Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Ups and Downs of a Year End

As the fall winds blow colder, the days shrink while the nights grow longer, we are obviously coming to the end of another year. That and all the best and worst of the year lists popping up all over the place, tells us 2009 is almost over.

I was reading some of these recently – Time Magazine probably has one of the most interesting, the best inventions of 2009 – though many of these gadgets I’ve never heard of until reading their list.

Fortune Magazine came up with the top leader-producing companies in th

Fortune (magazine)Image via Wikipedia

e world of 2009 – though the list is dubious at best, for a global list of companies, all but a handful of the winners are in the magazine’s home country.

This fad is just gearing up, but happens every year – newspapers, magazines, television stations and radio stations all come out with their lists of the top this, the worst that, the best of the year all summarized in sound bites and small font faces.

Originally this concept was created to fill space. Towards the end of the year, as people everywhere begin to take time off work for the “holiday” season, there is less happening in the world because – well everyone is or going on a holiday.

Newsrooms slowdown, as the amount of breaking news stories slows to a trickle; so much so, journalists really have to come up with some creative ideas to fill their pages and air-time.

The best of the year list was born – a quick and easy piece for any experienced journalist to write. Just come up with an idea – say the best television shows of 2009 – and then make the rest up. The best of anything is usually

Donald Trump at a press conference announcing ...Image via Wikipedia

a highly subjective opinion anyway – who’s going to know you weren’t drunk scribbling your notes in crayon while crouching next to the toilet as you made your list?

Not all of these lists are “manufactured” in these off-the-cuff ways, but they all are just one or more people’s ideas, influenced and tainted by their own personal experiences, rather than based on some actual hardcore research.

Some of those personal experiences even come from being wined and dined, treated, bought gifts, and being taken on trips by the key players. Disney was known for taking journalists out on these “junkets” where they were flown in from around the world, to spend a week-long, all expense paid trip to Disneyland.
Naturally, the journalists that went on these free trips always spoke very highly of Disney and its products and services – else they wouldn’t get invited back next year for another free vacation.

Then there are journalists, or even whole news outfits with an axe to grind, so they come up with lists of the worst of the year, to blatantly attack companies and people they just don’t like.

030904-N-9593R-008 Washington, D.C. – Recordin...Image via Wikipedia

Who cares if Donald Trump has the worst hair, Britney Spears the worst outfit, Hannah Montana the most over-hyped show – it’s not going to affect me, my friends or my family – so why is it being reported? Maybe “the Donald” pissed off a reporter by not granting an interview, so now this reporter is getting back at him by creating a list just for him?

Unless the listing specifically says it is based on some actual research, say an actual public opinion poll with a proper Census of a Metropolitan Area (CMA), or other such proven research method, chances are the best or worst list you are reading was simply made up.

When I was a journalist, they were – and still are – great ways to fill space. Sometimes they even make international headlines, such as the annual Time Person of the Year. But even Time Magazine’s choice for who should be the person of the year is based on a biased opinion formulated by a group of individuals, rather than on some actual study.

Maybe next year someone will create the worst of the best of the year list?

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