BEST OF: Thursday, September 19, 2002
Media & Politics

Television Reporter/Anchor

Readers’ choice: Jane McGarry, KXAS/ Channel 5

Staff choice: KDFW/Fox 4’s Jeff Crilley

The serious expressions and self-important inflections of tv news reporters too often mask a lack of substance. Crilley is an abnormality. He is loose and self-effacing, yet scoops the competition and gets to a story’s core. When terrorists bombed the USS Cole in October 2000, reporters flocked to a town near Dallas where one young sailor’s mom lived. Crilley got there first, and she allowed him and his crew to set up inside her small trailer for several days while she awaited news about her son. The rest of the press pack got the front yard, 100-degree heat, and the occasional sound bite, and cursed Crilley’s good “luck.” This year, Crilley taped a confession that could eventually free a Fort Worth resident, James Byrd, convicted in 1997 for a robbery allegedly committed by his brother.


Readers’ choice: David Finfrock, KXAS/ Channel 5 (Two votes went to the long-gone Harold Taft.)

Staff choice: Tim Heller, Fox 4 News

Heller, with his straightforward reporting and solid knowledge of all things meteorological, has an on-screen elegance and authority not found around here since Harold Taft joined the great weather-maker in the sky. His peers have rewarded such talent over the past five years with an Emmy and numerous regional awards. While his boy-next-door good looks are easier on the eyes, Heller embodies the same Taft qualities that said “trust me” — and we do.


Readers’ choice: Newy Scruggs

Staff choice: Newy Scruggs, KXAS/Channel 5

Lively competition — do you prefer Dale Hansen, the established good ol’ boy, or Scruggs, the newcomer from the big city? Both are sharp, personable and well informed, but we’ll take the guy who can do a convincing vocal impression of Shaquille O’Neal.

Hottest Local

Male Celebrity

Readers’ choice: Tom Urquhart and Chris Bellomy, hosts of The Good Show on KTCU-FM/88.7 radio

Staff choice: Grady Spears

We wouldn’t kick Grady Spears out of bed for eating crackers, especially if he made them himself. The ex-cowboy who practically invented upscale ranch cuisine (Reata, Nutt House, the soon-to-open Chisholm Club) is a tasty dish himself: as warmhearted as venison chili, as friendly as cheese grits, as sweet as butterscotch pie, and — pardon our drool — as succulent as oven-roasted pork tenderloin with apple poblano chutney. If we lick our plate clean, may we have seconds?

Hottest Local

Female Celebrity

Readers’ choice: Kelly Clarkson, Burleson and American Idol

Staff choice: Jade Kurian, KDAF/Channel 33 reporter

For more than a year she was on the dreg news team at Channel 33 — as a freelancer, not a staff reporter — and getting scant exposure. Hers is not yet a household name, but she’s on her way. Kurian owes her dark features and drop-dead gorgeous eyes to her Indian descent. She was born in Kerala, India, raised in Florida, and hit the Metroplex in 2001. This month she switched to the KXAS/Channel 5 news team, where she expects to get more exposure and assignments. Smart, talented, hungry, gorgeous, and nice — we vote to move Kurian to the anchor desk and allow her to blossom.

Local TV Pitchman

Readers’ choice: Rick Stacy

Staff choice: Johnny Ross

He’s pudgy, bug-eyed, high-voiced, weird, abrasive, and obnoxious — the perfect pitchman. Johnny Ross is “the round man with the square deal” who loves to widen his eyes, swing his arms in circles, and say things like, “You’ll have more fun than a mosquito working a nudist colony,” as he sells furniture, satellite dishes, and other products in North Texas and 16 other markets across the country. Ross, of Norman, Okla., is fairly low-key in real life, but he cranks up the annoyance factor when taping commercials, which helps sell products but also earns him numerous detractors. “Most people tune out of ads after five or six seconds,” he said. “People who hate me watch for the whole 30 seconds.”

News Reporter

Readers’ choice: Betty Brink, Fort Worth Weekly

Staff choice: Rebeca Rodriguez, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

The best newspaper reporters have a knack for writing in an accurate and entertaining manner. One of the area’s best is Rebeca Rodriguez, who covers local and state stories with an eye for detail and a command of language. Her articles grab readers from the start because Rodriguez, unlike unimaginative or burned-out reporters, crafts them like stories, with smart and creative lead paragraphs, transitions, and endings. That kind of reporting and writing requires extra effort, often on deadline, and Rodriguez consistently delivers the sweat equity.

