I have a chance to look at a lot of "Best Of" polls from other towns that come in to the Isthmus office in the form of other alt-weeklies with which we exchange subscriptions. Many of them -- most of them, I'd say -- are written by the newspaper's staffs. The staffers name the "bests" in first, second and third places. A token inclusion of the readers' choices follows. Critics' picks; readers' choices. The pecking order is clear.
That rubs me the wrong way. While such a process ensures that The Olive Garden does not win "Best Italian Restaurant," and McDonalds won't win "Best Fries," we don't care for the top-down style here at Isthmus. The Madison's Favorites poll is reader-generated. We already know what we think, after all -- we're curious about what our readers think.
Of course, it's only possible to count positive votes. A vote for Biff's Burgers goes to Biff's Burgers, but a vote for "Anybody but Biff's Burgers, they suck" can't go to anyone. So if you hate Biff, vote for George or John or Ringo -- anybody but Biff.
Another thing I've noticed about a lot of these Best-of stories is how long they are. When your staff is writing the story, I guess it's okay to have 350 categories and include Best Fill-Dirt Supplier and Favorite Dumpster Rental Company, but we try and spare you that and keep the categories under 100 (but for a ballot to be official, you only have to vote in 20 -- after all, not everyone has an opinion about everything).
We add and subtract a few each year to keep things interesting. This time around, we've asked about your favorite New Band, as well as New Restaurant (since last June, that'd be), Latin Band, Singer/Songwriter, Chocolatier or Candy Maker, locally produced film or video, place to get a cheap buzz and a few more. As always, inquiring minds want to know.
Ballots for Madison's Favorites will be available in the June 8 and June 15 editions of Isthmus, or since you're reading this, can also be cast online. All ballots must have at least 20 categories completed to be eligible, and must be received by Isthmus and The Daily Page by 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 21.
The responses will subsequently be tallied, and Madison's Favorites will be published in the Annual Manual in late August.