Princeton Review Best College Newspapers Ranking: Final Thoughts

Earlier this month, the traffic for this blog suddenly spiked to its highest levels — ever.  An analytics check revealed that a pair of posts accounted for a bulk of the unexpected surge.  Both were about the same thing: the 2010 Princeton Review list of the “Best College Newspapers.” 

The extreme interest in the list is intriguing to me on a few levels.  More than anything, I am stumped about what makes it so fascinating to the public, compared to all the other student press honors given out annually by organizations and schools nationwide.

Is it the panache of The Princeton Review brand overall?  Is it the list’s connection to the other, more fun party schools ranking?  As the Washington Post‘s Jenna Johnson recently noted, “In higher education, it’s often all about the rankings. And so my inbox has filled this afternoon with e-mails about the most important list of the year: The Princeton Review’s Top Party Schools.

Whether it’s playing off the “Party” popularity or not, the amount of attention paid to the newspaper list is doubly confusing due to one especially ginormous elephant in the room: The actual ranking system is ridiculous beyond belief. As CICM’s Bryan Murley explains in a wonderfully energized post, the selection process is about as scientifically sound as “American Idol” text message voting.

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According to Murley’s rant, students participating in a survey are basically asked how OTHER people view their own school newspaper’s POPULARITY.  In his words: “Setting aside the obvious epic fail that is popular=best . . . the survey question is flawed because it asks people about what other people think. Who cares? Really, is that verifiable? . . . As well, how on earth do you rank college newspapers based on the opinions of people who have no interaction with other college newspapers? I mean, do most University of Texas students read the The Daily Collegian at Penn State?

To be clear, my confusion/frustration is directed elsewhere.  I personally have no problem with the list itself.  All the newspapers included are solid, and a few are spectacular.  All the public and press attention is positive, something that certainly helps college media overall.  And The Princeton Review does not lie about its related survey or selection process, however inane they might be.

Instead, my concern centers on us.  I worry about our seemingly enormous interest in the list, and the sense I’m getting that this interest alone is giving the list a significance it does not deserve.  (And by blogging about it, I suppose I am as guilty of contributing to this fallacy/epic fail as much as everyone else.)  

As Murley rightfully points out, popular does not always equal best.

Related

Best College Newspapers: 2013 Ranking Released by Princeton Review

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  1. […] of undergraduate students.  As Bryan Murley from the Center for Innovation in College Media confirmed last summer, the process by which these papers achieve the “Best” distinction is as flawed as the […]

  2. […] are not without controversy.  As Bryan Murley from the Center for Innovation in College Media confirmed two summers ago, the process by which these papers achieve the “Best” distinction is, well, fairly […]