"The Great Good Place" argues that third places build community, social capital and civic solidarity. Perhaps, but my immediate worry is that they won't be there for me when I need them.
I suppose a case could be made for the gym as a latter-day third place. Likewise, the beauty salon or the sports bar. But listen to Oldenburg:
"The lure of a third place depends only secondarily upon seating capacity, variety of beverages served ... or other features. What attracts the regular visitor to a third place is supplied not by management but by fellow customers. ... It is the regulars who give the place its character and who assure that on any given visit some of the gang will be there."
And that describes perfectly the newsroom of The Washington Post, except that it was — and is — a job site. I need a new third place.
Update: My email to him:
Third places are created, not just pursued
I enjoyed reading your column this morning, but I'm afraid you skipped over a concept that is vital to the existence of third places. The idea of citizenship, that people are active participants in their communities, is vital to creating so-called third places. In a sense, third places are populated by citizens, not worker bees or consumers, but rather people engaged in their environment and who feel a sense common purpose. I've been reading recently about how some places, like libraries, are well suited to become such centers of civic culture.
I also wanted to say that I'm saddened that your leaving the Post. I began college at Delaware State University's print journalism program, and the dean there held you up as an example of what a journalist could be. Even though I didn't end up pursuing reporting, I continue to respect your work.
Thanks and good luck,