We Stand By Our Work
An open letter from Site Selection magazine
Atlanta, May 14, 2014: Making sure facts don’t get in the way of a good story, last week an AJC report and a series of follow-up stories from WABE, WSB-TV and other media outlets perpetuated inaccuracies about Site Selection magazine that demand clarification. Sloppy and biased journalism combined with campaign-heated rhetoric from interview subjects to impugn the editorial integrity of a respected global business magazine proudly published in Greater Atlanta since 1954.
The AJC coverage was built on the spurious notion that because the State of Georgia spends money marketing via our publications and with a sister organization, therefore our recent rankings naming Georgia as No. 1 in business climate and No. 1 in state competitiveness must have been influenced by this spending. Despite specific guidance to the AJC reporters that our rankings should be properly construed as findings (because they’re based on objective criteria, not our picks), the AJC coverage employed such loaded phrases as "stamp of approval," "endorsement" (three times) and "embrace" to describe what are, again, legit rankings methodologies clearly explained in our articles and posted at SiteSelection.com.
The AJC also committed an error in news judgment and logic, by confusing a campaign's choice to use our ranking with the notion that our ranking endorses a campaign.
"Unfortunately, the AJC missed the actual news point of our rankings, which is that Georgia's business climate is now competitive nationally," says Site Selection Editor in Chief Mark Arend. "Instead, it chose to manufacture news where it does not exist by suggesting there is a relationship between advertising spending and performance in our rankings. The methodologies behind our rankings are clearly outlined every time we publish one. If or to what extent an economic development agency advertises is not now and never has been part of those methodologies."
The coverage incited multiple political campaigners from both sides of the aisle — including David Pennington, John Barge and the spokesman for Jason Carter — to utter follow-up sound bites that are just as regrettable and inaccurate, questioning our readership numbers, our integrity and the wisdom of spending state money advertising with us.
Multiple misstatements about our subscription base being "about 200" betray a lack of understanding of controlled-circulation, non-newsstand publications, which often have large unpaid circulations. Our print publications and brand are officially audited by BPA Worldwide. As of Dec. 2013, circulation stood at 48,197 corporate decision-makers involved in facility location and investment. "Controlled" means they qualify to receive the magazine based on their job responsibilities. In addition to those subscribers, about 200 pay to receive the magazine.
We also publish multiple e-newsletters, and our custom publishing division continues to grow … precisely because we are trusted in the marketplace. Our parent firm Conway Data is one of those companies choosing to grow in Georgia, expanding our international reach and hiring Georgians. Through our coverage of corporate location decision-making and all the economic development and policy issues attached thereto, we will continue to contribute to the regional and global interconnectedness that is fundamental to prosperity.
"This is not the first time such allegations have been aired by campaigns lacking their own economic development plan," says Mark Arend, "nor by media outlets that do not take the time to learn how ranking methodologies are constructed. Hundreds of economic development agencies on the national, state, regional and city levels have been putting their location message before our readers for 60 years. Whether they do so or not has no bearing on how locations perform in our objective measures of economic development success."