Everyone has to have a gimmick these days, something to attract public attention and get people talking.
For example, CAA Manitoba will once again launch its popular Worst Roads campaign, which will be ramping up later this month.
Sports Illustrated has its annual and highly anticipated swimsuit edition.
Though it has been controversial over the years, Maclean’s magazine’s annual university rankings have become must-reads for any family with kids headed for post-secondary education.
And Time magazine has its popular Person of the Year feature that comes out toward the end of every year.
Some use journalism and data processing techniques to generate their gimmick, and others, like Sports Illustrated, prefer a more ... superficial approach. Whatever the case, each of these features is essentially designed to draw upon readership or popular support.
If you’re a company, it’s a great way to advertise yourself.
So how much stock should people put into these kinds of public campaigns? Case in point, Brandon’s yearly ranking in MoneySense magazine.
In today’s Sun we report that Brandon now ranks No. 42 in the magazine’s annual list of best Canadian cities in which to live. The list sandwiches our fair city between London, Ont., and Waterloo, Ont.
A secondary list of just smaller cities places Brandon as No. 20 out of 140 similar-sized communities.
Brandon is also singled out for special mention as the fifth-best community in the country for new immigrants. The magazine gave Brandon high marks for having a low unemployment rate, relatively cheap rent, and noted that a large portion of the population are made up of immigrants.
Over the last eight years Brandon’s ranking on the MoneySense list has changed wildly over the years as the magazine’s methodology has evolved.
In 2007, MoneySense ranked Brandon as the 18th-best city in which to live. In 2008, we were No. 19, while the next year we cracked the top 10. In 2010 and 2011, we ranked No. 7, and even improved upon that in 2012, as we shot up to No. 6.
Then, catastrophe in 2013 as the magazine expanded its rankings to 200 communities from 190, and added 11 new categories — Brandon thus tumbled to No. 91. Brandon also ranked No. 47 in the Best Small Cities category that year.
“Brandon has been in … the Top 10 for a long time and so this was startling,” Mayor Shari Decter Hirst told the Sun last year. “We’re going to have to dig in to get a sense of what’s happened and then how best to respond.”
And now we’re No. 42. While that’s a marked improvement, it’s probably not going to be an added factoid in the mayor’s upcoming State of the City address on May 8. But we digress.
At the risk of sounding resentful, especially after crowing about our Top 10 ranking in years past, we think it’s fair to question the methodology, and the relevance of these kinds of rankings when Brandon keeps bouncing up and down the scale.
While MoneySense editors base their annual lists on available data, including crime rates, population, housing costs and unemployment rates, to name a few, essentially they are making a judgment call on what kinds of features people look for in their ideal community.
That’s not so unreasonable, if you think about it. We all make trade-offs about where we choose to live. Winnipeg may have a higher crime rate than Brandon, but it also has more to offer in terms of size, access to cultural facilities, restaurant choice, etc. Yet that may not matter to Joe Schmoe from Boissevain who’s looking for a job in a larger community that’s not too far from his extended family back home.
To be fair, though, these kinds of gimmicks can be useful — fame, or even infamy, can bring change and improvement.
Last year, Victoria Avenue in Brandon “won” CAA’s Worst Roads campaign as the worst in the province. Is it any coincidence then, that the provincial government finally decided to make road improvements between First and 18th streets on Victoria Avenue this year?
The question now, though, is what do we do with 42.