Let’s talk about data. “Must we?” you’re probably asking, but I promise it will have a point, relative to this Summer Food & Wine Getaways travel issue you’re holding.
Data, you see, is the irritant that causes one of the more peculiar wrinkles of being a journalist in 2022 – specifically, the daily bombardment of half-fake state ranking “studies” that flood my email inbox every morning. Typically commissioned by websites, apps and digital services with access to reems of consumer data, they arrive with breathless, personalized subject lines such as “Arizona No. 14 Most Catfished State in U.S.” and “Arizona is the 14th Riskiest State for Travel this Thanksgiving.” (I guess 14 is our unlucky number.)
Sometimes these big-data listoids sound important and verifiable (“Arizona is the 3rd Most Dangerous State for Bicyclists”), sometimes less so (“Arizona Ranks as the No. 6 State Most Bothered by Robocalls”). But that’s not really important, because they’re almost always conducted by non-experts using skewed, limited data for an ultimately selfish purpose – which is, of course, to get journalists to write stories about this very troubling, exciting or promising Arizona ranking that “also mentions our website, too, please.”
“We did all this because AAA says you’re traveling again. And you’re going to eat. And that ain’t fake news.“
Do we take the bait at PHOENIX from time to time? Well, sure. A few times in this issue, actually. But we much more often reject them out of hand or mock them openly with our colleagues, like the recent list, commissioned by loan company Anytime Estimate, that ranked Phoenix as the No. 9 “worst pizza city in the U.S.” That one really did piss me off, pardon my French. And why’s a loan company ranking pizza, anyway? Even Bianco is not
Anyway, one listicle I choose to fully embrace is a recent AAA poll that showed Arizonan travel plans are up 122 percent this summer over last year. Because that makes me feel good about this Southwest-focused, food-centric summer travel issue the PHOENIX team labored so hard over, criss-crossing Arizona and its neighboring states in search of bucket-list gastro-tourism, immersive farm experiences and idiosyncratic wine regions you’ve almost certainly never heard of… including one I visited in Fresno. Yes, that Fresno.
Our art director, Mirelle Inglefield, even put on her reporting hat for a Baja California trip, and got, um, creative with her choice of cover models to get the lovely image on the cover.
We did all this because AAA says you’re traveling again. And you’re going to eat. And that ain’t fake news.