Letter from the Editor 

Welcome to the “Real Best of Memphis” issue. That’s what we’re calling it this year. It’s what the marketing folks call “branding.” It’s a way of defining who we are — what we are — to the public, since another local print entity has been trying to steal the concept.

The Flyer’s Best of Memphis is in its 17th year. We created the concept locally and, frankly, we’ve paid our dues. Back in what I like to call the “hanging chad” years, we printed full-page ballots in the paper for two or three weeks. Readers were required, as now, to fill out at least 50 percent of the categories. But unlike in recent years, when the voting has been done entirely online, readers had to put the ballot in a stamped envelope and mail it to our office.

This method, to put it mildly, was nuts. Imagine 5,000 ballots, each with, oh, 100 different categories, all having to be opened, hand-counted, and tabulated. It took weeks, every year.

The problem was that every ballot was filled out by hand, so not only did you have to interpret whether someone had scribbled, say, WRVR or WEGR, you’d have to make a call as to whether a vote for “Rock 103” was the same as a vote for “Bad Dog’s morning show.”  ere was much left to interpretation, but we tried to honor the intention of the voter.

Those were also the years of ballot-stuffing. Enterprising dry-cleaner owners or restaurateurs would take all the copies of the Flyer they could get out of our street boxes.

Then, presumably using employees and family members, they’d fill out a couple hundred ballots. Sometimes, they’d stupidly mail them all to us in one envelope; sometimes they’d invest in a couple hundred stamps and envelopes and send them in separately — which made it tougher to figure out when stuffing was happening.

In the last few years, with pull-down tabs and an online system that lets each computer vote only once, these problems have largely disappeared. I’d put our results up there with the Election Commission. Oops, maybe a bad example. At any rate, I believe the Flyer Best of Memphis results are an honest reflection of how our readers voted. It’s the “real deal.” Congrats to all.

BRUCE VANWYNGARDEN brucev@memphisflyer.com

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