They’re at it again.
The intrepid list-makers at 24/7 Wall St., an online “news” operation, are making waves in Medford by including us — for the second year in a row — on their list of “25 worst cities to raise children.”
Regular readers of this column (don’t be shy, I know you’re out there) may recall that last October, Medford made 24/7 Wall St.’s list of “50 worst American cities to live in” — along with the likes of Detroit, St. Louis, Baltimore, Youngstown, Ohio, and Camden, New Jersey. That list made even less sense than the latest one, but it established a pattern. These lists aren’t supposed to provide actual, useful information. They are designed to make you click on them, then through them, looking for your city, so you can be exposed to as much advertising as possible.
The difference this time was that the 24/7 Wall St. list was picked up by USA Today, which obviously didn’t bother checking to see whether it was worth reprinting. That’s sheer laziness on USA Today’s part, and it gave the list a thin veneer of credibility.
The utter uselessness of the latest list (worst places to raise children) can be quickly determined by comparing it with last year’s list.
The list compilers decided children needed to be in preschool, needed high schools with a high graduation rate, needed ready access to outdoor recreation and needed to live in a place with a low rate of violent crime.
The 2017 list said only 18.1 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds were enrolled in preschool, but the 2018 list, posted this month, said 34.5 percent were enrolled. Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay, given the unenviable task of doing 24/7 Wall St.’s job for them, determined the enrollment figure is actually 42.9 percent.
The high school graduation rate was reported as 75 percent both years, but we who actually live in Medford know the school district has improved that figure to more than 78 percent.
Violent crime? Medford’s rate of 357.8 per 100,000 residents is actually far better than many other cities on the “worst” list — Albuquerque, New Mexico (No. 9), for instance, has a rate of over 900 crimes per 100,000 population, and Anchorage, Alaska (No. 6), is at 1,114.9. The list authors explain that, while Medford’s violent crime rate is below the national average, it has a high incidence of theft. “Children can often feel unsettled by living in high crime areas, which can harm their emotional development,” the authors helpfully inform us.
Wow. I know my kids, both of whom grew up here and are now happy, successful adults, managed to avoid feeling “unsettled” by theft during their formative years.
But the real indication that something is not right about this report lies in the recreational opportunity category.
The 2016 list, which ranked Medford No. 24, said 83.6 percent of Medford residents had access to places for physical activity. This year’s list, which ranked Medford No. 3, said just 36.7 percent did.
Somehow, in just one year, parks and playgrounds throughout the city must have disappeared. We’d better start looking for them.
And give 24/7 Wall St.’s list the flushing it deserves.
Reach Editorial Page Editor Gary E. Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.