Dumb and dumber

First Posted: 10/12/2013

A strange thing happened at this newspaper last week.

A frequent complaint is The Robesonian publishes too much of what is tagged as “negative” news, and not enough of what would get the stamp of approval from the chamber of commerce. Unfortunately, negative news is produced too frequently in a high-crime, high-poverty area where so many people are unemployed, and where education is not valued.

We like to say we don’t search for bad news, it knocks on our door.

So it was a surprise when we were asked multiple times why we had not published a story on credit.com’s claim that Lumberton was the “lowest-income area” in the United States. Two other North Carolina cities, Forest City and Roanoke Rapids, join Lumberton in the bottom 10.

Credit.com, saying it was using information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, determined that Lumberton residents have an average annual income of $28,293 — far below the national average of $51,371.

It also claimed that the Lumberton area included 135,517 residents. Oh, really?

We skipped on a hard-news story because we found the assertion silly at best — and, given the amount of negative news that we have no choice but to publish, we saw no reason to legitimize this bogus claim.

But we have seized the opportunity to mock it editorially.

According to city-data.com, Lumberton in 2012 had 21,768 residents who had an average income of $32,969. Obviously, the city is dragged down by the inclusion of all of Robeson County in what credit.com calls Lumberton.

That picture is distorted at best, and it is also incomplete. Credit.com didn’t factor in the cost of living, which weighs heavily in Lumberton’s favor, and would surely propel it out of last place. Plus we have nice weather, it’s just a short ride to Myrtle Beach and people are nice.

We also passed recently on an opportunity to publish a hard-news story on a story about Lumberton that was just as dumb but much more offensive.

Lumosity, an online neuroscience research company based in San Francisco, using information gathered from its smart-phone application, determined that Lumberton ranked 478th in the country in cognitive function through interactive games. First we would object to the use of the pool of people who play interactive video games as the IQ test for all of us, but whatever.

No. 478 wouldn’t seem so bad except that only 478 cities were ranked, placing Lumberton dead last. But there are more than 89,000 municipal governments in the United States, so we will place Lumberton in the top .005 percentile. So there.

It obviously hasn’t been a good few weeks for the county seat of the Great State of Robeson. But if local people who read these studies give them any credibility, we don’t know what to say, except that Lumosity might be onto something.