Buzzfeed names Youngstown to list of "bleakest places"

By Jamison Cocklin


It’s not the city’s greatest ranking to date, nor does it carry the weight of other attention the city has received over the years, but believe it or not, on Thursday, ranked Youngstown No. 9 on its list of “12 of the Bleakest Places on Earth.”

Keep in mind that this is the very same website that delivers its readers regular montages of cats with pictures and videos that detail their quirky behavior.

Although it might border on a tabloid at times, the website delivers hard-hitting news as well.

Its recent success on the Internet meant Thursday’s list and Youngstown’s place on it generated an outpouring of attention on social media.

Writing on his Facebook page, Ohio Rep. Bob Hagan, D-58th of Youngstown, said, “How about we tell Buzzfeed to Buzzoff? They don’t know Ytown like we know Ytown.”

Reached by phone Thursday, Hagan said it was obvious the writer did very little research. He pointed out that the picture Buzzfeed used on its website was years old.

It showed a large, rusting pile of cars at the former Columbia Iron and Metal, a scrapyard that now sits in the shadow of Vallourec Star, which has since spent more than $1 billion on steel and oil and gas pipe-making operations there. Vallourec, a French company, is recognized as a world leader in the manufacture of steel pipe and other goods.

Its Youngstown operations have been deemed crucial to its North American business.

Buzzfeed did mention a positive Forbes ranking and a “new factory making tube goods,” but apparently it failed to realize that facility has since taken the place of the pictured scrap pile.

“These lists are becoming a dime a dozen,” said Youngstown’s Fourth Ward Councilman Mike Ray. “One week we’re rated as a top-10 place for retirees, the next our incubator is ranked among the best in the world. Youngstown is doing good things, and sometimes these lists don’t always take everything into consideration.”

Indeed, Youngstown is a top list-maker.

Its trajectory over the years from one of the country’s leading steelmakers and a mob mainstay, to its population exodus, decline and more recently its transformation and resurgence, have made it a prime target for those looking to compile an eye-alluring list.

Buzzfeed itself noted an unattributed 60 percent drop in population since 1960, which is true according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but the sharp drop started a decade earlier in 1950.

Yet, while the U.S. Census Bureau also recently said Mahoning County still leads Ohio in terms of population loss, some found it disingenuous that the city appeared on a list with others that are incomparable.

Oymyakon, Russia, where temperatures reach below negative 96 degrees, appeared at No. 7, and Trona, Calif., where all but a series of ash processing plants and a dirt football field define the ghost town, appeared at No. 11.

Overlooked was Youngstown’s oil and gas manufacturing supply chain, its ranking at No. 1 earlier this week in export growth nationwide by the Brookings Institution, its job growth at the top of the heap in a state that is faring better than others after the financial crisis and a diversifying economy that has been recognized by various media organizations.

“Buzzfeed ignores recent upward trends and development in #Youngstown,” wrote one Twitter user, while another said, “Whoa Youngstown you made 12 of the Bleakest Places on Earth? Feel like that is a wee bit harsh.”

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