Rich Howells

VIDEO: Why do people keep bashing Pennsylvania, especially Scranton?

VIDEO: Why do people keep bashing Pennsylvania, especially Scranton?
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It seems like every month or so another online poll or top list is released saying Scranton is a terrible place to live, miserable as hell, or full of ugly accents. Are these criticisms fair and based on actual research or just nasty, classist insults that harm the Electric City and its residents?

BBC journalist Matt Danzico, who is originally from Scranton, investigates this phenomenon and talks to people throughout Pennsylvania, particularly in Scranton and Pittsburgh, who believe that the media is not only discriminating against working class, everyday people, but may actually be hurting businesses and the local economy in the process. Loyalty Barber Shop and Shave Parlor of Scranton is prominently featured in the piece.

The BBC posted this description of the video, part of its BBC Pop Up series:

The people of Pittsburgh in the US state of Pennsylvania have the “ugliest accent in America” – or that at least was the finding of one online survey.

Gawker Media ran a competition in which 16 cities were pitted against each other, with the audience asked to vote on which city’s accent they thought was ugliest. The company told the BBC its competition was meant to celebrate the regions.

But in Pennsylvania – which had three of the 16 contenders – they are not happy to have won the inauspicious title, and the bad headlines that come with it. Some critics claim prejudice against the Steel City’s working class roots is a factor in Pittsburgh taking the top spot.

Another blue-collar town in the mountainous northeast part of the state came second in the poll of ugly accents. Scranton, fictional home to the US version of The Office, was earlier this year named “the unhappiest region in the US” in a different unscientific survey. The results were carried in newspapers across the country.

Matt Danzico from the BBC Pop Up team explores his home state and hometown to find out why people seem so happy to bash Pennsylvania.

As the video mentions, it’s OK when we poke fun at ourselves, as in the famous “Heynabonics” video below, but when others do it, their intentions may not be so playful.

Photo by Sophia Kowalczyk

  • Scranton Fucking SUCKS

    Why does Scranton suck? Most people are raised to be inherently racist, some people don’t even know they’re racist but still refer to other people as “colored,” or will frequently use the N word toward people of color. The schools here? Let’s talk about how a number of school teachers don’t even deserve their jobs. They only got their job because their uncle, or father or mother or aunt taught in the district for 20 years. Keeping a lot of qualified teachers out, and bringing in teachers that don’t even do anything. Granted, there are a ton of more than qualified teachers in the area that work tirelessly to break that stereotype. What about the politics of even playing a sport? If your Dad’s friends with the coach, you will get playing time, no matter how bad you are. What about the politics in running for any position in the area? It’s not about how qualified you are, it’s about who you know, probably why the whole city has no money. It’s funny, people who never leave the area, except to go on vacation will never see how truly awful this place is. Scranton is truly a miserable place, take away the scenic views, The Office, High School Football, and that disgusting Old Forge Pizza, and under it all, you have a popularity contest driven by 40-50 year old people who still act like they’re in high school.

    • BigBallerCav

      How long did that take ya pal? ..someone was bullied in high school aye?

    • Tim_

      You can say that about essentially every city in the United States that is smaller than 100,000 people. All small towns have the same political and economic problems across the nation. Scranton is only worse because it has louder complainers living there.

      • Bill “Danger” Robinson

        Racism in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton is about as bad as it gets in the Northeast and is just a tad less severe than your average antebellum southern city. Christian Rudder’s book “Dataclysm” says people in West Virgina search Google for the “n-word” more than any other state. What he fails to mention is that people in North East Pennsylvania search for the “n-word” even more than the folks in proud and racist West Virgina do.

        • Hey Bill, we feature reader comments on our podcast every week, and we’ve invited you to call in on the show and talk to us personally about your issues with the area. Here’s the clip, and if you’d like to come on, we’ll give you the number to call:

          Just reply to this comment and let us know if you’re interested!

          • Bill “Danger” Robinson

            Nah, radio phone-ins are ambushes.

