By G. Michael Dobbs
I was driving to work listening to the CBS news that precedes Bill Dwight's show on WHMP radio when I heard that Springfield had been named by Forbes Magazine as one of "America's Fastest Dying Cities."
"Oh crap," I said. Only I didn't say "crap."
It's a pretty attention-catching phrase: "America's Fastest Dying Cities." And Forbes Magazine certainly caught my attention by including Springfield on the list.
Too bad a publication like Forbes resorts to the same brand of journalism as the National Enquirer: exploitive and shallow.
What's next for the business journalism powerhouse: Britney stories?
Now the Enquirer is well known in newspaper circles as a publication that, despite its sensationalistic reporting of the lives of celebrities, is seldom brought into court on libel charges. And the folks at Forbes can claim they are right in their presentation of U.S. Census information about these 10 communities.
But can numbers be manipulated? You know they can. Do they tell the whole story? No, they don't.
In 2000, when some of the census information was assembled, was the city in rough shape? Absolutely. Was it a different story four years later? Yes. Was it even a better story six years later? Yes.
On the municipal side, Springfield began righting its ship through the work of Mayor Charles Ryan and the Finance Control Board. The Forbes piece doesn't talk about how the city's credit rating has changed dramatically or that progress has been made on reducing crime.
It doesn't address the impact of the MassMutual Center, which in its first year was named among the top 100 venues in the convention/arena industry worldwide. Nor does the Forbes story mention the Urban Land Institute's study on Springfield and the fact the city is undertaking the suggestions made by that report.
Somehow the city's efforts to end homelessness which have received national praise also managed to slip through the writer's fingers.
The story doesn't mention the continued attention the city gets through the Basketball Hall of Fame or the Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Garden.
The national rate for unemployment is 5.7 percent; Springfield's is 5.9 and other communities on the dying list were as high as nearly 10 percent. Was that fair lumping us in with that group?
And unlike many of the communities on that list, Forbes reported Springfield has gained in population.
If the article was to point out the challenges that older manufacturing centers are facing, it made the point that has been made since the Reagan Administration when that president entered office America was the largest maker of finished goods we've started our slide down to near the third world debtor nation status we enjoy today.
Now perhaps there is a print version with greater content, but wouldn't it be interesting to see how these communities have reacted to their problems? Would the reporting of some progress be more beneficial to the communities themselves?
Or is just more fun to kick someone who is down?
Well, I'll make the same offer I did to the reporter who wrote the hatchet job about the Springfield in the Hartford Courant a while back: come here and I'll make sure you'll get one of the best lunches of your life and a tour to show you the Springfield isn't dying.
But like the writer from the Courant, I'm sure this writer won't have the courage to see that what he wrote doesn't tell the complete story.
My family would like to thank the readers of these newspapers for their generous donations of used cell phones to be donated to women to help prevent domestic violence. There is a box in my office that is growing day by day.
If you have an unused cell phone and charger, please consider taking your information off the phone and bringing it to our offices at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow. Thanks again.
This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or to 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.
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