Wednesday, August 06, 2008

vindicator and wfmj perpetuate errors by incorrectly assessing forbes article

and again, the cycle repeats itself.

national magazine produces "list" with no reference to research methodology;

which leads to some in local media to go nuts about the "list";

which leads to calls for responses from local leaders;

which leads to spreading of "list";

which leads to increased advertising revenues for creator of "list";

which leads to uptight blogger reacting to story;

which leads readers to think blogger sees his native city through sugar-coated, rose-colored lenses as problem-free shangri-la;

and repeat.

- - -

sure, there are good days and bad days in the reporting world.

Some days, you are the hero, bringing needed and accurate information to the public sphere.

Other days, the media gets beat up - sometimes unfairly - and spite is directed towards the messenger and not the message.

But sometimes, a reporter needs to step up his or her efforts when passing on a story.

- - -

Case in point: the local media reaction from a recent article in Forbes magazine (vindy story here, wfmj video here) with some top 10 list about fastest-dying cities. [this cycle is also being played in the Dayton and Cleveland local media as well]

According to the Vindicator piece:
"The article did not rank the cities in any particular order but did reference information collected by the U.S. Census Bureau for each city, including migration since 2000, total population change, unemployment rate for June 2008 and annualized gross domestic product growth."
This sentence from the reporter is both incorrect and misleading.

In all four metrics utilized in this sentence, the values refer not to the city of Youngstown, but to the region as a whole, specifically the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman Metropolitan Statistical Area, as defined by all of Mahoning and Trumbull counties on Ohio and Mercer county in Pennsylvania.

The Forbes article even uses the term "metropolitan statistical area" in its photo album of the top 10 list.

So instead of leading with the line "The city is among the top 10 fastest-dying cities in the U.S.", the story should more accurately read:

"The region is among the top 10 fastest-dying regions in the U.S."

that's right, dammit. If this ship is going down, we're taking everyone else down with us. (listen closely for evil laughter)

as if this blog entry couldn't make even more mountains out of molehills, here is some data to leave you with, the actual percent change in gross domestic product from 2001 to 2005 for selected regions from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

chained dollars indexed by inflation, ranked by percent change
(note: values below may change slighty as BLS continuously corrects data)

percent increase 2001-2005 GDP2005 GDP (in billions)metro area labeled by central city
12.6%$23.3 BAkron, OH
10.3%$3.7 BMansfield, OH
8.5%$82.4 BCincinnati, OH
8.4%$973.5 BNew York City, NY
7.8%$75.4 BColumbus, OH
7.1%$89.9 BCleveland, OH
6.6%$245.6 BSan Francisco, CA
5.9%$91.2 BPittsburgh, PA
5.8%$22.9 BToledo, OH
5.8%$2.7 BSandusky, OH
5.5%$3.7 BLima, OH
5.2%$242.9 BBoston, MA
5.0%$15.1 BYOUNGSTOWN metro
4.8%$29.9 BDayton, OH
3.0%$11.2 BCanton, OH
2.0%$198.6 BDetroit, MI
1.8%$7.4 BErie, PA
1.6%$11.5 BFlint, MI
-4.8%$3.1 BSpringfield, OH
-10.7%$9.0 BLafayette, LA

and finally, the newspaper story ends with the following from the Mayor:
“One list from someone who has not been to Youngstown and seen what is going on doesn’t have much credibility with me,” Williams said. “You can take data and have the data say anything you want.”


George Nemeth said...

McK and I chatted about this over breakfast. The stuff that's dying in the region is the stuff that the forbes' of the world measure—stuff that was created a century ago and is based on the steel, oil, and automobile industry. How long has that been dying? 30 years now?

When I was down this weekend for thinkrs & drinkrs, I completely enjoyed both the conversation, and the patio at cedars. Man, if the beachland ballroom had one of those...

Anyway, I grew up in the country with plenty of open green space. What's wrong with that future for the area? I'm fed up with the toxicity of the industrial era.

clevelandheights said...

What does "dying" mean anyway? Couldn't it be said that Youngstown is "changing"? Unfortunately, the mindset of many older Youngstowners--my parents included--is that the city is dying because steel never came back to town. They have no idea that there's a Youngstown IT incubator, or that the city is working on downsizing and greening. An article like this doesn't help.

Y-town needs more positive articles and news stories. There is a wonderful ethnic flavor, strong faith and great people in the greater Youngstown area. I'd be happy to help out spreading some good words.

Lucy said...

Both George and Cleveland Heights made my point. Thanks guys.

Janko, I can't stop grinning over your use of the words "vindicator," "wfmj," and "stupidity" in a headline for a post that calls into question the accuracy of a headline. Yours is the far more accurate. Thank you for providing a more complete picture of the Forbes information.

Mike Prelee said...

I wouldn't classify the local media's reaction as "apeshit". They would have had to do more than cut and paste the story to garner that reaction. Good job on the analysis.