by Kyle Swenson
Man, Lakewood is pissed. And they should be.
Last week the ‘burb became a local punchline after Newsweek, that magazine your parents still subscribe to but don’t read, mistakenly listed Lakewood High School as 229th on the its annual list of the top 1,600 high schools in the country. Turns out, Newsweek meant Lakewood High School in Colorado; our Lakewood wasn’t on the list. Ouch.
Not only did the city take offense to the mishap, but some insiders don’t appreciate the reaction from both the erring magazine and locals. Over at the Lakewood Observer, Jim O'Bryan has posted a slash-and-burn screed about the situation, lashing out not only at the vanilla weekly but the area media.
O’Bryan takes off the gloves with this one. First, he rightfully questions the whole premise of ranking high schools: “When I first heard of the ‘award,’ I was wondering who, in this era of schools struggling for survival, and massive teacher layoffs, would pit school system against school system,” he writes. Later, he asks whether or not such a list is even an accurate appraisal of the nation’s high schools when the editors behind the ranking admitted they didn’t even have any data on Lakewood’s institution. Fair point. Finally, he finishes it up like any good media take-down artist should, by alluding to the magazine’s financial troubles (very true in this case) and it’s chronic irrelevance (even truer).
“The fact is that Newsweek is for sale, and they're getting desperate because no one's interested in coming to the firesale,” he writes. “As one of the headlines from Yahoo News put it last month: ‘Likely Newsweek buyers not exactly thronging the market.’”
But when O’Bryan turns on the local media, I have to admit I became a little suspicious; something about accusing the PD and TV stations of being characteristically “tough on the inner-ring suburbs” and here taking “great relish in pointing out what schools in the area were, in their opinion, better than Lakewood” struck this reader as a little, I don’t know, paranoid?
But I did do a little digging and came up with this gem. Last Tuesday, Cleveland.com ran a Sun News article on the Lakewood switch-up; the piece quotes the man behind the mishap, Newsweek Contributing Editor Jay Matthews. He’s a bit terse:
“The reference to Lakewood High in Ohio is an error. I have no data from that high school in my data base. It is clear that the data we have displayed on the list applies only to Lakewood High in Lakewood, Colo.”
The next day, however, Cleveland.com ran another Sun News piece about an additional local high school screwed out of its glory. It turns out Shaker Heights High School was supposed to be on the list but was left off.
This time, Matthews was a little more contrite.
“The fact that the school is not listed in the initial version of the list is entirely our fault," he told Sun News.
But wait: he’s not done yet.
“I hope the school — one of the finest and most interesting in the country, who welcomed me kindly when I visited, who helped inspire this list in the first place — will eventually forgive me,” he writes in an email response.
Not too concerned about whether or not Lakewood will ever forgive you, are you Jay? Hmmmm . . .
Whether or not there’s a media conspiracy against Lakewood, the school district is certainly not getting any respect out there.