I’m Sorry

Forbes has released a new slideshow, “America’s 20 Dirtiest Cities“, which is based mostly on data readily available on our Sperling’s BestPlaces website (www.bestplaces.net).

The Forbes list and the story is pretty straightforward; a callout of the large U.S. metro areas with the worst scores for air and water quality, plus measures of toxic releases and Superfund sites.

And It’s a fairly accurate list.  All the places named have issues, but I’ve got to say that I’m not proud of being associated with stories like this.

Stories like this focus on the negative, and have titles guaranteed to be irresistable to the casual web browser – America’s Dirtiest Cities, Miserable Cities, Worst Cities to Live, Depressing Cities, Dangerous Cities, Dying Cities, Drunkest Cities, Fattest Cities, Worst Schools, and Dumbest Cities.

It’s easy to get a lot of attention (and clicks) with stories like these but I really believe every city and town has some really wonderful things about it, and it does no good to focus solely on negative aspects.  I think it’s only fair to discuss a place’s problems as part of a larger and more complex story which is common to every city.

I’m going to continue to focus on the positive aspects of city, town or neighborhood because each place is a beloved home to its residents.

Here’s an example of which I’m particularly proud.  I was approached by one of the major web portals for comments on a story they were creating, with the working title of “America’s Worst Cities”.  They had collected a number of metrics with the help of a demographics web site, and compiled a list of major U.S. cities based on statistics such as population loss, decreases in home prices, unemployment rate, crime… the usual metrics of despair.

As the writer and I talked, I told her that this list of cities was nothing new (Detroit, Cleveland, Newark, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, etc.) and this article would just be kicking them when they’re down.  I spoke about what I felt was special about each of these places and that there were also silver linings mingling with those black clouds.

By the end of our conversation, the story had a new angle focusing on how these places may be down, but they definitely were not out.  I contributed a number of positive developments for each of the twenty cities, and the story was released under the title of “Best Comeback Cities”.  The web feature was still hugely popular and the cities were delighted to finally be the focus of some positive attention.

But back to the Forbes article.  Like so many of these web features, the ranking is  presented only in slideshow format (thereby increasing the page count and number of ads presented).  To save you a few minutes, here’s their list of America’s Dirtiest Cities.

  1. Fresno, CA
  2. Bakersfield, CA
  3. Philadelphia, PA
  4. Bridgeport, CT
  5. Modesto, CA
  6. Riverside, CA
  7. New Haven, CT
  8. San Jose, CA
  9. Stockton, CA
  10. Milwaukee, WI
  11. New York City, NY
  12. Sacramento, CA
  13. Houston, TX
  14. Baton Rouge, LA
  15. Akron, OH
  16. Louisville, KY
  17. Los Angeles, CA
  18. Baltimore, MD
  19. Cleveland, OH
  20. St. Louis, MO


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