By Scott Roberston
You may have noticed the trend in journalism over the last few years of publishing lists where articles used to be. In the old days, we journalists had a very specific term for our colleagues who slapped together lists instead of taking the time to craft an article or column: lazy. These, however, are not the old days.
I attended a journalism conference in May in which “list-icles” were discussed at length. The only problem most of my fellows had with these one-time abominations wasn’t that they were space-filler that almost always failed to give the readers useful information. It was that they are, and here’s an example of today’s specific journalism terms: “click-baity.”
The list-icle pitch that most often comes into my email inbox from ad agencies, government departments and sundry p.r. hacks is the ranking. Not a day goes by that I’m not informed by someone that my country, state, county, city, neighborhood or side of the bed is near the top or the bottom of some remarkably important ranking. On ranked list-icle writers’ busy days, depending on what they are selling, I am clearly intended to believe I am living simultaneously in heaven and hell.
To point out the silliness of it all, I have compiled my own ranking, showing that Tennessee is in fact, the top ranked state in the nation, the bottom ranked state in the nation, and all 48 other rankings in between*. These rankings were compiled from actual press releases from the last 18 months.
Where Tennessee ranks:
1. Auto manufacturing
2. Road and bridge quality – sent by a lobbyist against the gas tax
3. Overall tax burden – sent by a lobbyist for the gas tax
4. Best state to retire to – sent by a marketer for senior living communities. You see how this works, don’t you?
5. Cost of living
6. Electricity prices
7. State government fiscal stability
8. Dog ownership
9. High school graduation rate – did you know it was that high?
10. Best place to practice medicine
11. Best place to be an entrepreneur
12. Strictest DUI laws
13. Charitable giving
14. Job growth
15. Number of farms selling food locally
16. Total population
17. Tourism revenue – did you know it was that low?
18. Female earnings as a percentage of male
19. Fourth grade science scores
20. Workforce productivity
21. Eighth grade science scores
22. Incidence of cancer
23. Population growth rate
24. LEED Certified Commercial Spaces
25. Fourth grade math scores
26. Most automobile-deer collisions
27. Percentage of population spending more than it earns
28. Home ownership
29. Broadband access
30. Advancement opportunities for law enforcement officers
31. Energy efficiency
32. Overall children’s health
33. Opportunities for romance and fun
34. College affordability
35. Median home value
36. Total area in square miles
37. Safe driving habits
38. Credit rating
39. Dating opportunities
40. Voter registration percentage
41. Employer health insurance coverage rates
42. Obesity rate
43. Power grid reliability
44. Smoking rate
45. Average income
46. Cancer death rate
47. Affordable sales tax
48. High blood pressure
49. Violent Crime
50. Opioid prescriptions per capita, fatal automobile crashes involving cell phones, accidental shooting deaths and voter turnout.
So there you are. I hope you feel appropriately proud, ashamed and 48 other emotions in between, because the way list-icles work is that everyone in Tennessee is presumed to be accurately represented by all 50 of these rankings.
*My apologies, Virginia readers. I haven’t the space for 100 entries.