"Nothing demonstrates what a critical asshole I am more than judging the RFT Web Awards." -- Anonymous
So said one of our esteemed judges during a marathon session this week to determine this year's RFT Web Awards winner and finalists. It's true. Our judges are a discerning bunch for good reason. As local bloggers, marketers, web developers, social media consultants, business owners and former RFT Web Awards winners, they share a common interest in elevating the bar for the St. Louis online community.
See Also: - Introducing the 2013 RFT Web Awards Finalists
This year we bumped up the judging panel from seven members to twelve to better review the thousands of nominations we received for 30 categories. Collectively, these judges spent hundreds of hours researching nominations and refining their lists of favorites down to a handful of finalists. We then locked everyone in a room for four hours to argue about splash pages, PDF menus and mobile design until category winners were determined. Judges were excluded from discussions involving categories they or their associates were part of.
And while the panel found a few things to nitpick this year, they also found a lot of blogs, websites and social media accounts worthy of praise. See the list of 2013 finalists for evidence of that. And check out the bios below for more about our judges.
Stacy Anderson (@stacyELTblog): Anderson is a social worker by day and a writer by night (and weekend). Winner of a 2012 RFT Web Award for "Best Food Blog," Anderson continues to enhance her expertise in the kitchen while making it a priority to support local food and drink. She enjoys drinking craft beer, perusing farmer's markets, supporting Slow Food St. Louis, eating fancy food with her STL food blogger friends and being the best St. Louis transplant she can be. Find her freelance writing for Feast Magazine, blogging at everylittlethingblog.com and sharing photos of her dinner on Twitter and Instagram.
Ryan Brockschmitt (@PTtheIslander): Brockschmitt spends most of his days leasing apartments and helping residents at The Laurel Apartments. In his off-time, he maintains iLoveSoulard.com while monitoring and contributing to Twitter. Brockschmitt claims you also can find him on mega-popular dating websites ChristianMingle.com and FarmersOnly.com.
Jessica Leitch (@jessleitch): Leitch is a twenty something with a passion for styling, travel, red lipstick, list making and baking a great pie. She is currently working at Switch Marketing Agency, focusing on branding and account service. Along with serving on the Board of Social Media Club St. Louis, Leitch runs the lifestyle blog City in a Jar where she shares everything from cocktail recipes to life lists.
Chris Naffziger (@naffziger): Naffziger is an art and architectural historian who has written and edited www.stlouispatina.com (2012 RFT Web Awards winner: "Best Architecture Blog") for the last 5½ years. In addition to his interest in St. Louis architecture, Chris also specializes in the art of the Italian Renaissance. He lives in Tower Grove East and loves hanging out on Cherokee Street when he's not traveling to Europe.
Jenna Petroff (@jennapet): Petroff is the Public Relations and Social Media Manager for Hardee's Food Systems, Inc., one of the largest quick-serve restaurant chains in the U.S. that is headquartered right in downtown St. Louis. She co-founded the chain's social media program in 2008, spearheads all publicity efforts and leads community optimization on several of the brand's platforms. A frequent speaker and presenter, Petroff is also Senior Board Member of Social Media Club-St. Louis and is the featured "Look" girl on the pages of the newly launched 9s magazine. This single mom is a self-professed word nerd, insomniac and amateur ghost hunter, calls verbal sparring foreplay and should really seek professional help for her accessories addiction.
Chris Reimer (@rizzotees): Reimer is VP of Social Media at Falk Harrison, advising clients on the best use of new media to further their business interests. He is father to two girls, fryer of bacon, drinker of red wine, slinger of t-shirts, Instagrammer of cats and nourriture, and author of the upcoming book The Impossible Contract. Reimer is a two-time RFT Web Awards winner ("Best Twitterer" and "Best Use of Social Media for a Civic Campaign") who livestreams his lunches on Twitter and sleeps in St. Louis Hills.
Brian Schwartz (@creativereason): Schwartz spends his days (and nights) as CEO of marketing technology startup BarrelFish and still is active as co-founder of Spoke Marketing. Schwartz has been on the web since the days of Prodigy (the web service, not the band, though he enjoyed both) and has spent the last thirteen years crafting, designing and developing usable websites and software as well as memorable brands. Schwartz lives his life online and frequently post opinions about technology, sports, gadgets, poorly designed websites and what he thinks are awesome pictures of his children on Twitter.
Matt Sebek (@mattsebek): Sebek is the editor of JoeSportsFan.com and host of the weekly JoeSportsFan Show, a Top 100 podcast on iTunes. He is the winner of the 2012 RFT Web Awards for "Funniest Twitter Feed," member of Sports Illustrated's "40 Sports People to Follow on Twitter" and perpetual thorn in the side of Mayor Francis Slay.
Michael Tomko (@michaeltomko): Tomko is a downtown Saint Louis-based developer and music enthusiast with a penchant for curating one-of-a-kind experiences both on and off-line. He produces the annual concert series An Under Cover Weekend, is the Production Director for The Able Few, plays guitar in the band Via Dove and spends his nights at home watching bad TV with his loving wife Tabitha, their two remarkable pets and their reliable old TiVo, "Leonard." And, judging by his Instagram, Tomko also very much likes to eat.
Chris Ward (@wardcrap): Ward is the Marketing and Communications Director for listener-supported 88.1 FM KDHX, director of social media, contributor to KDHX.org and KDHX music blog, freelance writer, one-man band and occasional troll on Twitter. He recently was asked to be an Ok Cupid admin, which makes him feel very sad inside.
Allison Babka (@ambabka): As a hired-gun storyteller, Babka writes brand copy for ad agencies, social media strategy for nonprofits and video interview questions for anyone who appreciates nosiness. Known by many as Saint Louis University's former "Be a Billiken" brand guardian, Babka has earned awards for writing and video production and was once crowned St. Louis' Sexiest Cybergeek. She interviews rock stars and helms a weekly karaoke advice column for the Riverfront Times' music blog, RFT Music, and she'll happily remind you about that when you catch her hosting karaoke at bars and events throughout St. Louis.
Chad Garrison (@chadgarrison): Garrison is the managing editor of the Riverfront Times and a regular contributor to the paper's news blog, Daily RFT. He is the father of two boys, a fair-weather bike commuter and extremely grateful to his fellow judges whose energy, commitment and expertise make these awards possible.