          • Aww, leave it to you to be negative even about that. I really don’t think we’d ever “ambush” anybody – we honestly just want to get your side of things and challenge our own views a bit. I was also hoping for your insight into the Mars One colony, since your crew survived so long out there on a seemingly limitless oxygen supply.

          • MarkieD2

            Hey Bill,
            Speaking from the point of view of being one of the co-hosts of the show, and hopefully you’ve watched or listened to THE LAST WORD segment of the show, the last thing I would want, or allow, is an “ambush”. We are not, have any intention of being, or will ever be the “GOTCHA” people. We just politely asked if you would be interested. If not, that’s ok, and the great thing about phones is, you can always hang up. No harm, no foul.

            I hope that you see there is no malice in my intent especially and welcome the opportunity with open arms to speak to you. I’m absolutely ok with my point of view being incorrect, which is why we extended the invitation. Hopefully you’ll think it over. But if you decide not to, that’s totally understandable and maybe we can have a dialog via this format instead.

            I wish you all the best,

          • Bill “Danger” Robinson

            Thanks, but I’m not interested in performance or amateur stand-up.

          • You really don’t like much of anything, do you? You’re right, though – your hilarious “cynical know-it-all” act is a tough one to follow.

          • Bill “Danger” Robinson

            I like plenty of things. I like avoiding ad hominen arguments from people who can’t discern relevancy or logic. Rational is a tough act to follow. And a podcast is not an efficient energy expenditure for me or you. More people will read this comment than will listen to your entire podcast.

          • Your Intro to Philosophy course failed you – it’s “homineM,” not “homineN.” You don’t seem to understand its meaning, either, since you often attack people personally in comments, just like you did right there. You have yet to address the argument I’ve had to make twice now, instead opting to insult our podcast. I know my traffic numbers, and I’m sorry to inform you, but you’re wrong again. For someone so worried about making efficient use of his time, you’ve made over 2,300 comments on various websites using Disqus alone – that seems like a lot of wasted time arguing with the same 20 people or so and solving nothing. That time could have been spent creating, doing, or just plain living – how do you improve this area or its people with your consistently negative Internet comments? What minds have you changed? Who have you enlightened? You may not like NEPA, the people in it, or anything that we do on this website, but I can tell you that since we launched in September, we have made a real, positive impact on people – I hear it personally every single day. You can choose to just accept that and go about your day or you can attack us some more – I know you’ll always choose the latter because that’s just easier, isn’t it? It’s easier to add fuel to the fire than it is to fight it and put it out, and you love watching things burn, don’t you?

            The reason we invited you on the show wasn’t to “ambush” you or mock you – I made my jokes and said what I wanted to say already. It’s because your attitude – the “everything and everyone sucks except me and my worldview” bitterness you hear on “Talkback 16” every day – is something worth addressing about NEPA, and often our country in general. This area is full of naysayers and negativity, and I think they’re just as cancerous to NEPA as any racist because they both have a whole lot of hate to share and little else.

            From your comments, I can gather that you don’t like racists or the way they’ve shaped the area, yet you continue to leave comments throughout this site and many others that are nasty and negative simply to be nasty and negative. You’re no better than the bigots who put others down because of their race, gender, or sexuality – you spread unwarranted hate, plain and simple. It’s doing NEPA no favors, and it only strengthens people’s preconceived notions about this area. Like most online comment crusaders, you’re quick to paint yourself as the intellectual and the beacon of truth, but you’re the only one here who believes that. In reality, all you’re doing is reaffirming for anyone reading your vitriol that NEPA is full of close-minded imbeciles who are miserable about everything – that is actually what the video posted above is addressing, in case you forgot while you were busy building yourself up to feel superior to others, much like bigots do. I simply don’t believe that this area is only made up of people like you, but you can be much more vocal than everyone else sometimes, which is a real shame. Have you ever felt shame? You should.

