It’s the most wonderful time of the year for journalists looking to recycle old content.
After churning out copy – blogs, slideshows, actual printed things – day after day after day – Wikileaks, Tea Party, North Korea, Miley Cyrus – everyone deserves a break, and there’s no better way to look back at a year’s worth of hard work than a classic Best of the Year post.
Too bad yours sucks. Here’s why.
#1. It was online last week.
You don’t want to wait too long and have everyone and his mommy-blogger post their Best Ofs first, because then you’re stuck being derivative guy, and no one wants to be that guy. But you can’t jump too early, or you’ll wind up writing a Best of the First 11 Months of 2010 list.
This is especially dangerous in the world of movies, where studios often leave their best for last in order to grab the Christmas crowds and stay fresh in the minds of Oscar voters. Up in the Air, A Single Man, Avatar, Crazy Heart, Atonement, Juno, Charlie Wilson’s War, There Will Be Blood – all these movies came out in December of the last few years.
#2. It’s almost entirely devoted to obscure choices.
Jonathan Franzen published a new novel this year. So did Stewart O’Nan and Joyce Carol Oates. But you’re going to put them on your Best Novels of 2010 list. No way. You’d rather stick to self-published books available only in Greenpoint. Why? Because you’re an asshole.
#3. It includes at least one backhanded choice.
“…and the reason we’ve included the Microsoft Kin on our Best Phones of 2010 list is because it flopped so horribly, it showed us what a great phone should not be. You don’t know heaven unless you’ve been to hell, and that is exactly where Microsoft took us.”
#4. It’s got something that doesn’t apply.
Sorry, Bored to Death isn’t a movie. It’s a TV show. You can’t sneak Jonathan Ames’s HBO comedy onto your list of the Best Crime Movies of 2010, no matter how much you like it. You should’ve gone with Best Ted Danson Moments instead.
#5. It’s too broad.
Best Stuff of 2010? Come on now, you’re not playing fair. Narrow it down a little. Everyone likes stuff. Different kinds of stuff. Give us something to work with here. How else are we supposed to argue about what wasn’t included?
#6. It includes Arcade Fire.
The latest offering from Win Butler, Régine Chassagne and company is a complex mix of rock rhythms and theatrical sensibilities, a lyrical hurricane swirling around a calm melodic eye, a really great album. So were the two albums before The Suburbs, and likely so will be the next six albums. The band is awesome, we get it. But giving the Montreal indie rockers one slot out of ten is a waste of time. Almost everyone agrees they’re great. Move on.
#7. It’s spread out across ten pages.
Pageviews are really important. That’s how you deliver your ads. No problem here. We’re all for writers and photographers making money from their hard work. But there’s a thick line between that and making money from readers’ hard work, and forcing someone to read, click, read, click, read, click…it can be a bit much. Go ahead and chop that article into two or three pages – you can tell yourself it’ll help decrease load time – but anything more than that and you’re just begging for the extra work you spent writing the last couple items to go completely unnoticed.
#8. It includes at least one transparently counter-intuitive choice.
You’re a well-rounded, multilayered human being with a broad range of interests. You’re definitely not predictable. Everyone thinks they know you, but how wrong they are. Just because you spend most of the year fawning over artists with lopsided haircuts and tight jeans doesn’t mean you don’t love the new Kanye West album. Heck, you love it even more than the new Arcade Fire, that’s how unique you are.
#9. It’s a stretch.
The new kid in a newsroom is usually going to get last dibs on assignments. The senior editor gets to write Best Literary Novels, and a few other editors nab Best Biographies, Best Mystery Novels and Best Short Stories. So what are you stuck with? Best Latin American Novellas? There were probably several good ones, but do you really need to come up with ten?
Hey, we feel you. This list probably should’ve ended a few items ago.
#10. Its methodology is crazy inconsistent.
One second you’re telling people they’re assholes for not liking mainstream fare, and another you’re criticizing them for making easy choices. Just pick a methodology and run with it. Otherwise your opinions will be so scattershot, no one will be able to argue with them. And that might sound like a good idea to you, but these lists exist to foster discussion. Wouldn’t you agree? Let us know in the comments.