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Publications That Make Lists Are on my List!

by Lisa Diggs on Feb 08th 2011

Today it's all over the news that Men's Health Magazine ranked Detroit as the "Angriest City in America.  Again, I find myself pondering, what is the possible value in a list like this?  It's another in a long string of random lists from publications and websites all over the world that attempt to seek attention at the cost of others who have done them no harm.  Yes, we can ignore it, and for the most part, we will.  After all, as someone who lives here and experiences the generosity and kindness of Detroiters on a daily basis, I know it simply isn't true--not only, not true about our city, not true about ANY city.  Anger is not something you can randomly quantify and assign to a people or a location.

In this case, Men's Health claims to have used sound research: "How did we gauge rage? Statistically (and from a safe distance). We calculated the number of aggravated assaults per capita (FBI), the number of people with high blood pressure (CDC), the amount of time spent in traffic during rush hour (Texas Transportation Institute), and the number of anger-management specialists per capita (American Psychological Association)."  

Forget that these are very loose sources with no links provided to actual data, who is it that determines this criteria is an accurate and appropriate assessment of anger?  My guess is that the provocative topic of "angriest" was selected first, and then they went about trying to come up with a combination of factors they could point to in an effort to prove their point. 

By their own admission, these articles are destructive and divisive: "We've discovered that if you want to really piss off an entire city, all you have to do is rank it last among 100 cities and then print the results in a national magazine. Happens every month. But what we don't know is how angry a city might become if we actually name it the 'Angriest Town in America.' Well, Detroit, go ahead and let us have it: You are officially the most spitting-mad metropolis."

As a member of this community, I don't think "mad" or "angry" are the words to describe how I feel.  Think more along the lines of frustrated, disappointed, bewildered...

What is the value in tearing others down?  Lists like these consistently attack innocent people and cities.  Athletes admonish one another publicly with trash talk.  Politicians verbally beat each other up unitil there is no shred of admirability left among them for which we can proudly cast a ballot.  These are the examples we see daily and then we wonder how bullying has become an issue that threatens the lives of our children on a daily basis.

Last month it was Newsweek with it's reprehensible article on "America's Dying Cities" which included Detroit, Flint, and Grand Rapids in a top ten list.

For their part as a magazine with a reputation for reporting news, they were at least more specific on the information used to create the list.  The article states "We used the most recent data from the Census Bureau on every metropolitan area with a population exceeding 100,000 to find the 30 cities that suffered the steepest population decline between 2000 and 2009. Then, in an attempt to look ahead toward the future of these regions, we analyzed demographic changes to find which ones experienced the biggest drop in the number of residents under 18. In this way, we can see which cities may have an even greater population decline ahead due to a shrinking population of young people."

Again, my first question is who has determined that an absence of residents currently under 18 is an indicator of a region's future population?  When cities attempt to grow and rebuild, they aren't recruting children to move in, they are recruiting adults.  In urban areas it's common for adults without children, or those with grown children, to choose urban living, rather than young families.  That leads me to wonder why the population of those currently under 18 would be much of an indicator of the potential growth of a city.  

Setting that aside, the bigger question is why choose a descriptor like "Dying?"  No one really wants to be on a list of "shrinking" cities either, but at least you can make a case that it's factually accurate.  Dying sends a message that there is no vibrancy, sports, culture, etc.  That is simply not true.  Again, not only not true of these Michigan cities, but not true of ANY city where people still choose to live and raise their families. 

Yes, over the years there have been some small American towns in our history that have lost a critical factory or a school, and eventually the residents have all deserted the area.  Those, I supposed died, but they are few and far between. 

Any time you have a place where people choose to live, you have a place that has value, history, and people that make it a living city. 

That again raises the gnawing question, what's the point?  Newsweek, do you really think there is anyone in America who doesn't know that Michigan is enduring difficult economic times?  Do you really think there is anyone who doesn't know, when jobs disappear people are forced to move?  Is there any city that happens to that the people don't fight to reverse the trend?  You had the gall to create a list of dying cities with New Orleans at the top!  New Orleans, one of the most storied, cultured, unique and beloved cities in America, that has endured unmatched tragedy in the past decade, tops your list? 

People there are fighting every day to rebuild, fighting to return, fighting to regain what they have lost.  We here in Michigan share that passionate fight with them.  The decline of the automotive industry, coupled with the financial crisis, created our own perfect storm.  Yet, like the survivors of Katrina, we too are fighting every day to reclaim what was lost.  We want a job for everyone.  We want an education for everyone.  We want our friends and family to be able to come home to the state they love.  We have spirit, we have pride, we have hope, and we deserve your respect.

So, nope, I'm not angry...I am however way too tired from real fights for things that truly matter to endure anymore worthless lists from those who have never been here and just don't get it. 


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