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Youngstown officials blast writer over city’s portrayal

Published: Thu, October 9, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.


Regional Chamber President Thomas Humphries


Phil Kidd


Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams

By David Skolnick

The article’s author said he didn’t intend to ‘bash’ Youngstown.

YOUNGSTOWN — This probably wasn’t how Youngstown city officials wanted to get on the cover of Rolling Stone.

The cover of the weekly magazine’s Oct. 2 edition features a headline for a centerfold article about Roger Dillon and his girlfriend, Nicole Boyd, convicted of stealing $7.4 million last year from an armored car company that employed Dillon.

The couple lived in Youngstown.

The article isn’t terribly kind to the city.

It’s hardly the first time the national media has described Youngstown in an unflattering way. But the article in Rolling Stone, with a circulation of about 1.4 million, may be the most stinging.

The article, written by David Amsden, described Youngstown as “once a thriving industrial mecca on the Mahoning River, [and] now a landscape of sunken porches and vacant storefronts and boarded-up windows through which televisions flicker on pirated electricity.”

And that’s just the first paragraph.

The article states the city’s declining population after Black Monday in 1977 gives “Youngstown the disoriented feel of an inhabited ruin.”

“My intention isn’t to bash a city,” said Amsden, who spent about 10 to 14 days in the area earlier this year researching the article.

But bash Youngstown is what Amsden did, said Phil Kidd, a city official who also created Defend Youngstown, a group dedicated to Youngstown’s advancement.

“His angle is cheap and convenient,” Kidd said of the article. “It sells magazines and makes him money while stepping on the face of a city attempting to rise up and address such issues.”

Kidd didn’t stop there.

“It’s parasitic in nature and is played out,” he added. “There’s more happening in Youngstown than what is portrayed in superficial and dramatic pieces such as this one.”

The article was a reflection of the city from the perspective of Dillon, Boyd and their friends, Amsden said.

Amsden said he spoke to numerous people while in the Youngstown area researching the article.

“I’m not an Upper East Side-bred person who’s never left Manhattan who relies on Wikipedia for his information,” he said.

The magazine received some letters from those in the Youngstown-area, he said.

“I responded that I wasn’t writing an article about the state of Youngstown,” he said.

The only positive item in the article, titled “The Great Goth Armored Car Heist,” about the city is a mention of Mill Creek Park.

Even that came with a slap.

The park is a “rambling collection of dense forests, winding streams and lush gardens in which it is possible to forget that you are still in Youngstown.”

Amsden said he wasn’t “making a point on Youngstown or America in a grand sense. I wanted to capture the place as Roger and Niki experienced. I believe I did so.”

Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams said the magazine “chose to use outmoded and obsolete references of Youngstown as a backdrop for a bizarre and depressing story about two obviously troubled individuals.”

Williams said Rolling Stone is “well regarded in the world of music, entertainment and pop culture. However, when it comes to the serious issues of economic and community revitalization, I tend to give more credence to the numerous other mainstream publications which have objectively evaluated our efforts as innovative and successful.”

In the article, Amsden said Youngstown used to be called “Steeltown,” but has “acquired a number of nicknames that better capture its present state.”

He listed:

“Struggle City.” Amsden said he read that nickname of Youngstown in a book.

“The Armpit of Ohio.” Amsden explained that “Armpit of X is a general expression used by people for a place they find less ideal.”

“Murdertown.” In 1963, a Saturday Evening Post dubbed Youngstown as “Murdertown USA.” Amsden said that label “has certainly stuck. The violence is considerably less than it was years ago.”

Thomas Humphries, head of the Regional Chamber, dismissed the article saying he doesn’t think much of the magazine.

“If someone wants to write about the old days, let them do it,” he said. “I’m looking to the future.”




1pj(80 comments)posted 7 years, 8 months ago

Tis true, however time will come for a better city.

