Critics Picks:

Best Local Television News Exposé

KVUE-24 on Riverbend In November, KVUE reported that Riverbend Baptist Church pastor Gerald Mann had paid no property taxes since 1990 on the $500,000 Rob Roy estate at which he resides. According to Channel 24's Greg Groogan and Scott Guest, the pastor (who has also authored several books and hosts a nationally-broadcast cable program) avoided these taxes by claiming this residence as the parsonage for a non-profit ministry bearing his name. Aired despite protests from Mann and his numerous contacts in the local media, the KVUE report reminds us that hard-hitting journalism has not completely vanished from local television newscasts. KVUE-24, 3201 Steck, 459-6521

Best Editorial Series

Oppel Condemns Freeport Among the many changes wrought by new Statesman editor Rich Oppel is his self-penned column appearing in every Sunday's "Insight" section. The column has shown flashes of brilliance -- particularly during the five-week period from November 19 through December 17, when Oppel condemned Jim Bob Moffett and Freeport-McMoRan on three separate occasions. His sharply worded attacks against the bullying tactics of this huge company were a shocking departure from the Statesman's traditionally silent stance on this issue. Austin American-Statesman, 445-3679

Best Deejay

Gibby Haynes, 101X Refusing to conform his non-linear mind to the boring pre-packaged, pre-formatted world of modern rock radio, Haynes rocked late night Austin radio. His brief stint was the most entertaining development on the commercial airwaves in many years. 101X, 472-1071

Best Article by a Local Writerin a National Magazine

Lawrence Wright in The New Yorker An overview of recent discoveries regarding fraternal and identical twins penned by Austin's Lawrence Wright, published in The New Yorker last summer, reinforced this man's standing as one of the nation's preeminent writers.

Best TV News Format Change

KVUE-24 As a rule, local television news focuses on murder, mayhem, and all other manner of disasters, both natural and man-made. Austin ABC affiliate KVUE has consistently bucked this trend, usually giving these stories less airplay than other stations. Last spring, Channel 24 formalized this policy by adopting a new format that shuns gratuitous violence. While the format has gained plenty of criticism for allegedly censoring important stories, we think it's a big improvement, and since the format change, the station has been profiled by National Public Radio, the American Journalism Review and USA Today, among others. KVUE-24, 459-6521

Best Alternative Marketing Campaign

First Texas Honda in The Texas Triangle A right-wing radio commentator demanded a boycott of First Texas Honda after the company placed advertisements in The Texas Triangle, a weekly newspaper geared towards the state's gay community. Enraged by this homophobic intolerance, Austinites rallied behind the publication and its advertisers. Sales at the dealership actually increased. First Texas Honda, 458-2511; The Texas Triangle, 476-0576

Best Evidence That People Who Listen to FM Radio Don't Own Calendars

April Fool's Day On April Fool's Day, the KLBJ-FM morning team reported that the Space Shuttle would be making an emergency landing at Austin's Executive Sky Park. Following the announcement, about 75 gullible listeners showed up at the tiny airport. KLBJ-FM, 832-4000

Best Talk Radio Show

KVET-AM's Sportsday Hosts Jeff Ward and Bill Schoening are informed, articulate, and most importantly, hilarious, meaning you can still get a lot out of the show even if you don't spend your Augusts at St. Ed's angling for a view of Troy and Emmitt. They transcend typical sports talk, plunging head-on into the pop-cultural, irreverent, and the downright weird, and they've cultivated a number of regular callers, such as NASCAR apologist Speed Racer, who add to the circus atmosphere. We personally achieve nirvana every time they play the death-metal Arena Football theme song. KVET-AM, 495-1300; weekdays 4-7pm

Best Food Story in the Local Daily

Vita Pro With apologies to Kitty Crider, Statesman reporter Mike Ward kept the Vita Pro scandal simmering until prison officials were whelping for mercy. Ward gave a fine dinner party, offering up helping after delicious helping of the Vita Pro scandal, complete with Yank Barry trimmings. Yum!

Most Hypnotic Radio Station

LCRA River Radio AM-1530 We can listen to this station for hours on end... and never hear a thing. The chants of falling lake levels and generation schedules, the reports from the Statistical Abstract of the United States, the NOAA weather simulcasts, and especially the interviews with city managers of towns like Brenham and Gonzales can lull us into blissful, catatonic stupors. (Although they can shake us up from time to time, like when they added KVUE promo spots.)

