We’re number one through 50!


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.

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