Saturday, September 11, 2010

One Ranking Does Not A Great City Make!

Fortunately, when it comes to legitimate rankings like this week’s CNN/Money Magazine ranking of “places” to retire, “anecdotal” evidence takes a back seat to statistics.rankings

That’s why the agency that takes lead on cataloguing these for Durham, North Carolina is tires to carefully vet the legitimacy of  the methodology before citing them.

It is also why the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB) refrains from distilling them around anecdotes.  But traditional journalism relies on anecdotes and it is easy to find sources that will make it all about a pet project of individual observation.

People like anecdotes, especially their own.  Unfortunately, this is exactly what leads some people including journalists somewhat skeptical or jaded about the rankings in general.

Kudos though to Money, one of the first to publish them and for relying on experts who can mine the data.  Don’t get me wrong, most of these rankings also include a what we call a “fly-by” once the data is crunched, but that is largely to make sure the “place” being analyzed lives up to the the data and, you guessed it, to gather some anecdotes to use in descriptions and write-ups.

If you’re interested in how carefully and deeply the experts mine the data, check out this link for the best places to retire.  For instance you’ll see that leisure and culture is much broader than “arts.”  It also weights restaurants and libraries among other ingredients.

It is also important to note a #1 ranking does not a great city make.  The criteria are often weighted each year so it is much more important how consistently high a community ranks across a wide range of criteria and rankings.

To see the comprehensive database DCVB maintains and makes accessible not only to other messenger organizations and directly to people making decisions about where to visit, live, retire or do business, click here.

To see one of many ways that DCVB empowers residents to celebrate the rankings click here or on the image above.  How DCVB utilizes rankings is truly a “best practice” other communities study.  It is also a means of identifying where a community needs improvement.

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