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Conor Williams wins the title

The results are in.

Conor Willliams wins the title of America's Next Great Pundit 2010, and along with it a three-month contract with The Post and a launching pad into the world of punditry.

Conor received 1,559 votes in the final round of voting. Runners-up Nancy Goldstein and Lauren Hogan received 1,167 and 707, respectively.

Conor, a PhD student at Georgetown and a "proud product of Kalamazoo," was a reader favorite from the start. He was the only one of our top three to make it into the challenge portion of the competition as a reader pick rather than as an editors' pick. But as we put him through his punditry paces, he earned kudos from the judges, too. After the roundtable debate, Post Opinions writer and tv personality Jonathan Capehart said Conor was "a natural" on video and stood out for his ability to connect with the audience and with the other contestants. And during the blogging week, last year's contest winner Kevin Huffman praised Conor for "polished work" and good ideas. "I learned something new and was grateful," Huffman wrote. Huffman also warned that with some of Conor's writing, "I can tell you from experience that The Post editors could cut it by 30 percent and you wouldn't notice anything was missing." We're not sure about that claim. But we look forward to working with Conor over the next three months and helping to sharpen his writing and get his ideas out there.

For now, we must say thanks and goodbye to Nancy and Lauren. Both produced strong work during the course of this contest. Our judges picked Nancy as the winner of the blogging week, because they said she wrote the posts they most wanted to read and that left them wanting to know more. Lauren, meanwhile, won points from commenters for her authenticity, especially during the live Q&A round. We have no doubt we'll be reading and hearing more from these smart women.

And so we bring the second season of America's Next Great Pundit to a close. And we leave the final word to you. What was your favorite part of this year's contest? What should we do differently if we do it again? What would you look for in an initial entry to help predict whether a contestant can produce more than one strong piece? Was the top 50 voting round a worthwhile addition? How much should readers or judges be able to influence the outcome? We'd like to know what you think.


Final Vote Results

CW - Conor Williams (1559 votes)
LH - Lauren Hogan (707 votes)
NG - Nancy Goldstein (1167 votes)


Marisa Katz

 |  November 2, 2010; 1:13 PM ET
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"These smart women" condescending. Nevertheless, I congratulate Connor on a well-deserved win. I agree with MSJS that WaPo editorial staff gave the impression that dealing with the contest was an unwelcome chore. I think adding the Top 50 was a bad idea. A Top 15 might work but it was impossible to read every entry and thus judge fairly. It felt like homework! Next year scrap the voter portion or the editorial picks. The mix just doesn't work and gives readers the worst of both worlds. I think the finalists accurately reflected Beltway circles. The zanier candidates naturally did not rise to the top because this is WaPo, not the Village Voice. They don't want the next Dan Savage or even Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Posted by: Couvade | November 4, 2010 9:56 AM
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It was a tough choice - three mediocre candidates. A lot like most (s)elections these days. I chose the best of these overly wordy and mostly unoriginal wannabes. Conner has potential. I had hoped for more than that.

Posted by: sstelepeo | November 3, 2010 1:38 PM
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Congratulations, Conor! It was a well-deserved win.

Posted by: skransford | November 3, 2010 1:07 PM
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Other various ideas:

You might also consider forcing the candidates to write something from the opposing point of view. Years ago I saw a national collegiate speech and debate competition where the side of the argument was was selected by a coin toss. The winner didn't believe a thing he was arguing for. Something like this would bring out the actual thought, research and writing skills as opposed to the opinions.

Have the copy actually edited like it would if they only received x column inches. The judges continually griped about length - show the contestants what happens in the real world. Plus everyone makes typos and minor grammatical errors pressed with a deadline. Give them the same courtesy real journalists get.

Fix the freakish crap that occurs with this website.

I also like msjs's point counterpoint.

Lastly, get some better looking pictures - I'm not looking for Hogan in a bikini, (though that might be nice) but some uniform headshots that don't dorkify half the entrants.

Posted by: DDOG | November 3, 2010 10:51 AM
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Last year’s winner was a liberal white man with Midwestern roots and a Teach for America background currently living in DC.

This year’s winner is a lib…oh never mind.

As to improvements, I thought the quality of the writing was weaker this year from the get-go. My first recommendation is for better screening of the initial essays.

This year it’s pretty clear that many clicked to vote without reading or viewing any contestants’ work. WaPo might want to consider ways to interactively involve the audience to increase broader site traffic during the contest.

Mr. Huffman excluded, I got the sense that the judges felt burdened in their role. Yes, they all have lots on their plates but if WaPo wants readers to engage, the judges’ engagement level needs to improve. I recommend two judges provide contestant-specific critiques and tips each day.
*pause while the WaPo editorial team groans in unison*

Another idea is to get the contestants to interact with each other more. A “Point Counterpoint” give and take exercise with word limits to tighten up the writing and clarify perspectives might be interesting.

Or scrap the contest altogether and try something fresh.

Posted by: MsJS | November 3, 2010 10:12 AM
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How to make this contest better next year.

1. Make reader voting only a fraction of what constitutes a winner.

2. Have the judges read a piece without the pundits name and rule on specific objectives - creating an environment where quality of work outranks opinion.

3. Either let the candidates market themselves, or not but don't have this area be gray.
4. Explain rulings that arise out of rules violations.
5. Have week 1 include all forms of media, not just the blog. Some who were eliminated early most likely would have excelled in the video or op-ed rounds.
6. Auto advance individuals from both sides - creating variety in later opposed to the almost unified set of work we saw this year.

Posted by: DDOG | November 3, 2010 8:30 AM
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I was disappointed in this contest. The previous contest that produced Kevin Huffman was much better.

The weak and boring candidates kept advancing while the interesting and experienced were eliminated, I do agree, however, that of the three mediocre finalists, the best person won.

My office mate predicted the victory. She said that the voting would split along gender lines and that the man would get a plurality.

Posted by: jeffy2345 | November 2, 2010 3:53 PM
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Congratulations - Llongyfarchiadau!!

Posted by: Teacher18 | November 2, 2010 3:50 PM
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