St. Petersburg the saddest of 100 cities? Do you see me crying on the beach?

Feeling blue? Just be glad you don't live in not-so-sunny St. Petersburg, Fla. — St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press

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Let's give a hearty Bronx cheer to Men's Health magazine for its off-the-cuff ranking of 100 American cities. By tagging St. Petersburg as the "saddest" nationwide, the magazine just delivered a publicity black eye at a sensitive time for St. Pete and Tampa Bay. The Pioneer Press and other newspapers in the Midwest — our primo feeder region for snowbirds and retirees — did more than just cover the "news" of the survey. ("St. Petersburg is the saddest city in America — beating out even unemployment-plagued Detroit," the St. Paul, Minn., newspaper reports.)

The survey also generating negative publicity at the very time the Tampa Bay area is launching a public relations campaign designed to portray this metro area as a cool place to live and visit. The Tampa Bay Shines campaign has three key goals. It hopes to improve some down-in-the-dumps perceptions of our fellow residents about where they live. It seeks to boost Tampa Bay's positive image in 2012 in anticipation of this area's hosting the Republican National Convention, perhaps the highest profile opportunity for Tampa Bay in many years. And the campaign will continue its positive pitch — telling very specific stories of what makes this area cool — well beyond the RNC event of next summer. (Check out tampabayshines.org online.)

In the 100-city survey, St. Petersburg was not the only local city to get bruised. Tampa fared little better, ranking fourth saddest. In fact, Florida cities got slammed generally with Miami nailed as eighth saddest followed by Jacksonville at No. 13 and Orlando at No. 19.

"Florida in general," concludes Men's Health, "seems to be a depressing place to live." Now "saddest" in this magazine survey was determined by a mix of government and private data that include suicide and jobless rates, the percentage of households that use antidepressants and "the number of people who report feeling the blues all or most of the time."

Tampa Bay's media responded to the survey, as they should, defending area cities and questioning the Men's Health survey's methodology. "We're really not that miserable" headlined Wednesday's St. Petersburg Times editorial which suggests ranking "windswept, frigid, cold, flood-prone Fargo, N.D." as the seventh-happiest place raises some credibility questions about the survey.

"Cheer up Tampa," wrote tbo.com, the Tampa Tribune website. "It appears this side of Tampa Bay isn't as depressing as St. Pete."

"It's hard to argue with the science behind studies in entertainment health magazines, so the solution is clear," opined the Oracle, the University of South Florida student newspaper in Tampa. "The Tampa Bay area needs to cheer up."

If Men's Health zinged St. Petersburg as saddest, it picked Honolulu as the happiest of all 100 cities surveyed. Curiously, most of the 10 happiest cities stretch across the northern United States from Boston to, yes, St. Paul, Minn.

I confess, I like Honolulu. Warm breezes. Great waterfront. Lively tourist town.

Kind of like St. Petersburg.

Contact Robert Trigaux at trigaux@tampabay.com.

St. Petersburg the saddest of 100 cities? Do you see me crying on the beach? 11/30/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 9:28pm]

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