April 23, 2004

The vote for versus the vote against. Prof. Yin has an interesting new post on the question of whether the American Idol vote this week is evidence of racism, in part responding to my post here. He agrees with me (and Jennifer Hudson's own public statement) that the voting system is the most likely cause of the outcome. He says the voting system should be changed, possibly switching to voting against people instead of for them.
Since we are voting for who want to keep, not who we want to boot, people who think that Jennifer, Fantasia, and LaToya are the three best are in a bit of a quandary. Who do you vote for? You could spend two hours splitting up your votes among all three, but that makes you less effective than the obsessive John-boy fan who spends two hours voting for him.
But the show has a successful formula based on voting for who you like, not ganging up on someone to convey the message that you are against them. The spirit is positive. The voters who are happy with three contestants and dislike one should not be able to kick off the guy that is the only one some other people love. If three "divas" make a great show, why didn't more people watch the all-diva VH-1 contest a year ago? (And why don't more people buy the unbelievably great gospel recordings that already exist?) It's not an objective talent contest. People like the music they like (and much of it is by black artists). The producers want to keep everyone watching to the end, want the winner to sell records (not just be the least disliked, but to have rabid fans, as Clay does), and are not averse to the drama produced by the constant risk that the "wrong" person will go. That's the successful formula. Don't change it. Just keep reminding people to vote--a lot--for the one they love most. That split vote effect works to keep at least one person of the type that a segment of the audience likes. That's how John Stevens survived after JPL was gone. And Nikki McKibben outlasted Tamyra Gray because people who loved Tamyra also loved Kelly Clarkson and people who liked "rockers" had only Nikki to vote for after Ryan Starr was gone. It's the nature of the game.

Hey, I wonder if Kerry would have emerged from the Democratic primaries as the candidate if the process were one of sequentially voting against the one you like least, until only one was left.

UPDATE: CNN.com has a big piece on the AI "controversy." This is interesting:
The New York Post reported it was deluged with calls complaining that the voting was racially motivated: Hudson, Barrino and London are black. (The Post is owned by News Corp., which also owns Fox TV.)

George Huff, still in the competition, is black, as was last year's winner, Ruben Studdard. "American Idol," unlike other reality shows featuring competition, is more popular in black homes than white homes.

For the current season, the show was watched in 19 percent of all black households, compared to 15 percent of white households, according to Nielsen Media Research.

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