Mort Zuckerman Abruptly Ends Interview About U.S. News College Rankings

zuckerman_philanthropy.jpgMort Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report and and co-publisher of the Daily News, abruptly ended an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education for a special report on the recent controversy surrounding the ranking system that powers U.S. News‘ “America’s Best Colleges” — a.k.a its swimsuit issue.

Just how abruptly? Abrupt enough that the Chronicle‘s Evan Goldstein issued a press release detailing the incident:

Mort Zuckerman doesn’t appreciate any probing questions about the fairness or profit-making of his U.S. News & World Report college rankings. When The Chronicle of Higher Education asked Mr. Zuckerman about the business of ranking colleges for a special report in this week’s issue, he became rather curt and downright defensive.

While the “America’s Best Colleges” issue of U.S. News has long been referred to as the magazine’s swimsuit issue, Zuckerman was dismissive of the suggestion that the rankings are a big profit-maker for the magazine. “We don’t think about it in those terms,” Mr. Zuckerman said in a minute-and-a-half phone interview that he abruptly ended. “It’s this kind of useful news that people want. But I didn’t do it for business reasons.” Considering U.S. News has sustained substantial staff cuts in recent years, perhaps Mr. Zuckerman should do more things for business reasons.

It sounds, though, like the Chronicle was in takedown mode:

Of course, the reality is that the U.S. News rankings have always been tied to advertising interests. For years one of the top education editors at U.S. News suggested that the magazine launch a comparable rankings system for graduate schools, but it wasn’t until 1994 that it published the first such list. The reason, according to the editor: Chrysler was looking for a way to sell a new car.

Evan Goldstein
The Chronicle of Higher Education