From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 9, Number 7 - May 5, 2009
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

ABC News gives false sense of hope

by Trey Wilkinson

There is no question Sublette County has been put on the national map, which was confirmed last Wednesday when ABC News aired a clip on the county’s low unemployment rate – one of the lowest in the nation.

But was this national news clip accurate? Some don’t believe it was, including those who traveled thousands of miles to have their dreams crushed upon arrival.

Since last week’s broadcast, the Sublette County Chamber of Commerce has been flooded with inquiries about job openings in Sublette County.

“I found the clip to be misleading and inaccurate,” Sublette County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Terrie Swift said. “I felt like I was watching a clip from two years ago.”

Swift said one of the most frustrating things was the fact that ABC representatives and Pinedale residents (including Swift) were in contact two weeks prior to ABC’s visit.

“(I) felt like we really gave them a great deal of resources to go off of,” she said. “When the crew came and started filming, they had spoken to very few individuals that we directed them to. It seems they were not interested in the reality of today but would rather focus on presenting a very inaccurate portrayal of Pinedale...”

That inaccurate portrayal, as Swift calls it, has prompted numerous phone calls, emails and walk-ins at the Chamber.

“The response here at the Chamber of Commerce has been extremely overwhelming,” she said.

Overwhelming to the effect of 30 resumes received and over 300 inquiries about job openings as of Friday morning.

Swift forwarded one of a number of email correspondence from someone looking for a job in Sublette County, which read “Hi, I saw the news report of the Oil and Gas drilling in your town. What is the name of the company and who do I apply to for work with that company in the administration/sales/clerical area? Email? HR? Please email me the info, I am most interested in working in your area and need to work urgently. Thank you.”

“We fielded more than 200 phone inquires the day after the clip aired (Thursday) and you can understand why after watching the clip,” Swift said.

Cowboy Shop owner Carolyn Bing was part of the newscast and was quoted saying, “We have more work than people.” However, Bing believes a short clip like the one that aired Wednesday doesn’t paint the entire picture.

“The crew filmed in the store for about 20 minutes and talked to us for about 45 minutes,” Bing said. “Anytime you take a massive amount of information and cut it down things will be distorted.”

That being said, Bing said she still thought the clip was a “great representation of Sublette County” and is in fact looking to hire two people for summer work.

However, Bing did admit the clip was “a bit artificial.”

“It’s a bit misleading in Sublette County because there are so many people who work more than one job… in some cases three jobs,” she said. “In order to live in Sublette County a lot of people have a day job and evening job, which deflates unemployment numbers.”

Meanwhile at the Chamber office Swift has had to deal with many angry and upset job seekers.

“Unfortunately most people who reside here know that is not the realty (countless job openings) and so to be the person that has to explain this was not fun,” she said. “I heard so many individual stories about people and their desperation for work. There were folks that cried, there were folks that were extremely angry and confused.”

And if you don’t think there are repercussions to this kind of misleading information, just listen to Swift’s story about a hitchhiker looking for work.

“We actually had a gentlemen hitchhike through the night to get here and thought that he could just walk the streets and get a job,” she said. “He had nothing and we actually ended up asking our area churches for assistance for him. He was shocked at the reality of the job market.”

And the anonymous hitchhiker isn’t the only person who traveled all the way to Sublette County looking for work. Lewis Burns traveled nearly 2,000 miles from Atlanta, Ga., to find a job in Sublette County.

“I figured the way they put it (on ABC) there were more jobs than they knew what to do with here,” he said Friday afternoon after finding out the reality of limited job availability.

Lewis plans to stick around for three to four days and look for work, but with little money to his name and an expense of more than $400 to drive back across the country things don’t look good.

Lewis who once lived in Rock Springs said it used to be if you couldn’t find work in Wyoming you weren’t looking, and the broadcast on ABC painted that exact picture.

“I’m disappointed I drove all the way out here and I’m probably not going to find a job,” he said. “It gave the country a false sense of hope.”

In general Swift feels the whole thing was irresponsible work by ABC News.

“I think it’s extremely irresponsible that they portrayed this area as having more jobs available than residents,” she said. “With unemployment rates being higher than they have been since May of 2004 it is also irresponsible to present this in a light that would have folks believe that Sublette County hasn’t experienced a slow down and that we don’t have economic impacts here in our own backyard. We all know people that have been laid off, cut back, taken pay cuts and so on so to not include that is misleading inaccurate and extremely disappointing.”

Despite the problems the broadcast has caused for the Chamber and its staff, not to mention the false hope given to job seekers, Swift and the rest of the crew are trying to help out those who have inquired about the news that aired.

“We have been assisting people that are looking for relocation packets, we are providing them information on how to register for unemployment in the State of Wyoming, we are providing them with Web sites that provide area information and we are encouraging them to educate themselves about the area and job market before making any drastic moves to Sublette County,” Swift said.

While it’s a fact Sublette County has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, the question still remains how accurate ABC News’ broadcast on Sublette County really was and what hardships the news clip will cause.

While Swift and her staff remain busy answering people’s questions, the good news is summer is right around the corner and perhaps the seasonal influx of people heading this direction for outdoor recreation will boost the economy in order to provide those jobs Sublette County is supposedly so full of.

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