The Arizona Republic's website, AZCentral.com runs an annual "Reader's Choice" contest which everyone should know by now is a huge farce.
Editors have, for example, allowed the nomination of two canceled music festivals in the "Best Music Festival" category. So, yeah, it's a joke and everyone should know it's a joke.
The problem? Some people take it seriously! There are bands and businesses who spend oodles of time encouraging people to vote in contest so they can "win," only to discover later that it's as rigged as they want it to be.
AZCentral.com gets to pick their winner anyway -- they'll disqualify whoever they want without giving a reason -- while, in the meantime, these suckers spend their personal time and energy driving traffic to the site.
As scams go, it's pretty brilliant. I hope everyone at AZCentral.com and The Arizona Republic is congratulating themselves on this little coup, because it's the closest most of them will ever get to any sort of success as journalists.
What breaks my heart is hearing from bands duped into thinking they'll get some love from one of the nation's largest newspapers, only to find out the paper picks the winner, a national act which hasn't put out a new record in three years.
Below, I've got a letter from a member of Joey Arroyo Band, one of the hardest working and most professional bands in town. They're great guys, always willing to jump into whatever they can and succeed at it. They were my predicted winner for good reason.
I'm sorry for everyone who participated in the AZCentral Reader's Choice contest. Hopefully someday someone can file a lawsuit and put this mess to an end, but until someone with deep pockets and a litigious nature is offended by the paper's shenanigans, this will continue.
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Until then, remember there are four kinds of e-mails you should never act upon:
- Letters from deposed Nigerian royalty who need temporary financial assistance in exchange for a large payoff later.
- Advertisements encouraging you to purchase a product which will lengthen your penis.
- Any correspondence from Bernie Madoff.
- Requests to vote in a contest at AZCentral.com.
Don't take my word on it, here's Joey Arroyo Band's story:
So we stumbled upon the results for AZcentral's "Best of 2010" reader's choice awards after waiting patiently until the tally process and disqualifications were completed. We were surprised to NOT find Joey Arroyo Band anywhere in the rankings. When we last looked we were neck and neck with a band we suspected of encouraging illegitimate methods of voting, closely followed by Jimmy Eat World (whom we recall posting once on their Facebook page about the awards). We were confident in our ways of promoting fairness throughout this voting process, even posting links to the voting page with such encouragements: "Alright everyone, we still need your help voting everyday for a few more days. We're confident that all of you have been voting legitimately, and please continue to do so, and if AZ central is keeping an eye on what's fair we will be just fine. Just stick to it! Select Arts and Entertainment, and then best local band..." (that quote and many others like it on the JAB Facebook page.)
We were not notified. We were not asked to challenge any accusation. We were simply left off of the results page completely, not even in the runner up section. We can only assume that this means we were disqualified. Oddly enough, the two bands we suspected of not using approved methods of voting were also omitted from that list. Again, since AZcentral.com has never contacted us directly, we can only infer that they thought we were cheating, or did not like our allusion of other bands failing to vote within the rules. Or, maybe one of our super fans took it upon themselves to vote from some public library. Or maybe some of us work at large technology companies that share the same range of IP's and AZcentra'ls sleuthing lead them to believe that we were cheating because of this. The point is, we will never know, because AZcentral didn't ask or tell us.
Being reader's choice on AZcentral.com's website is not our career end goal, so, it's really not that big of a deal. However, when we fight fair, and end up off the list, we think we at least deserve an explanation.