Friday, June 25, 2004

Forbes fogies lousy judges of Queen City



Maggie Downs

It's a laughable concept.

Take the online version of Forbes, a publication led by bazillionaire Steve Forbes and read by thousands of old white men in sensible shoes. Then - here's the really funny part - have their reporters tell me what cities are hot for single people. You know, because Forbes has their finger on the pulse of what's hip and hot.

Riiiiiight.

Well, that's exactly what the online publication is doing today with its fourth annual guide to best places for singles to live, meet and mingle. For this, editors look at 40 metropolitan areas and used a "data-driven" (their word) and nerdy (my word) approach, by gathering stats on the number of singles, nightclubs, job growth and cost of living.

Then they toss in the subjective "buzz factor."

According to the 2003 survey: "We added a Forbes buzz factor to account for public perception. Sorry, Cincinnati."

That means the same places repeatedly turn out on top. Like Austin. And Austin. And, oh yeah, Austin.

OK, we get that Austin, which ranked No. 1 last year, is eclectic, sunny and thick with music. But Forbes also gushed that in this town, "You'll see more than a million Mexican free-tailed bats."

Since when did flying pests become a measure of hipness? Man, I got yer five billion cicadas right here.

Cincinnati leaped into battle this year, launching impressive e-mail campaigns among local young professionals in an attempt to stuff the Forbes ballot boxes. Still, we emerged disappointed again with an overall ranking of 39 out of 40. We also came in at the bottom of every category except cost of living, (ranked 19) and number of singles (26).

But do the Forbes.com writers even know Cincinnati? Here's a sampling of some of the fallacious and even downright offensive comments that its reporters made about the Queen City in years past.

2001 - "Suspicion greets anything new or different, which means that the art galleries, music venues or even the funky bars that give other cities their hip credentials are doomed to fail. Dining out most likely means chowing down at a chain eatery where other diners have put on their 'good' sweatpants for the occasion." Ranked No. 40.

2002 - "The city's nightlife options are extremely limited, as are the cultural diversions." Ranked No. 39.

2003 - "It ranks worst in nightlife and is almost as bad in terms of culture and cool - there are few envelope-pushing bohemians to be found here." Ranked No. 39.

Also, every summary of Cincinnati unearthed yet again the April 2001 race riots. The 2002 survey even came with this threatening remark: "Another riot and Cincity could find itself on the very bottom again next year."

Why do we care so much about a list that so obviously doesn't care about us?

I admit it's bad publicity. When I first came to town, several eager doomsayers told me: "We're the very worst city ever for singles, like, according to People or something."

But I soon discovered for myself the riches of the Queen City. We have charming neighborhoods, each with its own unique flavor of shops, eateries and bars. We have a vibrant history, thanks to the river tangled around our hills. We have a talented arts culture on par with any other major urban area.

Most of all, we have Bootsy Collins. Take that, Austin!

Yet, this town has a constant chip on its shoulder. We're fervent to land at the top of every silly list out there. We make front-page news out of an informal and tacky poll of "top cities for singles," done by Axe body spray.

More recently, I imagined the Chamber of Commerce flipped out over last week's Sweatiest Cities in the U.S. survey.

"WHAT?! We can be sweatier than El Paso!"

We have nothing to prove to Forbes or anyone else. Our quality and creativity and beauty are known by everyone open-minded enough to give this city a chance.

I mean, it's not like we're Cleveland.

E-mail mdowns@enquirer.com




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