Hearne: Pitch Editor Claims ‘Best Of’ Awards About the Writing, Not the Counting

"Everybody’s a winner," spouted carnival barkers of old…

These days the king of cashing in on that concept is local alt weekly the Pitch. Year after year it dishes out unsubstantiated plaudits to anyone and everyone it can think of.

Best cupcakes, handyman, hair removal,  pedicure – best T-Bones player, moving company, place to buy a scooter. Is there no end to it? In a word, no. You name it, they got it. And that’s just for the 250-plus reader-picked winners. Add to that 35 pages of picks by unnamed Pitch writers, ranging from best workaholic and best mom to best place to pretend that you’re employed.

Which by the way was the H&R Block employee lunch room.

But do the Pitch readers really think the best place to meet men is Oklahoma Joe’s?

"I’ve seen the men there, they’re nasty," says one female reader. "I’d say that’s laughable."

Or how about the best place to go the morning after a one night stand being Planned Parenthood?

"Are you kidding me?" she adds. "Is that an advertisement?"

Therein lies the problem…

With zero accountability/credibility in the reader voting and no authorship to the writer picks, it’s hard to take the Pitch’s "Best Of" seriously. Not that there are no deserving winners. But who really needs to be told the Nelson-Atkins Museum is both KC’s best art gallery and best museum?

The problem; the Pitch should have reader votes counted by an independent body, then publish the actual number of votes for the winners.

What kind of a credible vote is conducted where the results are withheld? 

Readers should be assured of two things – that no ballot stuffing occurred as has been reported in past Pitch best ofs. And that more than a mere handful of people voted as appears likely in such a large field based on having supervised past best ofs.

Take the time local marketing strategist Sarah Tuttle revealed, "When I worked at the Phoenix…the owner ripped out all the (Pitch) entry forms and had us fill ’em out. And she gave them to customers and said, ‘Hey, put us down.’ "

 Which could explain how a relatively little known bar & grill in the Northland named Moxie won the Pitch readers best place to meet single men, best place to dance, best caterer and took second in best place for a cheap date.

Or how about Buzz afternoon host Lazlo nosing out Harry Truman and Buck O’Neil for best local hero. Really? That’s almost as crushworthy as the Buzz being named best talk radio station. Or 610 sports host Nick Wright coming in third behind the Star‘s Sam Mellinger and Sports Illustrated’s Joe Posnanski for best sportswriter.

With goofy picks like these, who cares who wins outside of the ballot stuffers?

So I emailed new Pitch managing editor David Martin about it. Martin, a straight-down-the-line journalist, passed my note along to new Pitch editor Scott Wilson.

"Whenever you feel like putting together your own best-of Kansas City publication, do it any way you like," Wilson shot back. "Good luck."

"Actually, I already have put two of mine ‘together,’ including the one you are currently supervising," I reminded Wilson, referencing that I was the dude who gave birth to the Pitch’s best of years ago.

Why not go for credibility, I pressed.

"I don’t hear anyone but you — every fucking tiresome year — talking about our BOKC issue as though it needs to be run through Price Waterhouse," Wilson responded. "We’re an alt weekly. We’re about writing, not counting."

My point exactly.

Years ago, when I first began writing for the Star, I went to the Westport offices of Pitch rival The New Times to retrieve my office furniture. In doing so I stumbled onto the results of the readers poll that longtime Pitch editor C.J. Janovy had just published in TNT’s Best Of issue.

But there were irregularities between some of the votes cast by readers and the published results.

Notably, in the "best columnist" category where New Times music writer David Cantwell was the reported winner. However, the actual tabulations showed that Evil Empire Star editor Art Brisbane had won, followed closely by Star snooze machine Charles Gusewell. Brisbane was a longtime columnist who been promoted to editor a handul of months earlier. And while he’d only received a couple dozen or so votes, Cantwell had like one.

Raising the question, who do you trust?

When I started the Best Of concept at the Pitch it wasn’t solely to attract ad dollars.

Of course that was part of it, but at the time and for several years leading up to then, a local named Tom Leathers and the weekly Squire newspaper was the lone owner of the best of concept in KC. And owing to Leathers age and mindset, the Squire’s picks where often pretty blue hair in nature and many appeared rooted in paybacks to Squire advertisers.

We wanted to clue younger, hipper Pitch readers into cool stuff and places they might be unfamiliar with.

