Westword came out with its 28th annual Best Of Denver 2011 issue last week, the first of many similar lists to be released by local media outlets this year. 5280 has its Top of the Town, 7News has its A-List, the Denver Post does a Colorado Guide, Yelp does a Best of Yelp. With so much besting, what does it even mean to be best anymore?When we discussed this question on ourlatest Denver Diatribe podcast, we approached it as reporters who've actually worked on past 'best of' editions for some of the above publications. And we can tell you it is definitely not a science. Choices in most categories depend on the tastes, biases and experiences of a particular writer or editor. Restaurants, art galleries and sports are one thing, but how do you apply clear editorial judgment to things like best doggy daycare? Uh..."Chez Furry," maybe? Denver Diatribe Podcast #27: The Best of "The Best of" edition by Denver Diatribe (To listen to the entire episode, click here.)
No matter how arbitrary some staff picks might be, selections made by readers can be downright moronic. Nothing is more depressing for a food writer than spending weeks anguishing over the best Mexican restaurant in the city only to have readers once again vote for Taco Bell. This year's Westword reader's choice for "Best Coffeehouse for Coffee" was given to Starbucks, which apparently has a location somewhere in Denver. Then editors of any "best of" have to deal with cases of obvious ballot \-box stuffing by business owners who see the "best" designation as free advertising. Publishers, meanwhile, are addicted to "best of" editions because of the precious advertising dollars they bring in.
All said, we still see value in besting. In a complex urban environment, people need somebody to weigh in with some authority on arts, entertainment, food and politics. This is very true for recent Denver transplants or folks visiting the city for the first time. The cupcake shop that won a "best of" may not actually be the best cupcake shop in town, but at the very least you know it doesn't suck.
Westword's Best Of 2011 should not be read as a definitive list. Rather, it's more of a 200-page, yearly love letter to the city, a love letter that can and should be debated -- particularly as more and more media outlets come out with best of lists of their own. What we really need is a whole new category: Best of the Best Of Lists.
The Denver Diatribe is a weekly podcast about culture, politics and stuff as it pertains to Denver, Colorado. Listen to Podcast #27: The Best of 'The Best of' edition at Denverdiatribe.com. Subscribe to us on iTunes and follow us on Twitter.