Connecticut Magazine has changed its mind. The Naugatuck Valley isn’t “benighted” anymore.
In a blog post titled, “Valley Benighted? Relatively Speaking, No,” the magazine’s editor, Charles Monagan, acknowledged that calling the Valley “benighted,” — which means, “existing in a state of intellectual, moral or social darkness” — might not have been the best word choice when it wrote about the Naugatuck Valley communities in its annual “Rating the Towns 2011” article.
“So in the spirit of the season, and in recognition of what is right and just, we take it back,” Monagan said.
Back in November, the magazine said in its annual town-by-town rating, “It’s hard to not notice that the Naugatuck River Valley remains a benighted place as far as these surveys are concerned,” meaning the magazine's ratings in education, crime, cost and other classifications.
The term caused anger in some Valley residents who take pride in their blue collar communities. And it drew a snarky response from the Valley Independent Sentinel, which wrote a rebuttal article titled in an article titled “Connecticut Magazine Kicks the Valley In The Shins.”
“Many of the towns here are still struggling to recover from the loss of the industrial base that once powered the local economy,” the Sentinel article said. “But, benighted? Come on!”
And the Valley Indy readers had quite a bit to say about it as well. Even Naugatuck Mayor Robert Mezzo, when building a case for the borough’s $81 million renovation plan, cited the Sentinel article in a blog post when talking about the negative perceptions places like Naugatuck and other Valley towns receive.
“People throughout the state, most never even having visited the borough, hold perceptions about Naugatuck as a community whose best days are behind it,” the mayor wrote on his blog. “It is a perception that stigmatizes Naugatuck and other Valley communities, as recently evidenced by Connecticut Magazines latest disparaging remarks about our region (an article in the Valley Independent Sentinal about the feature can be read here).”
So, why did Connecticut Magazine change its tune? Well, Monagan wrote that North Korea is probably a better example of what it means to be benighted.
“By those admittedly very low standards, it becomes obvious that no area in our generally prosperous, well-adjusted, civilized state of Connecticut deserves to be called benighted,” the blog post said.
In an email response to Naugatuck Patch, Monagan added, “A Scrooge-like change of heart due to the season at hand coupled with the understanding that “benighted” was not a careful choice of words to begin with," contributed to the change.
But did the Valley Indy’s article and reader response factor into the change? Yes it did, Monagan said.
“The passion of the reader response to the VIS (Valley Independent Sentinel) website and our own site did get me to think about, and ultimately reconsider, my choice of words,” said Monagan, who also noted that he is a Waterbury resident. “I’d love your readers to come up with the one word that they think best describes The Valley.”
“Hats off to the staff at Connecticut Magazine for their transparency,” Eugene Driscoll, editor at the Valley Independent Sentinel, said in an email to Naugatuck Patch. “Also, special thanks to North Korea dictator Kim Jong-Il for dropping dead, which apparently caused some soul-searching at the magazine, according to what I just read.”
So, as Monagan noted, "Maybe someone can offer a better word?"