Speaking of advertising and best ofs, I noticed one year that legendary KC blues club the Grand Emporium had failed to win the Squire‘s best blues club award. When I asked co-owner George Myers what had happened, he told me they were a little tight on their ad budget that year and had dropped out of the Squire.


Reminds me of when I stopped by Mario’s in Westport recently for its signature meatball grinder.

That’s where I picked up my new, 2011 Pitch Best Of issue. Did Mario’s grinder win a best of award, I asked the owner?

"Nah, but I stopped advertising in there several years ago and after that it seemed like we stopped winning," he said.

Had Mario’s won before when it was a Pitch advertiser?

"Oh yeah," he said. "I won for seven or eight years in a row."

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28 Responses to Hearne: Pitch Editor Claims ‘Best Of’ Awards About the Writing, Not the Counting

  1. Orphan of the Road says:

    Letters to the Editor
    Nov. 23, 2010 was the last time they updated the page. Nearly a year of writing and asking if they planned to update or what, I got an answer. You seem to be the only one who has an issue with this. Of course I had heard from several friends they had Letters returned by snail mail.

    Philadelphia magazine was infamous for this faux Best of issue.

    Went one year to the “Winner” of best open mike. It was at a bar which was popular and hosted events I had participated, all good times. But this open mike was bad, worse than bad. Maybe half-a-dozen people playing, three folks who were not with the performers.

    Always take them with a shaker of salt. And when there are no listings of who got what votes then they are relegated to advertising.

    Over the years I have been back home I have enjoyed The Pitch, they have broken stories which forced the MSM to write something about the issues (the land grab by the politically connected in a soccer field plan for JoCo is one). But their Best of issue has always been very weak.

    Maybe the new owners will rectify some of these stupid things.

  2. Hearne Christopher says:

    That was my thinking as well. However, they promoted a dude who was part of the former regime and I think he made it clear – both in the issue itself and in his reaction to suggestions – that there would be no changes.

  3. Orphan of the Road says:

    Six-months to a year
    Usually takes that long for the new bosses to put their people in play. Jen being brought back is a good move. Night Ranger was silly but it caught a slice of KC night life, often off the beaten trail. Hell she featured me with the Cap’t once. 🙂

    I won’t hold my breath though…

  4. Craig Glazer says:

    Well Told Hearne
    Yes. Stanford and Sons was a yearly winner as “Best Comedy Club” through the 90’s and 2000’s…I think that one is gone now. At first it was kinda an honor. People knew we had won an award. Years later when there were so many awards it lost much of its meaning. We won “Best Open Mic Night” this year. I looked through the awards, I mean looked to see if we won anything…several times…didn’t ever find it…there must have been a couple hundred awards, small print, hard to find anything…no order really. I know they meant well. I get that they are trying to stay afloat in these hard times for print. So I am not mad at them or feel they did much wrong. Yeah many awards made little sense as far as voting. Best local comic went to all three Stanford guys. The winner Dustin Kaufman is surely an up and comer, but AJ Finney even had a DVD/CD deal this year nationally and can sell out a room, Dustin is still on his way up and just now a part time headliner and mostly a feature/co star…how about James Johann the Blue Collar Tour or Nikki Glaser, tons of credits on TV…from here…so yeah much of it makes little sense.

    Be that as it may Hearne, business is business. It is a way it seems to make some advertisers happy and give out some awards to locals….WHERE WAS MINE? Best Bad Guy..damn I wanted that award.

  5. smartman says:

    Best of BS
    The only thing more ridiculous than any BEST OF awards is the statement that all bars seem to include in their radio ads that THEY have the COLDEST BEER in the metro. A former Entercom salesperson told me at one time there were 17 different businesses making that claim in radio ads on local radio stations.

    It’s all pay to play in one form or another and certainly more subjective as opposed to objective.

    Plenty of spiffs get paid to cab drivers and concierges for directing traffic.

    As always it’s a BUYER BEWARE world.

  6. harley says:

    Its about the money.
    Hearne..you write articles about your advertisers. The little plumber roger and his shctick gets coverage on your site.
    Joe at westport flea market just got written up. jack the german has a column and is your advertiser. The jardines girl
    advertises and she’s mentioned almost every week. Kelly urich adv ertises with you and he’s got a column. Kiefs just
    got a big story about brick and mortar stores and they advertise. And of course the guy you call the “lightning rod” of kcc
    advertises on here and he’s the #1 writer.
    All small time media have to do it. So the crime you say the pitch is guilty of you too are guilty of. Its just business.
    So you’re a hypocrite for going after them for publicizing their ad clients while you do the same. Its been going on for
    decades and will continue forever.

