27 May 2011

When cities fight back at magazine rankings

Anatalio Ubalde is an economic developer, entrepreneur, and inventor. He works with organizations throughout the nation to foster enhanced economic development strategies using Internet technology. His work in geographic information systems, economic development and the Internet has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Forbes, Fortune, The New York Times, TechCrunch, and Inc. In 2009 he was named a Fellow Member of the International Economic Development Council for achieving exceptional stature in the field of economic development.

Back in February, Forbes magazine released its annual list of America's “most miserable cities”. For the second time in three years, Stockton, CA had the unfortunate honor of claiming the top spot. Rather than let this stand, Stockton residents are fighting back, arguing that the statistics analyzed to make the list (including unemployment, crime, and change in property values) don’t take into account their unique quality of life. One resident countered with a video response that drew over 47,000 views on YouTube, highlighting the sunny weather and amenities like their symphony and waterfront. A downtown business association held a “Stockton is Magnificent” rally this past weekend in response to the Forbes article, and angry residents and business owners have set up a Facebook Page titled "Stand Up for Stockton." The creators of the Page write "we take offense to some statistical analyst sitting in his NEW YORK office telling us that it is miserable in Stockton," and ask others to write in with the reasons why they love Stockton.

Stockton is Magnificent-64

Stockton is not the only city to take action in response to a magazine's list. Lists of city rankings published by the likes of Forbes and Kiplinger's Personal Finance are among their most popular features and generate a large amount of web traffic. According to The Next American City, city rankings often inspire communities to react through policy decisions, especially in the case of small and midsized cities. Chicago may have bristled when ranked "most stressful" by Forbes, but the biggest cities realize that businesses will not judge them solely based on a magazine ranking. For a smaller city like Stockton that doesn't receive much media attention, however, a condemnation in a major business publication can have much more meaningful impact.  This is why cities like Corpus Christi, TX launched a fitness initiative in response to being labeled “America’s Fattest City” by Men’s Health, and why Oklahoma City has been making pedestrian improvements after given low walkability ratings by Prevention magazine.

Do city rankings provide meaningful information that can help readers make informed decisions? Does a negative ranking even merit a response, and if so, are the efforts of cities like Stockton effective ways to neutralize negative publicity?


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