MINOT, N.D. — A humble request made to my fellow members of the news media:
Please stop creating spam headlines for companies like WalletHub or NerdWallet.
These companies send out press releases touting “studies” or “surveys” which are usually some ranking of states or communities.
Local journalists, always hungry for content in an age where their worth is too often measured by how many clicks they generate, dutifully report on these press releases.
And thus we get headlines about which state might be the drunkest or the funnest or some other “-est” and it’s all a big canard.
What these companies want is mentions of their names in news articles, and links to their websites, so they can do things like sell us more insurance or credit cards. Their “studies” are little more shallow data analysis in service of some arbitrary criteria.
The output is inevitably a specious conclusion that one state or city is the “-est” of some eyeball-grabbing category.
At best this stuff is pablum in a media environment already overserved by it.
At worst these articles create phoney public perceptions which can do real harm, all so that a credit card broker can get a better search engine ranking.