Radio Show

Readers’ choice: Sputnik, KTCU 88.7-FM

Staff choice: Texas Blues Radio, KNON 89.3-FM

You’re off work, starting that long commute home, the day was a bitch, you’re tired, questioning the meaning of life, and more than a little blue. Instead of washing down a handful of Xanax with tequila, just flip your FM radio dial to 89.3. Nothing makes you lose the blues faster than listening to other people wail about a cheating spouse, a lowlife boss, and a stack of unpaid bills — and the best blues music is heard from 6 to 8pm on KNON 89.3’s Texas Blues Radio show. Volunteer disc jockeys play obscure cuts from their own record collections and sprinkle in samplings from local artists, such as James Hinkle and Holland K. Smith.

Radio DJ

Readers’ choice: Janice McCall, KTCU 88.7-FM

Staff choice: DJ Smoove, KBFB 97.9-FM The Beat

Only recently has the art of allowing living, breathing, sweaty, human commercial radio DJs to actually select music come back into style (thanks chiefly to the explosion in turntable kul-cha). No major station has been promulgating the human touch more heartily than The Beat. Their best mixer: DJ Smoove. He’s on Mondays through Fridays, noon to 2pm with on-air personality Alfredas, and he spins classic old-school discs along with recent, already-forgotten gems. Nowhere on earth would you be able to tune into a monolith-owned spot on the dial (Radio One) and catch Sunshine Anderson’s frisky “Heard It All Before” next to the Beastie Boys’ anthemic “Brass Monkey.” This is Big Radio at its best.

Seductive Radio Voice

Readers’ choice: Janice McCall, KTCU 88.7-FM

Staff choice: Jessie, KDGE-102.1-FM The Edge

Yes, she works for Clear Channel. Yes, corporate radio is evil. Yes, musicians and music-lovers are supposed to hate just about everything corporate. But sometimes things come along that are just too good to hate. Enter Jessie of The Edge. Her voice alone is soothing enough to give her a Top-5 finish for the Seductive Radio Voice award, but coupled with her quick wit, creative contests, and weekly sex tips, Jessie becomes a stunning attraction who can turn the cockiest of rock stars into putty. If she can make rock stars crumble, just imagine what her voice can do to run-of-the-mill businessmen who listen on their way home from work.

Rock Station

Readers’ choice: KEGL 97.1-FM The Eagle

Staff choice: KDBN 93.3-FM The Bone

Some commercial radio is great — especially around these parts, where the only viable college frequency plays frickin’ Dave Matthews and Lucinda “Repeat Refrain 20 Times and Call It a Song” Williams. You want “new” music? Get it online like the rest of us. You want music that sounds good while you’re pouring concrete or cruising down I-35 for a night out on the town? Tune into The Bone. Here, The Scorps (“Hello, Californ-ya!!!”) still rawk, Ratt rules, and UFO (Michael Schenker is god) kicks major ass. (So much so that we’ll forgive The Bone for playing Stevie Ray Vaughan, ZZ Top, and AC/DC every got-damn hour on the got-damn hour.) We’re glad at least one program director in the universe realizes that any song without a 45-second guitar solo has always been and will forever remain music for pantywaists. Cheers to PD Scott Strong and his staff for delivering the goods.

Country Station

Readers’ choice: KSCS 96.3-FM

Staff choice: KHYI 95.3-FM The Range

We’ve heard many promising things about this station in recent years, but our cheap little car stereo could never pick it up clearly until July, when The Range boosted its signal to 50,000 watts. The Range plays Americana country, including hot artists such as Pat Green and Charlie Robison, local entertainers such as Ed Burleson and Brian Burns, and old-timers like Johnny Cash and Jerry Jeff Walker. The station offers off-kilter jockeys, such as the irrepressible Little John, who cut his radio teeth at KNON 89.3-FM’s Super Roper Redneck Radio. KSCS 96.3-FM and The Wolf 99.5-FM better beef up their Americana music, or risk losing audiences to a more independent-minded station that favors Texas music over Nashville crapola.