            If you lived by the motto, “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all,” you’d be mute. Please do us all a favor and adopt that motto. In space, Mr. Robinson, no one can hear you whine, but on Earth, we can all hear you loud and clear and we’re asking, collectively, that you shut the fuck up already.

          • Bill “Danger” Robinson

            You’re way too excited that I made a typo. I’ll give you that. I rely heavily on spell check and I get burned with Latin occasionally. Other than that, you got nothing. You have a few hundred views across all your YouTube videos and maybe you’re feeling angry and disappointment that it ain’t working. I can’t say for sure because — unlike you — I don’t make any presumptions about what anyone else is thinking. I just go by what I see on the page. Yet the big takeaway here, the elephant in the room that you refuse to address is the racism (not to mention corruption etc.) that exists in “NEPA.” We don’t need more disgruntled “Weekender” types giving “thumbs-ups” to every mediocre open-mic dilettante. What we need are people in the trenches who will do the real work of journalism and put in the effort to cover real issues that matter and affect people’s lives. The ball is in your court, run with it. If you want content that draws eyeballs and want to pay me, let me know. Otherwise good luck.

          • Bill “Danger” Robinson

            P.S. point us in the direction of the “thoughtful investigative reporting” you promise in your manifesto. And try to do so without talking about me. Tell us what you’ve done. Make believe that I don’t exist and point us in the direction of anything that you have originated that might actually get non-white people on the payroll in Scranton or Wilkes-Barre (or Luzerne or Lackawanna counties). Send one of your black friends out in Scranton and document the response they get when they try to rent an apartment. Do that and get back to me.

          • Danger! Danger, Will Robinson! Your delusions of grandeur will crush us all!

            It’s worse than I thought – I knew you were a self-righteous keyboard warrior, but now you think you’re a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist in the making! I won’t turn this into a dick-measuring contest, as we’ve already proven your lack of balls when you refused to talk to us in person, but I’ve earned several statewide awards over the years, including one for an investigative piece, so I am well aware of how to write those stories and the need for them in the area. I’m willing to bet that the random curmudgeon who relies heavily on spellcheck (that’s you, space cadet) doesn’t have the same credentials or experience, so let me list a few traits a journalist should have and things you should do before you go write that story that takes down city hall, cleans up corruption, saves the planet from an alien invasion, and rescues grandma’s cat from her tree:

            1. Research skills. First you try to pass off a Google search of a bad word as representative of all the people in the area, then you say that this website receives less than 50 views a day without having access to any statistics. In September, our first month in operation, we received 3,689 unique visitors without any outside advertising or publicity, which is already more than twice that number daily that you pulled out of thin air. By October, we received 28,357 unique visitors, again with no outside help other than positive word of mouth. If that’s what you call “ain’t working,” you may want to begin your research by Googling “success.” If you took the time to read anything about the podcast other than visiting our YouTube channel, you’d also note that the podcast is primarily available and released through iTunes, SoundCloud, and Stitcher on Tuesdays, where we receive a few hundred listeners every week. We release the YouTube version five or six days later because this takes much longer to edit, so most of our listeners have heard it by then, but we like to have this version available as an added supplement. Again, for a show with no outside advertising or publicity, I’d say reaching a few hundred people weekly in just 14 weeks is pretty good, and it certainly works much better than the phrase “you’re feeling angry and disappointment that it ain’t working.” Ugh. The lack of grammar there physically hurt my brain.

            2. Interview skills. I’m not even talking about you interviewing people here, as you’re obviously not ready for that – I’m talking about you getting interviewed for the job at a newspaper, magazine, or website. You spent quite a long time insulting me, my colleagues, the people of this area, and I think you said something disparaging about cute puppies in there somewhere, and then you asked me to pay you to write content. You may be unemployed, as you clearly have a lot of free time on your hands, so let me give you some advice about seeking employment – do NOT make this your job interview strategy.

