February 7, 2008 by Tracey S. Rosenberg
The Willesden [you’d think I could finally spell that without having to check the tab] Herald has offered its really final statement. In brief:
- They’re donating the prize money to charity.
- They’re misquoting Jonathan Swift.
taking their ball and going homepossibly ending the short story competition. Or proposing to do so. Or just mentioning the possibility so people will feel bad. (More on this below.)
I think the prospect of situations like this are why competitions include lines to the effect that ‘all decisions are final and the judges will not enter into correspondence’. I wholly support public enquiry, transparency, and all that jazz, and I like the way that t’Internet allows us to have these dialogues whereas before we just had to scribble tearfully in our notebooks, but the post-announcement actions and reverses feel as though they were prompted far more by anonymous blog commentators than the integrity on which the competition took such a controversial stand. I suspect the legacy will be much less ‘they wanted excellence but failed to find it in the slush pile; we shall all try harder to be excellent next year’ than ‘they kept waffling and everyone got annoyed’.
In summary: a shame. I do hope the competition continues – and I expect it will because I can’t see how a major decision could possibly be taken in the immediate aftermath. But I’d recommend adding that one clause to the rules – and sticking to it, no matter how many people take anonymous potshots.