College Radio

Readers’ choice: KTCU-FM/88.7

Staff choice: KTCU-FM/88.7 The Choice

So the equipment might not be the most up-to-date, the public service announcements might be a little dated, even the wipes they use between songs could use some updating. But what The Choice lacks in technology, it easily makes up for with quick-witted, personable DJs and true local music. Emily Gipson, one of KTCU’s best and youngest DJs, somehow uses her soothing, seductive voice to make even the meanest of comments sound like the nicest of compliments. Couple her enthusiasm with program director Polly Wright’s craving to play music truly local to Fort Worth, and KTCU stays at the top of the list for the best college radio station around.

News Radio Station

Readers’ choice: WBAP 820

Staff choice: KRLD 1080

This has been a three-way contest for years. But Arlington-based KRLD pulled out front early this year when it jettisoned the quick-lipped, highly-opinionated Dr. Laura Schlessinger and pursued a 24-hour, all-news format. National Public Radio addicts will keep listening to Dallas’ KERA, and the chatty WBAP will always have a loyal following in Fort Worth. But for local news junkies, KRLD is the fix.

Newspaper Columnist

Readers’ choice: Randy Galloway, sportswriter, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Staff choice: O.K. Carter, Arlington Star-Telegram

Readers who call Carter’s work phone hear a recording in which the longtime newspaperman declares himself “world’s greatest urban issues columnist.” Carter was probably joking, as he likes to do, but we’ll agree that he is among North Texas’ best. He has spent a 30-year career in Arlington, and his columns show his insight and the historic perspective of one of the state’s late-20th-century boomtowns. He reports on substantive issues and avoids the pitfall of some columnists, who get lazy and lace their columns with discussions of their spouse’s nose whistle or their kids’ tv habits. Carter sticks to issues and writes with knowledge, style, and a wink.

Elected Official

Readers’ choice: State Rep.Lon Burnam

Staff choice: Clyde Picht, Fort Worth City Council

Clyde Picht for mayor? Sounds good, but a smart, independent thinker like Picht seldom grabs the brass political ring, although it happened this year in Dallas with Laura Miller. Picht has proven himself an honest, intelligent, and passionate city leader who votes his conscience. Like fellow city councilman Chuck Silcox, Picht tends to buck the majority, but usually does so without Silcox’s bombastic histrionics.

Candidate for Alien Abduction

Readers’ choice: Wendy Davis, Fort Worth City Council

Staff choice: Andrew Marton, Star-Telegram arts writer

When Marton agreed to an assignment of following the Briefcase Man for four days across the country and writing about it as if it were a real event, well it’s time to send that boy to outer space for a cooling-off period. The BC man is of course that five-story tall cookie-cutter metal sculpture of a businessman in a fedora with a briefcase in his hand — a gift of philanthropist Anne Burnett Marion — that now stands as a paean to big business in the sterile environs of another of her family’s gawd-awful gifts to the city: Burk Burnett Park. Come to think of it, beam ’em both up.

Politician Most Likely To Sell Grandma To The Highest Bidder

Readers’ choice: Wendy Davis, Fort Worth City Council

Staff choice: Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Tom “Terrific” Tocco

When it comes to something concrete, Super Tom and his cronies in the maintenance department just won’t be bothered with that nettlesome provision in state law that says they’ve got to get competitive bids on jobs over $25,000 and, worse, give the job to the lowest bidder. Just break those big jobs into a bunch of little bitty ones, all at around, say, $24,999.99 and toss ’em to one favorite guy. So what if the jobs wind up costing ten times what they would have if they’d been put out for bids, and that now Tom has to cut quality programs to make up for it? Way to go, Tom!

Example of Wasting Taxpayer Money

Readers’ choice: Fort Worth Housing Authority’s purchase of Stonegate Apartments

Staff choice: Tarrant County Commissioners

Where is Howard Green when we need him? Green, a former county judge, ran for county treasurer a few years back on the promise that if he won, he’d eliminate the post he called a “waste of taxpayer money.” He did. But we still have four commissioners and the county judge pulling down a total of $500,000 in salaries and voting themselves each a budget of about $1 mil — each year - for what? To maintain a few miles of roads for 80,000 of the county’s 1.486 million mostly urban residents. At the other end of downtown, Fort Worth’s council gurus take home a whopping $75 a meeting to make the real decisions for the 600,000 of those county dwellers who also happen to live inside the Fort Worth city limits. In this as in other urban Texas counties, this whole commissioner system should be put out to pasture.

