You poor, fat locals need to lighten up a little: reporter
Tuesday, 26th March, 2013
By Erica Visser
The author of a controversial article depicting Broken Hill as a backwards town plagued by obesity and poverty said he had thought locals would like it.
Mark Dapin's cultural piece appeared on a three page spread in Saturday's The Advertiser and suggested that Broken Hill still labelled people as A, B or C groupers and that the city is welfare dependent and "obesity seems to be a consequence of poverty".
The article sparked fury in locals, many of whom considered it to be ill-informed.
Mr Dapin told the BDT yesterday that all of the research for the article was done via talking to locals in the pub.
The former editor of Ralph magazine was visiting the city to speak with war veterans about a book he is writing.
He said that local councillor Peter Black had provided much of the background, alongside Mr Dapin's friends, local builder Jon Hanrahan and writer Jack Marx.
"I thought people would like it, it opened with Peter Black who loves Broken Hill more than anything in his life and then went on to feature people who said Broken Hill had saved their lives," he said.
"I would have preferred that people focus on that than the fact that people refer to people as A, B and C groupers; obviously one is much more important than the other.
"But rather than concentrate or even notice that, I think people fixated on (the negative aspects)."
Mr Dapin said that other parts of the article were observational and that if they were not true, people were yet to prove it to him.
"There were some big people in that cafe ... it either is or it isn't a place where there are a lot of obese people.
"I'm not using negative generalisations, it's not a generalisation to say there's an obesity problem.
"These were all the things that Peter Black told me and I understand that's what he's been raising at Council."
However, Mr Dapin admitted he could have spoken with more residents to gain a greater understanding of the city.
"I can totally see your point about how I should've spoken to more people," he said.
"I spoke to everyone outside the Workies and those are the things people told me about."
Both Mr Hanrahan and Mr Marx said they had copped flack over the article, however they did not regret their comments.
"I was actually taken aback as I thought it was light-hearted, I didn't find it offensive at all, I found it quite quirky and funny," Mr Hanrahan said.
"I'm pretty sure it wasn't intended to cause as much trouble as it has."
Mr Marx said that those with criticism were "mainly nitpicking" and that it was "fair". "In my way of thinking he could've written about the massive meth and ice epidemic that goes unmentioned here," he said.
"I've taken a mass of emails, but most of them are about whether Susie Mobbs lives 100 metres or 200 metres from her shop, they're all fleas in a cat
"For a tough town like Broken Hill, there's elements that need to grow a backbone.
"I just think it's in Broken Hill's DNA to not like outsiders commenting negatively on Broken Hill."
In fact, Mr Marx expressed his dismay within the article that he felt he was still an outsider despite living in the city for 18 months.
"I love Broken Hill kind of like I'd love a delinquent child ... people are so warm and friendly here."
He said that he did not regret any comments he made within the article.
"Not at all, I'll never regret the fact that others are stupid," Mr Marx said.
"If they want to be childish about a nifty little piece then so be it."
Mayor Wincen Cuy said he thought that the negativity of the article was unintended.
"While I believe that it didn't show us in a real good light, I don't think anybody meant it in a defamatory way.