For the last few years, the New Yorker has been running a contest on its last page. Every week they run cartoons from three stages of the competition: a new blank cartoon that needs a caption, a cartoon with three finalist captions, and a winning cartoon. I gather New Yorker editors narrow down the entries to the three finalists, then anyone can vote online for the caption they think is the best.
I hate the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest.
1. It's spoiling regular cartoons for me. Here's how it normally goes: You see a cartoon, maybe you smile vaguely (there's not a lot of laughing out loud at New Yorker cartoons), you move on. There's no view of the sausage-making process. There's no possibility that the cartoon could've had another caption that would've been funnier. But I find the caption contest makes me look at the cartoons and consider other possibilities, and I just don't even want to do that.
2. Even the people who win it don't respect it.
3. It's replaced content that wasn't dumb. This is my biggest problem. They used to run something funny on the last page. The last page was a happy place, 'cause there would be something rewarding there for getting through the whole magazine. I had one of those last pages up on my bulletin board for years. (A cartoon by Roz Chast, who is hilarious.) Now that perfectly good page is taken up with other readers trying to be witty. Ugh.