"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."