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2THIRTYSFORD(14 comments)posted 7 years, 8 months ago

Personally, I am tired of hearing this crap. Those of us that have lived here all of our lives know what we have been through. Since 1977 we have been through a lot in this area. The city itself has been hit hard and it shows. We need to remember the past and learn from it in order to move on. However, we do not need to dwell on it. I have traveled this country quiet a bit and can say that our city is no worse than a lot of other cities. We have a lot to offer and we should be proud of our past and where we came from. We have made it through the bad times and now we need to make things better. Our downtown is looking better and people are starting to spend time and money there. I take advantage of the Chevy Center and go to games, concerts, special events and go to the bars and restraints downtown. Mill Creek Park is one of the greatest parks in the country. The Youngstown Symphony, The Butler Institute of American Art, Stambaugh Auditorium are just a few of the great things we have to offer. Youngstown State University is a great school with many great athletic programs. This community comes together to help raise money for many charities. The people of this city and its suburbs are always ready to lend a helping hand. We don't need deodorant, we need people that care and people to take charge and lead the way to a better tomorrow.
It's time stop living in the past and work together to create a better tomorrow.

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3palmerlake(7 comments)posted 7 years, 8 months ago

I am sure if the voters of the Valley keep on electing Democrats things will get better

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4paulydel(1598 comments)posted 7 years, 8 months ago

In our "Hay Days" the Youngstown-Warren area always looked great, but with the steel industry gone and most people moving out of the area both cities need an infusion of new businesses. It would be great to see the old steel mills fired up and making steel again instead of getting steel from overseas. However I don't see that happening so our elected officials need to to do a better job of drawing new business to the area. I remember there wasn't a time if the media was talking steel that you wouldn't see a Youngstown or Warren plant being in a photo or documentry. Times have changed.

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5VINDYAK(1824 comments)posted 7 years, 8 months ago

Yes, times have changed and bringing new industry and businesses into the area is nearly impossible with our current crop of criminal activity, social degregation and urban disrepair. Businesses and industry want clean, hospitable environments with a good core of law-abiding citizens, progressive schools, banks, churches, etc. in which their employees can meld into.

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6DRDAVE1965(80 comments)posted 7 years, 8 months ago


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7buster62(24 comments)posted 7 years, 8 months ago

What is the problem? The Mayor does not like the truth about this town. It has the highest crime, the worst roads, and it is very noisy. I have seen dirt roads in better shape than this town.
I am moving out of this town to Boardman because of the mess in this town.

I am also tired of paying taxes to make Williams a billionaire

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8metz87(902 comments)posted 7 years, 8 months ago

Istead of blasting epople who are telling things like the are they should be fixing it. If they are offended they should be after all what have they done to fix it? Not much really.

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9planforthebest(53 comments)posted 7 years, 8 months ago

Awww! I used to like Rolling Stone and thought it was a great periodical with an unbiased, forward-thinking point-of-view.

Amsden's article shows what happens when news media don't bother getting beyond colorful descriptions of things they've probably never seen. I have to wonder if he's ever been here, and if he was, what parts of the area did he really visit?

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10MillCreeked(24 comments)posted 7 years, 8 months ago

I mean, if you want to see a place of faded former glory, look no farther than the magazines pages.

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11metz87(902 comments)posted 7 years, 8 months ago

And you are saying we don't have a problem with crime and vacant hosues and unemplyment? What planet are you guys on Venus?

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12dmets(575 comments)posted 7 years, 8 months ago

All I know is people who leave in Youngstown refer to it in the same way, and some even worse. I guess the saying is true: Poeple can't handle the truth. I think Youngstown is a hole! I hate driving through it cause it bothers me to see how bad, the place I grow up, has gotten over the years. It is so sad and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. It has broken and noone wants to replace it.

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13JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 7 years, 8 months ago

If people in Youngstown focused on truly improving their area as diligently as they focused on refuting opinions stated in magazine articles one can only imagine how wonderful the area might be...but they don't. People will cite how terrible this magazine article is for YEARS so they have something to whine and bi*ch about rather than prove it wrong by making a positive impact - it’s the Youngstown way, why should it change now?
So keep blaming the writer of the article, the magazine, the mayor, the economy, the school board, the steel industry, the Mafia, the tax system, the President, the Vindicator and whoever else you can think of – regardless who you blame Youngstown will still be a steaming shi*hole until people demand action.

I'm finishing my coffee.

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14Broncoace67(13 comments)posted 7 years, 8 months ago

The best thing that could happen to Youngstown is a "Greensburg" like tornado.

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