How much are Raleigh's and Wake County's reputations being hurt by this latest round of national media attention over the school diversity fight?
As noted in today's article, the Wake County school system had, by and large, a good reputation nationally before the diversity policy was eliminated. How deserved, or not, that reputation was is another question.
Now area leaders are confronting the latest batch of national attention since "The Colbert Report" segment on Wake went viral.
"Where it becomes more troubling is as it increases in frequency and volume, particularly without people’s taking time to Google all the reference and get all the background,” said Harvey Schmitt, president of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, which supported the diversity policy.
Schmitt appreciated the Colbert segment to a point, but worried about its impact.
“It was funny, regardless to the merits on either side, as a single moment in the media storm,” he said.
He noted that the comedian has a million viewers among young professionals, a target group as the region works to attract the “creative class.”
“While it was a joke and obviously an exaggeration, it’s not useful from a public policy perspective as we work to attract jobs to our region and county,” Schmitt said.
Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, also a supporter of the diversity policy, had a similar reaction Wednesday in this interview on "The Rick and Donna Martinez Show" on WPTF.
"The Colbert Report is just devastating to us," Meeker said. "It's funny to some people but to have our county made fun of nationally like that is really bad news for us. Somehow we've got to get back to educating kids and not be in the situation where people are making fun of our school board."
But school board members Chris Malone and John Tedesco downplayed the negative impact of the recent national attention.
“It gives us an opportunity as a community to come together to have a dialogue and a laugh," Tedesco said.
Malone said he doubted it would have much long-term impact on public opinion.
“We don’t want to give Stephen Colbert too much credit as to how much it will sway people,” Malone said. “It will be forgotten quickly across the country.”