The mainstream media love lists. On almost any day, open up the paper or log on to your favorite news website, and there's some sort of list: The Richest Americans. The Best Colleges. The Most Powerful Political Leaders. Whatever.
These lists are designed to look like valid studies. They may even tout a rigorous methodology. But most of these lists are generated using arbitrary -- and often ideologically driven -- criteria. The lists that I find most frustrating are those that rate cities. The Happiest Cities. The Best Cities to Raise a Family. And this week's entry: "The Best U.S. Cities For Business," by a business
news service called MarketWatch.com.
This list caught my attention in part because Des Moines, Iowa, ranks #1. Nothing against Des Moines (my sister and her family live there, after all), but what set of criteria would allow Des Moines to be #1, and put Washington, D.C. -- a very different kind of city -- at #2? The list is especially baffling when you consider that Des Moines scored fifty points (on a thousand-point scale) more than D.C., even though most of the other 99 cities on the list are separated from each other by less than five points.
The reasons for the strange rankings: bias and ideology.