It seems like only yesterday, but it must have been nearly 20 years ago. We were sitting around a conference room at the Review-Journal with some gentlemen from the neighborhood discussing what that neighborhood should be called when mentioned in the newspaper.
The area — predominantly black and predominantly low-income — had over the years been referred to as the Westside, but these gentlemen, businessmen and politicians, felt the name had become a pejorative, a smear, a derogatory term — like referring to North Las Vegas as Northtown — and wanted it to be called something else.
There were a few arguments about sticking to tradition and what everyone understood at a glance, but if Hank decides he wants to be called Henry, so be it.
That was when the newspaper — located at 1111 West Bonanza Road — started referring to the neighborhood as West Las Vegas, usually accompanied by the unwieldy but obligatory explanation that it is the “historically black neighborhood bounded by Bonanza Road to the south, Carey Avenue to the north, Rancho Drive to the west and Interstate 15 to the east.”
So, when they unveiled the new overpass that allows the reopening of F Street into the historically black neighborhood bounded by Bonanza Road to the south, Carey Avenue to the north, Rancho Drive to the west and Interstate 15 to the east I was actually startled by the front page photo with the words “Historic Westside” indelibly attached to the concrete. I guess the stigma has been erased.
But what I couldn’t help noticing was that the story never used the term Westside excerpt in direct quotes from the mayor and a Transportation Department official at the end. Throughout it referred to West Las Vegas.
I guess you can use the word in concrete, but nothing is as hard and fast a newspaper’s stylebook.