Another day, another ranking

Small-town newspaper editors know that the more names of people they cram into each issue, the better the chances someone will pick up the paper.

Now the principle has caught on in a big way with the largest publications — and companies that aren’t even publishers.

Hardly a day goes by without someone issuing another list or ranking, and inevitably it’s packed with names of people, companies, places and organizations.

Forbes ranks the richest and most powerful, Fortune the largest companies, U.S. News & World Report the best colleges. Just this week, BusinessWeek put out a list lauding Fort Wayne as the best place to raise kids. Indianapolis and Bloomington made the list, too.

Manpower issues employment outlooks, Coldwell Banker ranks affordable college towns, Deloitte, fastest-growing tech companies.

People certainly crave lists, as evidenced by Letterman’s popular top 10. Lists also get produced because they generate lots of free publicity when newspapers, TV stations and other news outlets pick up the local angle.

Yet, how much value do they actually add? Many are little more than a snapshot of a set of data that may or may not be relevant to the question at hand. Others are based on so little local data that the results probably are wildly inaccurate.

How do you feel about the blizzard of lists and rankings?

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