There is something rotten in the state of DamienMark and the Irish blog awards. I had simply thought it was a harmless bit of nonsense which had some weird quirks and oddities. But that someone could not post during almost the entirely of the period that was stated as a minimum requirement for nomination and yet still win an award is more than odd. That two would do so goes beyond passing strange.
The fact is that no one can independently vouch for the judges because no one outside the inner circle knows who the judges are. The rules or even mere guidelines are lacking to the point of being vapour but even the most lax of rules wouldn't have had two nominees making the short-list for what is meant to be a year's work when they didn't post for most of the year in question. The bald fact is that one of those winners only started to post less than 2 weeks before the deadline, while another took a sabbatical for 8 months only returning to resume posting less than 2 weeks before the deadline.
With this kind of arbitrary inclusion and exclusion it is hard not to see the awards as being more about currying favour and jumping on bandwagons than any sort of real assessment of quality over the course of a year. It's pretty like crowning the league champions on the basis of a few good matches at the end of the season. Having the accolade of being the best for a particular year should mean that you were the best over the course of that period not that you had flashes of excellence here and there. It must be galling for those who lost out that their entire years work wasn't judged to be as good as a few weeks or a couple of months output by someone else.
Then going beyond that we have the peculiar notion that the winner for best newcomer (a nice young lad by all accounts) was heavily promoted by the organiser and his friends.
Then the winner for best blog from a journalist appears to have provided the goodie bags.
That the winner for best current affairs and ultimately the Grand Prix prize for best blog is also a close friend of the organiser shouldn't in the normal run of events be a matter of any concern but with everything else that is going on one can't not mention it. I don't doubt that it is amongst the best in its category but the absolute best?
In the normal run of events, one or or two of the above you could gloss over but all of them? Then you have the all organisational strangeness. Why have no confirmation for registration that people made in December until just 48 hours beforehand? Especially, when you consider that many people had to travel to attend and stay overnight? Why is no confirmation mail sent to those who nominate of their nomination choices so that they have some proof that they did nominate and who they nominated? Why was it that registration for attendance opened weeks in advance of opening the nominations, meaning people who were nominated couldn't register to sit at a event that they should have been the focus of? Why is it that we have no publicly available criteria of what is used for the judging? Why is there no confirmation for people that they applied to be judges? Why is it no one can know who the judges are? I applied to be a judge in 2007 but heard nothing back then, other people I know applied last year but heard nothing back. Yet we're repeatedly told that judging is open to all but that is not true, you can offer to be a judge but the selection of judges is not open. I noticed in my own case some touching on my blog from the judging area of the awards.ie site -I was longlisted for political blog - a few hours before the short-list was posted. Only one of which actually looked at the archive for the previous year. I wouldn't have had me remotely near the short list but it would be good to know you didn't make it having actually been really reviewed not just glanced at at the last minute. I wonder how much assessment was really made of other the categories, was it as superficial as that?
Again, none of these things on their own is proof of misdeeds, indeed taken together they might still be a matter of mere coincidence but the absence of any transparency about proceedings must naturally lead to questions. The notion of Ceasar's wife being above reproach comes to mind. When the process is secret all efforts should be made to ensure that there can be no inference of wrong doing. It might sound dull but the process matters, it takes from the winners that such a cloud should exist over the process and for no good reason either I can understand.
When it comes to our electoral process we don't have people vote then take the votes into a locked room to be countred by only a few people who appointed by the government and who we never get to see and then at the end a government representative would come out and tell us the result. Everyone would look at that and shout fix. Yet the process for the blog awards is little different. Judges are appointed in secret, they judge in secret, their votes are weighed up in secret.
Sure it's a fun night out for those concerned but so too apparently are 12th July parades and lynchings in the deep south on the 1930s were very good at bringing the community (some of it at least) together. Of course, this is nowhere on that scale but the mentality that will be used to defend it is much the same. A group who enjoy one another company refusing to answer any questions about the process involved because it is just a bit of craic. A bit of craic which leads to business being generated for some of those concerned? That sound like a straightforward business promotion to me.
Needless to say none of the actual nominees are in a position can say anything because the temperamental nature of the host is well established at this stage and the potential consequences of making any kind of critique is there for all to see. Since my card is marked anyway I'm saying it, I've nothing to lose by asking merely questions. The wonder is will we see any answers, or will it be a case of simply attack the man and not deal with the questions.
In answering my own question I would say that "no the awards aren't fixed" but they sure as hell seem broken.