Those lists are what stick with readers, even though The Atlantic, Slate and The Economist cite flaws in the report's methodology and acknowledge the complexity of determining the true value of higher education.
Death panels and Dr. Kevorkian suck the oxygen out of end of life discussions. In a way, framing death and dying in sweeping abstractions like "right to die" and "rationing life" is an easy way to avoid the subject. But bad end-of-life decisions plague the hospital setting.
When we don't even share the same facts anymore, because the truth is being manufactured and remanufactured, we lose any ability to reach consensus or to compromise, and problems go begging for solutions we can never agree upon.