Howl! The Backpedaling Columnist?

After reading through this piece about three times, I still can’t figure out the opinion writer’s opinion.  In last Tuesday’s Daily News, Elmer Smith presented some results from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. This study tracked 1,000 citizens of 162 American cities for about year and listed which cities were the “happiest and healthiest.” Smith simultaneously celebrates Philadelphia not tanking into last place (we ranked 84th) while questioning the study altogether.

As an average reader, this is the first I’m learning about the research so I’m really depending on Elmer here. I need to know whether I should celebrate Philadelphia climbing out of the gluten gutter or trash this most recent attempt at ranking the un-rankable. Instead, readers get a half mocking, half proud, sarcastic jumble bordering on stream of consciousness.

Following a genuinely interesting description of which cities ranked higher and lower than our own, Smith makes his claim: “With all due respect to the impressive scholars who devised the scale, their assessment of their own work calls all their standards into question.” But half of this column was spent reporting results from the new study. That’s how it reeled me in. If the numbers are a bunch of garbage then we should have established that by now.

I’ll admit that I’m not totally familiar with this writer’s style. If sarcasm is his thing, fine, but the presentation is confusing in general. If it’s a bad study then blast it, but don’t present the findings as newsworthy and then backpedal to talk about how they don’t make sense.

– Brendan McNamara

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