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Letter to the Editor: Was essay contest rigged?

Dear Editor,

It is very rare for me to write anything to anybody. However, Mr Gresty's winning article about the meeting of cultures which you published in your newspaper ["Living in Slovakia: Like listening to two radio stations at the same time," Vol. 8 No. 28, July 22 to Aug 4] was for me rather disturbing.

Mr Gresty is, as I understand, a close friend of yours, is this not so?

Week after week, year after year, The Slovak Spectator has tried in its way to stop and prevent corruption by exposing it if it dared.

I am not saying you gave the prize to Mr Gresty, who no doubt is a nice enough guy, but your closeness to Mr Gresty does raise the question and the possibility that you may have tipped the decision in his favour. Does it not seem plausible that it could be so?

I hope next time such a competition is run that such friendships are declared at the outset and not left hidden. Transparency is the name of the game, and Mr. Nicholson, transparency is what we should get, especially from a newspaper such as yours.

Jean Baptiste

Dear Jean Baptiste,

Thanks for your letter. Let me explain how the essay competition worked.

1. The entries in all categories were anonymous, and were judged by me and two other people at different companies independently of each other. Our evaluations were almost identical except for second and third places in the secondary school category.

2. The expat category received only two entries by deadline time. All judges agreed that the entry which later turned out to have been from Gresty was superior to its only competitor.

3. I did not find out until after submitting my evaluations the names of the winners.

4. While I have met Jon several times, and while he copy edited this year's edition of our travel guide from Prešov, he is no more than an acquaintance, if one towards whom I feel well-disposed (he is, as you say, a good guy).

Any and all of these statements I have made can be confirmed by the person who ran the competition, Miriam S. Pečiarová, at miriam.peciarova@SmeOnline.sk

Thanks for your concern, though, because rigged competitions happen every day, and I wouldn't have wanted people to harbour any doubts about this one, which happened to be clean and objective.

Tom Nicholson
Editor in Chief

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