Illinois Times readers are an opinionated bunch, and more than 17,000 of you took the time to cast nearly a quarter million votes for your favorite people, places and things in the Springfield area. This is the 35th year for our Best of Springfield contest, but along the way we’ve continued to tweak both the process and the results issue to try and keep it fresh and interesting. So before you take to social media to complain, here are the answers to the most common questions we hear:
Q. Are the results real? Don’t you just pick your advertisers to win?
A. The Best of Springfield results are based on what our readers chose as the best, which is not always the same as what our staff would prefer. Just ask the advertising department, there are many winners who have never spent a dime with us and others who frequently advertise but failed to win their category. While advertising helps remind people to vote for you, it certainly doesn’t guarantee the outcome.
Q. Why did national companies or chain stores win some of the categories? If you’re a locally owned business, shouldn’t you support other locally owned businesses?
A. See previous answer. We encourage our readers to vote (and shop) local, but ultimately, we don’t control the votes.
Q. What’s up with the staff picks, if you’re not choosing winners?
A. Staff picks are intended to be humorous or thought-provoking but always focus on topics that were not part of the reader voting.
Q. Why wasn’t ______ category included?
A. There are already more than 200 categories, so from a logistical perspective we have to consider the attention span of both the voters and readers. However, we do add and subtract categories based on reader interest and current events (cannabis is an entirely new section this year). Keep in mind that there needs to be at least four or five contenders in a category to make it competitive, so if you’re asking for “Best battery store,” “Best place to buy a musical instrument,” or “Best auctioneer” (all actual requests we’ve had), we’re taking that into consideration. If you think of a great category we’ve missed, email our associate publisher, James Bengfort, at email@example.com.
Q. Why wasn’t _______ one of the options when I voted?
A. We hold an initial nomination round beginning in mid-August. The top five vote-getters in each category move on to the final voting. So if you want to lobby for a particular person or business to win, the time to start is in the nomination round.
Q. Why don’t all of the winners have a write up this year?
A. We have traditionally published a short blurb on each of the top picks, although we previously eliminated the write ups for the national chains. However, we do have many repeat winners, and it can be hard to find something new to say each year. Many other alt-weeklies have switched to a format with longer (but fewer) profiles and we think that will make it more interesting for the reader. Let us know if you like it, love it, or hate it. We welcome comments on this, or anything else in our publication, which can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. – Michelle Ownbey, publisher