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Student Documentary Shows that Stockton Is Magnificent Rather than Miserable

Apr 20, 2011

In the past few years, Forbes magazine has included Stockton near or at the top of its "Most Miserable City" list. Fed up with the ranking, a group of proud Stocktonians have planned an event to show the world that Stockton is not miserable-it's MAGNIFICENT!

The event is hosted by the Miracle Mile Improvement District and will be held on Saturday April 23 from 10 am to 2 pm on Pacific Avenue at Tuxedo Court. The Avenue will be closed to vehicle traffic, and a stage will be erected in the middle of the street. 

Communication professor Dr. Alan Ray has been in charge of entertainment, which will include music, poetry, dance, exhibits, and more. The celebration also includes the showing of a documentary produced by Daniel Ray (Dr. Ray's son) and Patrick Walton, two Pacific graduates. The 30-minute film, "In Our Misery," will be shown in the Empire Theater.

Making the Documentary

In 2009, seniors Daniel Ray (Communication '10) and Patrick Walton (Political Science '10) wanted to find out what was behind Forbes' dubious ranking of Stockton. 

Patrick Walton behind the camera

Patrick Walton behind the camera

So they applied for and received a Pacific Fund grant to support a project that involved traveling to New York City to interview Forbes editor Kurt Badenhausen, author of the "Most Miserable City" feature.

Under the direction of Dr. Alan Ray, they set out to examine the validity of the most miserable city ranking and produce a video documentary, which served as a senior project for Patrick.

Setting up the live interview at Forbes proved challenging. While Badenhausen initially agreed to it, Forbes' publicist later said no but finally relented.

The interview was scheduled during the holiday break in January 2010. Patrick was in Hawaii for swim team, so he could not attend. Daniel and Dr. Ray, who was manning the video camera, were greeted with some defensiveness-as if Forbes was expecting a Michael Moore interrogation.

To come up with its Miserable City rankings, Forbes looked at 150 of the largest metropolitan areas in the country and "measured" nine factors: commute times, corruption, pro sports teams, Superfund sites, taxes (both income and sales), unemployment, violent crime and weather.

But Daniel and Patrick believe there is more to a city than statistics. The underlying theme of their video is that a city is only as good as its residents, and that all communities have something to offer in terms of quality of life.

Daniel Ray interviews a student

Daniel Ray interviews a student

To find out how members of the Stockton community felt about the ranking, Daniel and Patrick interviewed the mayor, the chief of police, and other civic leaders and journalists. They also filmed "people on the street" commentaries.

"'Miserable' is such a loaded term," said Daniel. "Some of the factors are valid, such as crime, but others seem arbitrary. I have lived in Stockton for more than 20 years, and I'm always curious to know what people think about this community, and what needs to be improved. From the interviews I've conducted, I've learned there are a lot of positive aspects to be proud of."

More about the Stockton Is Magnificent event.

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