  7. Gerald Bostock says:

    more shocking revelations
    Struggling freebee publications doling out favors to their advertisers? This shady conduct cannot be condoned.
    Maybe you could help me with a similar deal–I got this mailing that said thousands of people just like me have won big in the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes, but after several years and hundreds of magazine subscriptions (have you ever read Non-Alcoholic Microbrew Quarterly?) , I have never received any prizes. Could you look into this?–maybe go up to their offices and say you forgot to get your parking ticket validated and “stumble onto” some evidence to help me get my rightful winnings.
    ps–if you’re successful, hang on to my dough until I get back from Nigeria–I have a pretty sweet banking opportunity in the works, but I can’t talk about it yet.

  8. Hearne Christopher says:

    Ah, the master of changing the subject….

    First of all, you’re better than to try to play the Two Wrongs Card – focus, stick with the subject at hand. People are being given bogus best of awards because the Pitch won’t a) Have to contest conducted and counted independently and publish the number of votes attained and b) when their writers pick up their 10 bucks each for anointing someone, include their bylines so readers can see whodunnit and maybe why.

    We did it that way at the Pitch when I ran it, names equal credibility

    Now back to me, I give Jack, Kelly, Craig (and Jennifer before) an ad in return for writing Although they did it for free long before and Craig’s ad was paid.. It’s there for all to see, Even you picked up on it. And every person I write about on occasion who happens to be an advertiser is a major KC player who I wrote about free of charge for years in the Star or Pitch. They just happen to want to follow my readership and that of the other writers here.

    Btw, no one has ever been named “The Best” here on a pay-for-play.

    Now why don’t you go treat everybody to an actual comment on the topic at hand?

  9. TOby says:

    something not talked about in your article
    I hear you in the whole “it isn’t fair publish your numbers” thing. I mean, I was pretty shocked when I found out I didn’t actually win prom king, that some girl who liked me made up the ballot count. I cried for weeks about the unfairness of it all. I briefly considered crying when I read your shocking revelations that the pitch’s poll isn’t “scientific.” But I dried my eyes. You know why? Because the cover is just so damn cute. I really, really liked it. Makes Kansas City look happy and precious. We need more of this. My blighted home just burned down and my dog got shot by accident at cabelas parking lot. But the Pitch’s article about making out with your boo at streetcar name desire was just precious. The issue made me laugh. I don’t believe in “science” or “counting” anyway. it’s just a “theory.”

  10. Hearne Christopher says:

    I’m all over it!

  11. Hearne Christopher says:

    Need a hug?

  12. Don't get it says:

    What issue are you looking at?
    I’m with Toby, I enjoyed the Best Of and do every year when it comes out ever since you were doing them. It’s a fun read and I actually find a lot of businesses I’d never even heard of before and I see a TON of winners that I’ve never seen advertise in there before. And FYI, the Moxie that won Best Caterer is Moxie Catering and has nothing to do with the Moxie bar. I’m not affiliated with them, I’ve just been to events where they have catered and they are really good.

  13. Bob mcintosh says:

    I thought Glazer
    was taking time off from writing? In mourning and all. That lasted what one day. He took Sunday off for a day of rest. Then started commenting. Seems like that death is hitting him pretty hard. Wants to tell us his take best of issue. Can’t stay away from the drug huh?

  14. PB says:

    Who Cares?
    In the case of Cantwell, he WAS loads better than those other two old-timers so what’s the big deal?

  15. harley says:

