Survey finds Pittsburgh No. 8 among 'literate' cities
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It was more about a change in the scope of the study than a sudden dumbing down of Pittsburgh that caused the city to slip in a year from No. 3 to No. 8 in a survey that tries to determine America's "most literate cities."
When researcher John Miller started the study two years ago, he surveyed cities of 200,000. Pittsburgh finished sixth in the initial survey.
His 2005 results not only raised the population to 250,000, but added "Internet literacy" as one of the criteria.
"It's basically a brand new study," said Mark McLaughlin, associate vice president of marketing and communication at Central Connecticut State University, where Miller is president.
"You should just throw out the previous studies."
McLaughlin said Miller revised the sampling because "there are more and better data from larger cities."
The somewhat subjective project uses statistics on educational levels, newspaper circulation, booksellers, publications and public library use. The Internet was added because of its increased role in American reading habits.
"Because the goal of the study is to create or capture a portrait of how people read today, it was important to add the Internet," McLaughlin said. "That's where nearly everybody does their reading now."
Pittsburgh's Internet ranking of 43rd among the 69 cities was by far its worst showing. It scored 15.5 (tied with Kansas City, Mo.) in education, eighth in booksellers, 9.5 in newspapers (tied with Santa Ana, Calif.), fourth in publications and 10th in public libraries.
Pittsburgh was sixth in the library category last year, a decline that belied a year of increases in the Carnegie Library's patron usage, the number of circulating books and Internet activity, thanks to improved facilities.
"There's a fair amount of variability in the kind of data from year to year that the survey uses," McLaughlin explained. "We're really not comparing apples to apples from this year's study to last year's."
He added that the study was "an interpretation" of data rather than a definitive finding.
First Published December 2, 2005 12:00 am