Eric Schwartz

Eric Schwartz 

Go home USA Today. You’re drunk! 

That was my immediate thought after reading a news article — and I use that term extremely liberally in this case — that somehow came to the conclusion that Yelm is the absolute worst place to live in the entire state of Washington. 

I mean, really? 

I’ve lived in the Evergreen State most of my life, and I could rattle off at least a dozen cities, towns and Census-designated places that make Yelm look like Paris. I’m not going to name any names (cough, cough Hoquiam, Longview, Tacoma) but you can basically just slap your finger anywhere on a map of Washington and find a city worse off than Yelm. 

This is a growing town, one that, at least to this newcomer, appears to be relatively low on the type of crime that has seemingly swallowed cities like Seattle whole. 

Sure, there are issues, but every town has those. So how in the world does Yelm qualify as the worst city in the state? According to the author of the “report” by 24/7 Wall Street, it’s the property crime. 

 “For example, property crime — a broad category that includes burglary and motor vehicle theft — is relatively common in Yelm,” the factually-challenged writer wrote. “The city’s property crime rate of 5,750 incidents per 100,000 in 2017 was nearly the highest of any city in the state and well above the U.S property crime rate of 2,362 per 100,000.”

The author reached this conclusion by multiplying the property crime rate and population to reach 100,000 residents. That would work if property crime rose at the same rate as population, but it doesn’t. Yelm has had a population increase of 27 percent over the last seven years. During that time, the property crime rate increased by just 1.6 percent. 

Yelm’s property crime is far below the national average, according to Police Chief Todd Stancil, who rightfully found some humor in the whole story.  

At the end of the day, it’s a product of a national media organization attempting to drive clicks to their website. It’s not about informing the public or holding anyone accountable, which should be the main goals of a journalistic operation. 

I’m with Stancil. It’s funny because the story was a joke. 

•••

I’d like to thank all of those people who have made my first couple weeks as regional executive editor in charge of the Nisqually Valley News enjoyable. I’ve found nothing but friendly and encouraging faces thus far, and I am looking forward to meeting more of you. 

Moving forward, I’d love to hear more from you, the reader. 

What are we doing wrong? What could we do better? What kinds of stories would you like to read when you open a copy of the Nisqually Valley News?

Beyond that, consider sending a letter to the editor. You could highlight a promising development in the community, comment on a problem or simply thank a community member for their contributions. I believe a vibrant Opinion page is a key to having a great community newspaper, so I intend to focus on engaging with readers in the weeks and months ahead. 

Feel free to send letters to me directly at eschwartz@yelmonline.com. 

••• 

Eric Schwartz is regional executive editor of the Lafromboise Communications, the company that owns the Nisqually Valley News, The Chronicle in Centralia and The Reflector in Clark County. He works out of Yelm daily and encourages you to drop into the office for a visit. Schwartz can be reached at eschwartz@yelmonline.com or 360-960-1502. 

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(1) comment

Nomas1

Rather than massaging the statistic offered by USA today, the editor really ought to address the issue. The USA today comparison was to other towns and cities in WA. If as he claims, a rise in population ought to be reflected in a concurrent rise in property crime, is it so that other cities have also experienced this incongruence? Second, where does he get his figures from? Surely not the police department of Yelm. If he is relying on an interested party, well, he should check his Journalism 101 notes about the concept of objectivity. I wrote a response to the Chief's response, but it wasn't published. Now there is a reiteration. Methinks the editor doth protest too much. If people are being robbed at an inordinate rate around here, he ought to find out why, rather than simply repeating what the police say. If not, there might be a Pulitzer out there waiting for him for punching a virtual hole in USA today using actual journalism.

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