    cmon hernia….get real…come back to real world.
    what do you think the “best ofs” by almost every paper and mag in the city is? the academy awards.
    After 40 years who would have thought that you would be the first to point on that its an unscientific
    poll and should have a big accounting firm count the votes. Come on hearne…you’re the only knucklehead
    to think these mean anything. Did you really believe people voted and the paper counted them.
    Are you in la la land again hernia. come on.
    and you continue to hype your adv ertisers. I got my comment about the scam the fat little plumber pulls off and you deleted
    the comment….is that fair and balanced journalism?
    And again…lets go back 3 decades for facts….you’re getting old and bitchy….get the kids off your lawn hernia.
    Does anyone but you pay attention to this contest? And the paper has the right to publish anything they want…just like
    you have the ability to write whatever you want…and go after your readers when they disagree with you and your antics.
    does the pitch writers have the ability to swear/threaten/harass their readers when they write a comment that is opposite
    to theirs and do it in a crass manner…i don’t think so. Only you afford yourself and your writers that ability.
    so you give writers a free ad for their writing articles. Does the star do that? does the pitch do that…i think its quite uncommon
    for media to do that…..and come on hernia…the pay for play deal is obvious on this site. So in effect…if all these ads are for
    writing…you have no income on this site. Wow…making no money…sounds like the star WHICH YOU CONSTNATLY
    AS FOR MARIOS…they don’t have the best grinder….point blank…they gave up that title long ago…i’d say the best
    grinder is at the d bronx….so there.
    Now…if you believed there was a real contest…a real outpouring of voters to decide the best place to meet people…
    a contest that was run by strict voting rules…that was to decide the best place to get a grinder…and to think that you
    counted the number of awards…the number of entries…and that you spent time today asking a “female” reader what she
    thought about the people whoeat at oklahoma joes (are you serious) and she said “they were gross” and you
    qouted this “unnamed rich and famous source”…and that you spent hours writing and preparing this entire b.s. story
    to undermine a free newspaper…and that you truly believed that this “best of” issue was the most prestigious award any
    business or insititution could get…and that the same girl didn’t understand the best place to go after a one night
    stand was planned parenthood (or who was too dumb to connect the dots and get the joke)…ifr you truly beieved
    all of this you are now considered THE BEST OF THE IDIOTS IN KANSAS CITY.

  16. chuck says:

    I ran 3 companies back in the 80’s
    and then, although I am a little hazy, they actually at least pretended to count.

    I remember always advertising with Tom Leathers and the Pitch, that, and some phone calls and begging usually got me 1st place.

    Tom Leathers was a trip. His kid was way the fuck out there. Really in dream land.

    It was a long time ago, but I liked those folks, they were just trying to make a buck, and we were too.

    Remember all the cruises you could win, if you advertised on the Radio?

    I fuckin went on some cruises now…

  17. Slanderella Explains it All says:

    How legitimate could it be when readers vote Slanderella as the best blogger?

    Not very.

  18. Hearne Christopher says:

    Try looking a little closer…at the advertisers and winners past and present. There are tons who have and tons who haven’t. Come on, there’s 56 pages of ads in the pull out section alone, plus the ads in the regular 40 page edition. That’s a huge money grab.

    I agree that the concept is to turn people on to new stuff. However, my Korean GF and I went to the Pitch’s best Koreran restaurant last night and ordered two completely different meals. Guess what? No way will she go back.

    Now if we’d known several hundred people (as opposed to a dozen and change) had voted for it. or that it was written by someone or actually judged by some panel, We could have made an educated decision on whether or not to gamble on it.

    Because no writer was named and indication was given that any research went into the selection, we had to fly in blind.

    But as the Pitch editor told me, they’re writers not counters (he left out experts).

  19. Hearne Christopher says:

    Guess what? Cantwell is an older time now than Brisbane was then.

    So what, eh? Dude gets smoked by a pair of Star columnists, barely gets a single votes and the paper lies to its readers and says he won. The only thing lamer than that is you not getting it.

  20. Hearne Christopher says:

    Don’t have time to wade thru your entire diatribe, but yes, the best ofs in Ingram’s and KC Mag are bogus, but so what? The Star would never allow such bogusness. Not w/o labeling the section as “advertising”

    The Pitch wants to play with the same cred as the Star but be edgier. There’s nothing edgy about lame.

  21. Sour Gripes says:

    I want my vote counted
    I voted for TKC

    KC Confidential

    And The KC Office blog

    2 out of 3 ain’t bad. Maybe there is something to these allegations and new suggestions. Or maybe it’s just bitching. there’s already a new issue out. I’m not reading it.

  22. Merle Tagladucci says:

    Who in the HELL reads the Pitch anymore anyway? That bird cage liner has dropped so far off this town’s radar they might as well give it away for free. Oh wait, they do give it away for free! And it still doesn’t register a blip. This isn’t 1996 anymore. It caters to an even smaller demographic than it used to now. Walk in to any bar in town that has a Pitch stand by its front door and you’ll see 99 out of 100 patrons walk right on by without even contemplating picking one up, unless they’re doing some painting at home and need something to set their wet brush down on. Not even the lure of being placed next to Landsberg’s KC Sports & Fitness, Apartments For Rent and the Thrifty Nickel can entice folks to give the Pitch a look see. On the inside, probably not a bad little launching pad for journalism interns but in the end it’s barely more than an events listing calendar filled with restaurant and bar ads, “massage therapists” and cute little articles on whatever indie band has a show in town that week. All that stuff kicks ass when you’re 25. By the way I hadn’t heard, did The Pitch award itself a Best Of in the category of News Weekly Impersonation?

