usually it’s the negative things, like (The Jena Six).”
This lady is the head of the Hotel-Motel Association, and her statement to Ms. Belgard (if this really is her statement) about film projects affecting hotel bookings is an absolute lie. Sheesh. These film crews just aren’t booking at her hotel, because her rates are double what other hotels charge, plain and simple. And c’mon, the Jena Six was not a television show. How disconnected from reality must you be to conflate the Jena Six with “Cajun Pawn Stars”? It’s just insultingly and bafflingly ridiculous.
I have to be honest (if it’s not already obvious): This whole thing– couching a hit TV show as a negative and the almost reckless suggestions made by the leader of the hotel-motel association– is infuriating to me. And I reject it, entirely. I think Central Louisiana is worthy of its title as a National Geographic Wilderness Town; I think Jimmie DeRamus’s show, at the very least, reveals our amazing landscape and at its best makes for entertaining and educational television. You can say I’m being nit-picky, and that’s fine. I’ll stand by my criticism: Ms. Belgard’s report mentioned several positives, but her editors wrapped it all up and packaged it as a negative. (Because as I was recently reminded, The Town Talk thinks it’s important to prove they’re not “cheerleaders,” whatever the heck that actually means).
I don’t think anyone has ever, ever, ever wondered about reality TV tourism, except for Ms. Belgard and her editors; it’s about showcasing our region’s assets.
And, incidentally, until and unless Ms. Godwin clarifies and corrects her statements, I don’t think she should serve as the head of any organization responsible for attracting tourism into our region. If you’re thinking about traveling to Alexandria, I’d recommend the Courtyard by Marriott instead; the manager there has always been a champion of the community.