Neal Peirce and Curtis Johnson are inventors of a new form of American journalism. They provide challenging “outsider” views — designed to inform and energize local civic forces — on the future prospects of urban regions across the United States.
These Citistates reports are generally commissioned by a major local newspaper. The Citistates team interviews a broad range of metropolitan leaders and citizens groups. Then, in a series of in-depth articles, the team draws on what has been learned from community leaders and citizens, as well as its knowledge of regions nationwide. An independent assessment of the region’s major problems and opportunities is written and then appears in the newspaper, either as a day-to-day series or as a special pull-out section.
But the practice is changing with the times. A prime example: In the 1980s, a Citistates team headed by Neal Peirce and Curtis Johnson, visited Owensboro, Kentucky and wrote a bold series of articles for the Messenger-Inquirer praising progress but raising a Ohio River-wide range of challenges. Invited back by the Public Life Foundation, founded by the then-publisher of the newspaper, Citistates undertook over recent months to (1) take stock of what’s happened in those 20 years; (2) explain the “operating system” that makes the region work, when it does; and (3) suggest a new narrative for Owensboro as it tries to be a significant place in the 21st century. The report to the region unfolded in three chapters — see www.civicpact.org — and, while explaining how different the 21st century context is, was generally bullish on Owensboro’s chances for continued success. Citistates associate Keith Schneider, also a New York Times correspondent since 1981, took the lead on this project, supported by Curtis Johnson. And in clear departure from past practice, the first iteration was on the Internet, not in print.
Over the years, “Citistates Reports,” or “Peirce Reports” as they were formerly called, have won wide acceptance in the American journalism. Since the first report was published by the Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette in 1987, there have been 20 more — including series for the Seattle Times, Baltimore Sun, Miami Herald and Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Dallas Morning News, St. Paul Pioneer-Press, Raleigh News & Observer, Spokane Spokesman Review,Philadelphia Inquirer, Boulder Daily Camera, Charlotte Observer, Reading Eagle and Times, Kansas City Star, Boston Globe, San Antonio Express-News, San Diego Magazine, Indianapolis Star and News the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The first six Peirce Reports were reprinted in the book, Citistates: How Urban America Can Prosper in a Competitive World (Seven Locks Press, 1993 — Copies available by mail order from publisher — +1 800-354-5348, or through Amazon.com)
Why Citistates Reports?
Citistates Reports are intended to stimulate — but never replace — vigorous civic dialogue. See this discussion of their role in communities.
Peirce Reports were the subject of a special plenary session of the Urban Land Institute in St. Louis on May 2, 1997, with representatives from six Peirce Report cities on hand. See this full report on that session.
2008 Report — Charlotte, N.C. Metro Region
The Citistates Group’s report on the bi-state Charlotte metro region ran in successive monthly installments from September to December 2008. The central theme — urging a fast-growing national finance center and New South city to grasp 21st century challenges and go for a “Great, Green and Global” development agenda. See this fuller description and links to the individual stories.
2007 Report — Charleston, S.C. Region
A Citistates report on the pressing development issues facing the Charleston region, supported by local foundations and other groups, began publication in September 2007. View the stories from Charleston.
2005-2006 — New England Futures:
Breaking pace from all its prior reports, the Citistates Group undertook a project encompassing all six states of New England. With interviewing in early 2005 and publication laterin late 2005 and early 2006, the project was mounted in collaboration with a broad-based New England Partnership of civic and business groups. See this full description of the project and updates on its progress
2004 — Boston Citistates Report:
A major Citistates report — BOSTON UNBOUND — was released May 26. See the full PDF of the report.
The Boston Globe November 29 began a four-week Op-Ed series, based on Boston Unbound.
The Citistates Report for 2001:
The Kansas City Star published the Citistates Report for the two-state Kansas City region in early 2001.
The Citistates Report for 2000:
The Citistates Group’s South Florida Citistates project, sponsored by the Knight and MacArthur Foundations, was published in The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and The South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale) over four Sundays in November and December 2000. It marked the first time that two metropolitan dailies — and in this case fiercely competitive ones — had agreed to run the same series. The first Sunday’s articles revolved around South Florida’s exciting opportunities — in trade, and now Internet connections — to be North America’s gateway to the Caribbean and South America in a century when the sleeping Latin giant awakens. The second Sunday examined the incredible cultural and language mix of the region, the perils of ongoing antagonisms, and the countervailing opportunities for a citistate which learns to make an asset rather than a liability of its diversity — especially in the 21st century global economy. The third Sunday focused on South Florida’s perplexing growth challenges. And the fourth on how the three South Florida counties — Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach — can fashion a less gridlocked transportation future — perhaps by reviving the region’s grand old dowager, the much neglected U.S. 1, making it a focus. Included is an insightful guest essay by our Citistates colleague, Manuel Pastor.
The series can be viewed at the site of the Citistates Groups’ partners in South Florida, the Collins Center for Public Policy.