  23. Your best friend says:

    It is what it is
    I put very little stock in these Best Of issues as being the actual best of anything. When I worked at one of the country’s top alt-weeklies, our Best Of issue was absolutely made up of ballot-stuffed entries. How else could one bar be the best White Sox, Cubs, Bears and soccer bar? Similarly, the Best Of entries chosen by the staff were predictably the same restaurants, bars, clubs, musicians, chefs and stores that got consistent fawning coverage the rest of the year. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this. There’s no metric for picking the Best Of anything; it’s purely subjective.

  24. Hearne Christopher says:

    You’re right.

    Deep down, there’s really no huge social injustice here. Other than journalistic. And readers are mislead and not just for the best of issue. Best I can tell, those Best Of plaques are not biodegradable and they don’t hang ’em up at the front of the businesses for nothing.

  25. harley says:

    facts…the facts
    1. 96 pages of ads…did you really count them? Okay…thats huge…and its a big money maker. So why bang on the pitch
    for making money. You’re not making any money here. so whats up. If i was you I’d be congratulating them for getting
    such a huge profit for a print medium. You’re always hanging crap on the print media for not making money so when a paper
    does a good job selling ads you tear them apart…whats up with that?
    2. Your korean girl friend and you went to the “best” korean restaurant and won’t go back. What…was the fried dog
    tough? Do you think any real thinking person considers those “best of” polls seriously. Do you think that any white person
    would go eat at a korean restuarant. You fell for the hook. They fooled you into thinking that korean restauarnt was the best…
    okay…you got fooled and it cost you. Next time try on the border…you’re guaranteed not to be eating someones former pet.
    3. If you were to run a “best of” story. woud stanfords not get the nod…would the little fat plumber not get the best plumber
    award? come on hearne…you wouldn’t screw over your buddies…you’d put them the best of even if the votes showed a
    different result.
    4. you said ” the star would never allow such bogusness”….you spit on the star and its employees every day. You have a
    continuous anger toward them and the people who remain. You hate them. You hate the people at the pitch. You have
    a sense of deep resentment for getting fired by the star and you can’t get over it. You’ve called their deal saver bogus..their
    employees bogus…their product bogus…you’ve hoped they lose advertisers (like hyvee)…come on hearne…you hate everyone~
    5. plaques…i remember you had to buy those best of placques…another money making venture…ah yes…making money is
    bad according to hearne. Because he doesnt have to make money like the rest of the 99% ers…he was born into it!
    6. the pitch…used to really like it…but its not too easy to find anymore and the stories are pretty lame…but they do put out
    thousands of copies for readers…someones reading it or the bars/clubs/promotrs/masseuses/property management people/
    real estate people/clothing stores/etc. who use it to do business wouldnt be advertising on it.. Your site has your friends…the pitch and inc have hundreds
    of advertisers….which i think is good…who wants to see a business go down the tubes. I don’t …..you get such glee seeing
    others suffer~

  26. PB says:

    Maybe You’re the One
    Who doesn’t get it, Hearne. In the case of Cantwell, if the man didn’t get a single vote from readers of the rag he worked for, it just goes to show you how little regular readers of said rag even care about such things. I know I’ve been a Pitch/New Times/INK reader for decades and never once voted in any of their polls. Who gives a shit if they lie for advertising purposes or to attract the JoCo housewife that only picks up the Best Of Issue because she wants to find out who sells the “best’ cupcakes? I read for the nighlife info and in Cantwell’s case back then, his excellent musical insight. I can give a shit about the Best People Watching Park Bench and even less on how they determine that? But don’t let me stop you from exposing them, Mr.Woodward.

  27. harley says:

    only 18 comments…not 26….why is that?

  28. Hearne Christopher says:

    You’re auditing the comments now? It’s come to that?

    Count again, dude. Was gonna suggest you as an independent counter for next year’s Pitch Best Of issue (if they’re still around) but now that I’ve seen your work….maybe not.

    Now here’s a suggestion. Be sure and take off your shoes and socks before you begin and wiggle each finger and toe as you go thru this arduous process. You can do it, man. Believe!

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