Most people look forward to Christmas the way I look forward to the Best of Fayetteville season. Seeing the way Up & Coming Weekly readers perceive our community is a great big present for me. Up & Coming Weekly has always had its finger on the pulse of this community. Each year this event measures and illuminates our readers’ deepest insights into our community, which serve as a barometer of our quality-of-life. So, it is no wonder this is the most popular, anticipated and most read edition of the year. Hence, my excitement.
    But I’m not the only one who gets excited about this. The community gets excited. Residents, local businesses and organizations all know what is at stake here. They know this is the time of year when Up & Coming Weekly reports on how well they met the needs of their customers and constituents throughout the community. For 10 years they have realized that being recognized in the BOF survey is a testament and measure of their success in bringing quality products and services to the community. They want to measure their impact on the community.  Winning a category says “you are making a difference” in Fayetteville and Cumberland County. This is why you will see Best of Fayetteville plaques displayed all over the city. They earned it!
    This honor is not a gimme, nor is it automatic. Matter of fact, we go to a great deal of work and expense to ensure that the readers survey is fair and honest and that every “legal & legitimate” vote is counted. Notice I said “legal & legitimate.’’  To that end, when we first embarked on this venture in 1998, we put some stringent participation rules and guidelines in place to make sure the survey maintained its integrity in the eyes of the community. Not an easy task.
    {mosimage}Believe me; our strict guidelines are not infallible. However, judging by the number of ballots we receive every year and the increased number of disallowed ballots we have every year, two things are certain: 1. More and more residents, businesses and organizations have come to recognize and accept the annual BOF readership survey as a valid measurement and excellent reflection of goods, services and quality of life venues in this community. And, 2. People, businesses and organizations will go to great lengths to position themselves in contention just to have a chance of winning BOF recognition. Well, sorry folks! No ballot stuffing here. Simply put, with this event “you can’t fake it, till you make it.”  We are confident that we have done everything we possibly can to ensure a pure reflection. Here are a few:
    First, only one ballot per person and you have to record your telephone number. If the ballot appears doctored, faked, duplicated or “iffy” in any way we have been known to call the participant to validate the entry. A “what ballot?” response is an obvious call to action.
    Second, each participant must complete at least 15 categories on the ballot. This takes some thought and some effort and prevents opportunities to cheat while providing us great information. After all, this is what we want.
    Third, the ballot has to be mailed in, walked in or faxed in. At present we do not have online or anonymous voting. Next year, if we can create a way to assure the integrity of the survey, we will have online voting. Remember, it is a “reader’s poll.”
Fourth, ballots counted are reviewed and inspected. Again, all suspicious and duplicated ballots are invalidated.
    Fifth, ballots are sent directly to the local firm of Utley & Knowles, CPAs, PA. They validate each ballot, verify and confirm the tallies. Once this process is complete and they have signed off on the winners, we start preparing for the biggest and best Up & Coming Weekly issue of the year. In addition, we prepare to host a Best of Fayetteville Reception where we will recognize and congratulate all the 2008 winners. This is not the biggest event of the year but it is one of our most important.     The marketing and promotion of the event, the rules, regulations, the counting, checking, double checking of ballots, verifications, designing certificates and plaques, publishing the BOF edition and hosting the recognition reception takes a great deal of time, effort and commitment.  It’s all worth the effort because Up & Coming Weekly is a quality-of-life publication.     Our mission is to talk about the good stuff and shine a light on the accomplishments of this community and its residents. By showcasing what our readers think is the best, then we are providing them the confidence and a roadmap on where to go and what to do in this community.
S    o, study this issue, congratulate the winners and if I don’t see you at the party tonight I’m sure I will see you around town. Keep in mind that this is our annual BOF issue. Every Wednesday we bring the daily and weekly scoop on the Best of Fayetteville and it is always “up & coming.”
    Thank you for making us your community newspaper. Because you are well read, so are we.
    Thanks for reading.

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