            3. People skills. I’m making some of those crazy “presumptions” again, but you don’t seem like a guy who’s very good with people – probably not even your own mother. To gain the trust of sources, to conduct interviews with those willing to talk to you and those who will avoid you like the plague, you have to be pretty damn good with people, and that really isn’t coming through in your comments here. I’d joke that you’re probably a blast at parties, but I can’t imagine anyone inviting you to one in the first place.

            4. Patience. You don’t seem to realize that this is a start-up venture. It’s only been around for a few months, and there are no huge budgets or big backers to keep this thing afloat. Investigative journalism takes time, resources, and, in many cases, money, and the plan from day one has always been to delve into that work down the road. I genuinely enjoy entertainment reporting and found myself dissatisfied with the way it was being done in the area, so I decided to start there and build up to something bigger, including some investigative work, but I have to build up the name, the brand, and some trust with the public first. Despite what you think, none of it has been a waste of time, especially for me, and when we’re ready to tell those types of stories, we will.

            5. Set the example. Nobody likes a hypocrite, and if you’re going to attack someone’s public or private record, you better be prepared for rebuttal and retaliation. You can’t demand that the public or the authorities take action unless you’ve at least attempted it yourself. I built this website from nothing, with no budget and no idea if it would work out or not. Six months later, it’s grown faster than I ever could have imagined, and we’re just getting started. If you truly believe that you can create “content that draws eyeballs” all on your own, better than I or anyone else could do, build your own website from the ground up, and not some political rant blog or conspiracy theory website, but a legitimate news source that cleans up corruption and reports on “real issues that matter and affect people’s lives.” But there’s a catch…

            6. You have to use your real name, your real face, and stand by your words. This is a big one. Internet commenters like you get to hide behind anonymity, so you can say whatever you want and suffer no real consequences other than the lack of a social life and sunlight. You refused to call into our show, where you still didn’t even have to use your real name or show your real face, and you recently made your Disqus history private because you didn’t like me pointing out the fact that all your 2,300+ are nasty, negative, and unproductive. You’re a coward, through and through. If you want to be a real journalist and write real stories, you have to act like a real person in the real world, not live in a digital fantasy land where you’re the ultimate good guy fighting the ultimate evil, which, in your mind, is apparently NEPA and everyone in it.

            Listen, I appreciate you taking the time to look up the word “dilettante,” but seriously, stick to what you know, which seems to be NOT knowing things and repeating them over and over on the Internet. Sorry, you didn’t get the job on the website you hate so much but can’t seem to stop visiting, but I can’t wait until you blow my efforts away with “Bill Robinson’s Super Awesome Amazing Blog Exposing ‘NEPA’ for the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Place That It Is.” I’d work on the name, though. Why don’t you do that and get back to me?

          • Bill “Danger” Robinson

            Brevity is the soul of wit. Etc. etc.

          • Bill “Danger” Robinson
          • The number of instances here doesn’t differ by much on average, and what this lacks is context. There no denying there’s racial issues in NEPA, but a link showing how often a word is searched for online doesn’t exactly prove the overall mindset or attitude of an area. Who made these searches and why? It doesn’t say. If you were citing hate crime numbers or something along those lines, that would better prove your point. Is there racism in space? Does Google have any numbers on that?

          • Bill “Danger” Robinson

            Read the book. On your podcast you guys ask for a citation and then you mock me when I refer to a specific book. Racism in Pennsylvania has a long history that is well documented

          • We mock you because you’re basing your view of an entire region on a Google search with absolutely no context. Yes, Pennsylvania has a long history of racism – so does every state in our nation. That doesn’t excuse it, but if you’re going to make claims that our state is more racist than another, you have to have more to back up your opinion than a hunch and a Google search for a word. You comment on a lot of media websites. If a journalist came to the same conclusion based on one link and a book that you claim “fails,” you’d hang him out to dry in the comments section for sloppy reporting. I ask for more proof than what you’re providing and you ignore me and repeat the same claim. Are you lost in space or the argument sketch by Monty Python?

          • Bill “Danger” Robinson
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