Posted on February 16, 2012 at 2:26 PM
Tuesday, Jul 24 at 11:10 AM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Charlotte is in North Carolina. Always has been.
And yet some journalists, copywriters and TV producers, bless their hearts, keep putting us in South Carolina. Here’s a smattering:
A Google News search turned up eight media organizations (of varying repute) which, over the last month, placed Charlotte in the Palmetto State. Maybe they don’t know. Maybe a copy editor didn’t catch it. The internet magnifies mistakes. But still. Sigh.
“We’ve been talking about this for years now,” says Molly Hedrick, communications director for the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.
She remembers the old days, when USA Today put Charlotte on the map; literally, the ubiquitous color-coded back page weather map.
She doesn't recall June 7, 1996. That’s when on ABC’s World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings read a story about a black church fire in Charlotte, South Carolina.
Those mistakes keep happening, albeit less frequently. But they still happen. Recently, Hedrick heard a major network make the exact same mistake.
“We all somewhat gasped,” she says.
The CRVA and others have always been trying to come up with ways to set our city apart from others. Part of the process includes figuring out what misconceptions people have about us. Back in 2000, ad man Jim Mitchem worked on a campaign to turn Charlotte from mere city into brand name. One of the biggest obstacles, according to Mitchem, was this: studies showed that people were confusing Charlotte with a town on the South Carolina coast.
Here’s his theory. Spell out both cities.
The first five letters are the same. Both have an e, o and t.
“There’s a literal alliteration,” Mitchem says. “Looking at it, and seeing the C-H-A-R-L… people fade away.”
They start reading the beginning of the word. Depending on how quickly they’re glancing at it, they might quit before they get to the end.
North and South Carolina are, for most of us, interchangeable. Uptown Charlotte is a dozen miles from the border. Commuters come to North Carolina to work. They go to South Carolina for the gas. The Carolina Panthers play home games in North Carolina, but hold their training camp across the border in Spartanburg. Carowinds is in both states.
The big names in town, the mayor, the business leaders, the tourism folks, keep saying we’re a world-class city. President Obama keeps talking about us. When he referred to us in last month’s State of the Union, he didn’t even mention the state of the union we’re in. By having us on a first name basis, we’d now like to think we’re in the same gaggle as Chicago, Boston and Miami (And, say, Oprah, Bono and Charo).
But when somebody gets a basic fact about us wrong, it stings a little. It’s a bit like somebody toasting you, then mispronouncing your name at the end. We’re a growing city learning a lesson every growing child learns—people don’t always see you in the same way you see yourself.
Sometimes, a mistake is just an innocent mistake.
I emailed several of the folks who put Charlotte in the wrong state. One wrote back.
“Guess I zoned out because of the Republican primary in South Carolina,” says Dave McNeely, a political columnist in San Angelo, Texas. He said he knows better. He said he’s sorry. He also referred to me as Jerry instead of Jeremy. I totally understand, Dave.
The first few letters are the same.
- David Zimmerman, a search engine optimization expert, tells me four million people search for "Charlotte NC" every month on Google. How many people search for "Charlotte SC" every month? Four-thousand.
- Astute Facebook fan Andrew Alterman points out that there used to be a Fort Charlotte, South Carolina
, about halfway between Anderson and Augusta. It was the site of an early fight during the Revolutionary War, and now sits about 50 feet beneath the surface of Strom Thurmond Lake.
- Another astute Facebooker, Sharon Andrews, points this out: "They haven't gotten the memo that the surveyors from 1712 messed up and got the state line out of sync from what it was intended to be." North and South Carolina were split in 1729. Surveyors were supposed to draw the state line westward along the 35th parallel. That didn't happen. Even if they would have made it, Charlotte would still have been in North Carolina. Here's an interactive map with more information on the border.
- I didn't even bring up Charlottesville, Virginia.