One of my responsibilities here at Foreign Policy is manning the “FP Editor” e-mail account. It’s always fun to come in in the morning and see how readers around the world are reacting to what we print. Sometimes, the reactions can be a bit strange, though.
Yesterday, we started receiving e-mails from readers and journalists in Pakistan asking for comment on reports that we had named Karachi’s mayor, Mustafa Kamal, “the second best mayor in the world.” This would be an understandable query if we had actually said anything of the sort.
At issue is a sidebar from FP‘s recent Global Cities Index that names Kamal, Berlin’s Klaus Wowereit, and Chongqing’s Wang Hongju as “mayors of the moment” who have found innovative ways to globalize their cities. The mayors are not ranked, nor are we implying that they are objectively “better” than any other mayors, but that didn’t stop the Karachi city government from issuing a press release on its Web site (they’ve changed the text since being contacted by FP) congratulating Kamal for being the No. 2 mayor in the world. For the record, the three names are not listed in any particular order.
Pakistan’s biggest English-language newspaper, Dawn, then printed a glorified transcription of the mayor’s press release by the government-controlled Associated Press of Pakistan as a front-page story without ever checking with us to see if it was accurate.
According to the e-mails we’ve received, the inaccurate story has been widely reported on Pakistani TV, radio, and blogs. Most absurdly, Karachi’s city council apparently held a heated debate over whether to pass a resolution congratulating Kamal for the honor we allegedly bestowed on him. Judging by today’s e-mails, the efforts of some blogs to correct the story only seem to have confused readers more.
According to one reporter, who unlike Dawn contacted us for comment, “Karachi is riddled with banners by the local government, congratulating Mr. Kamal for being declared as second best mayor of the world by the Foreign Policy.”
We hate to rain on Kamal’s parade, and certainly intend him and his city no disrespect, but we simply never ranked him in any way. This entire mess could have been avoided with some very basic fact-checking.