Use of Taxpayer Money

Readers’ choice: Rerouting of I-30 and tearing down the Mixmaster

Staff choice: Intermodal Transportation Center, 9th and Jones Sts, FW

This center and the neighboring Fort Worth Rail Market are bringing life back to a sleepy part of downtown. After shopping at the Market, stroll over to the ITC for all kinds of pleasant surprises. From the great art-deco light fixtures saved from the old Central Library, to the terrazzo map of downtown laid down on the waiting room floor, to the raised panels on an outside wall depicting black citizens’ contributions to Fort Worth, it’s much more than a bus stop. Our favorite part: the tile work on the small plaza connecting the building to the actual bus and train platforms. It’s called the Game of Artful Pondering, by local artist Joan Zalenski. Tiles are inscribed with legends such as “Din of No Equity,” “Dance Floor of Politics,” and “Post-Holin’ Dust-Bowlin.’ ” The best: a triangle on whose points are inscribed the code that unlocks the Texas soul: TxMx, BBQ, CFS.

Media Overkill

Readers’ choice: West Nile virus

Staff choice: The baseball “strike”

Our nation’s sports media got itself worked into a lather over a possible baseball strike in August, with features on the sport’s labor history, interviews with pissed-off fans, and the usual stuff from sportswriters about how it was the usual stuff from the players and owners, with the additional self-righteous overtone of “How can the sport abandon us on the anniversary of Sept. 11?” Let’s hope they had fun writing these, because it sure was worthless to us.

Political Decision

Readers’ choice: Buying Stonegate Apts by Fort Worth Housing Authority (go figure)

Staff choice: Mike Moncrief quitting while he’s ahead

If Democrat Mike Moncrief, state senator from Fort Worth’s 12th District for more than a decade, learned anything in his years in the Texas Legislature, it was how to count votes. When Republican mossbacks sliced up his district, taking his core constituency and dividing it among a couple of GOP strongholds, Moncrief hung it up. He could have switched parties — the route most local Dems have taken over the past 10 years. Instead, he quit while he was on top, having helped push some of the most progressive legislation in years through the Texas Lege in his last season there — and left himself the option to fight another day. Mayor Moncrief maybe?

Staff Only:

Person Who Should Have Run For Public Office And Didn’t

Debby Stein for Fort Worth school board president

Oh sure, this smart-as-hell public-school advocate has run for the board twice and lost, but that shouldn’t have stopped her from tossing her highly credentialed hat into the ring this year. An articulate critic of the schools’ shortcomings, Stein is just as passionate when she waxes eloquent about this district’s finer points, especially its teachers and its kids. Her presence would have raised the level of debate — did anyone hear any debate in this election go-round?

Subject for Cryogenic Preservation

Ted Williams.

Didn’t it just have to be?

Political Forward Thinking

Knocking down the Interstate 30 overhead

Thanks to a bunch of dogged I-CARE citizens who never gave up their quest to get the downtown I-30 overpass demolished, the ugliest piece of architecture ever to disgrace Fort Worth streets is now in some landfill, and the once-proud and commerce-bustling Lancaster Avenue — home to two of Fort Worth’s grand old architectural gems, the Texas & Pacific Depot and the U.S Post Office — is once again gloriously basking in the sun, awaiting its renaissance. Who says a city can’t go back to the future?

Unused P.R. Slogan Based on Events of Past Year

“I-30 sucks!”

If DART had just had Vincent “Big Pussy” Pastore say that in the commercials for their railway service, we might have gotten somewhere. Anything to get more people riding the Trinity Railway Express between Dallas and Fort Worth. The trains are big, clean, comfortable, and sadly underpatronized in light of their potential ability to clear the air in one of the most polluted metropolitan areas in the country. True, more people might ride if the trains ran more often, but then, the trains might run more often if more people rode.

Project with

Private Funds

Sleeping Panther

We know what it isn’t, don’t we Mr. Man With a Briefcase? The nod goes to the lounging panther sculpture at 9th and Throckmorton. A gift of from the family of neurosurgeon George F. Cravens, the 6,000-pound stone cat is perched atop a marble pedestal by a fountain that is, appropriately sited, catty-cornered from city hall.

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