Best Sunday Morning Wake-Up

KAZI Sunday Gospel Twice the power of opera without the translation problems. KAZI's rotating lineup of gospel deejays -- including the relentlessly enthusiastic Atwell Tenon and Sister Hallelujah -- play a mix of gospel that leans heavily on the mighty voices of the black choir tradition. Religious or not, this show will get you powered up for your Day of Rest. KAZI-FM, 836-9544; Sundays, 6-11am

Best Reporter

Michael Barnes Fortuitous, maybe, that arts stories -- the embryonic downtown museum, the Black Arts Alliance fiasco -- made Page One in recent months, allowing the daily to show off its estimable arts-beat point man to best advantage. But these might not have been important stories were it not for Barnes, who's brought energy and critical insight to covering Austin arts as a key component of our public life and exposing where we fall short of our promise and our leaders' promises. Making important issues into news rather than reacting to the spoon-feeding of image engineers is what a good journalist should do, and Barnes has done it well. Austin American Statesman, 445-3623

Best Cry for Help

Some Guy Who's Probably Dead Now on ACTV More mysterious than that little slip of paper that says "Help! I'm being held prisoner in a Chinese fortune cookie factory," there's the cryptic "Please wait foq! A! Aaaaqq! Qqaaqa!" that has been appearing across the top of our TV screens from a fleet of access stations after they go off the air for the night. Don't know if it's the result of a break-in or a beer spilled on the console, but since it's been appearing for literally months now, we'd say it's probably too late to save the poor bugger at this point. ACTV, 478-8600

Best Advantage Taken of a Captive Audience

Local News Coverage of the Freeze Thank goodness the local news teams were there to cover The Freeze of '96, otherwise how would we have known that it was toe-numbingly cold out this past February? The super-complete coverage of 1/4-inch patches of ice on MoPac and cars sliding on damp roads was critical to the entertainment of shut-ins throughout Metro Austin. How grateful we were for the breaks in regularly scheduled programming each half hour to hear from respected reporters: "I'm still out here on Sixth Street, and it's still really, really cold." It's ground-breaking journalism like The Freeze coverage which keeps all eyes focused on the cutting-edge television news of Central Texas. Keep up the good work!

Best New Local Daily

The Daily Chronicle Just kidding. (See our issue of 3/31/96.)

Best Alternative to ESPN, Part 1

KFON-AM We finally have a pro sports franchise (the Ice Bats) and we finally have all-sports radio. Sure KFON-AM has it's peaks and valleys, the latter needing to be corrected before the station will start amassing better numbers. But if you're driving down the road and you're hungry for a sports fix, the right end of the dial is the only 24-hour alternative. KFON-AM, 1490, 474-9233

Best Alternative to ESPN, Part 2

Sunday Sports Section, KXAN-36 TV Can't afford cable and can't stand missing the weekend sports highlights? Turn on Channel 36 at 10:30 pm for the Sunday Sports Section. The 30-minute program isn't quite as crisp as SportsCenter, but its not too far behind. 908 W. Martin Luther King Jr., 476-3636

Best Place to Buy Yesterday's News

Teleclip Didn't see the newscast where they filmed junior's peewee football game? Missed it when they broadcast your thoughts on the national debt? Not to worry. Teleclip tapes all the news, both local and national. Give 'em a ring and, for a modest fee, they'll locate the story in question and make you a copy. Preserving your 15 minutes -- err, seconds -- of fame was never so easy. 811 Barton Springs Rd., 477-2547

Best Comeback

Kevin Connor, 107.1 KGSR Three years ago, KGSR dismissed its popular morning show host, Kevin Connor. The Texas transplant eventually found other work in Austin, then bolted to Sacramento for another radio job. He returned to Austin last spring and, ever since, has gradually worked his way back onto the KGSR airwaves. The return came full circle September 9, when Connor returned to the station's morning shift. These days, it somehow seems a little easier to get out of bed. 107.1 KGSR-FM; Mon-Fri 5:30am-9am

Ken Martin of In Fact : Best Newsletter
photograph by Jana Birchum

Best Newsletter

In Fact Husband-and-wife team Ken Martin and Rebecca Melancon, who formerly served as editor and publisher (respectively) of the Austin Business Journal, have switched their talents to newsletter publishing. The fruits of their labor is titled In Fact -- a zippy political four-pager that is concise, well-written, and extremely informative. Box 49990, Austin, 78765; 474-1022

Best Reason to Ignore Your Screaming Hangover

KVET's Country Gold Wake up early on Saturday -- if that's possible -- and tune into the only place on commercial radio you can still hear Kitty Wells, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Charlie Rich, Hank, Sr., and all the stars of country's golden age. They used to play Tanya Tucker's "Texas When I Die" every Saturday at 10am; Saturday mornings never seemed so bright. KVET-AM 1300, FM 98.1, Sat., 6-10am

Best Biz-Newz Scooper

Austin Business Journal Hardly a week goes by when The Austin Business Journal isn't burying its business-writing competitors over at the daily. Witness: ABJ broke a story on Schlotzsky's successful public offering under the heading, "The Earl of Sandwich." The Statesman chased the same story four days later with a clone headline: "Austin's earl of sandwich." Whoops! On July 5, ABJ told us that Radian sold one of its divisions after a tiff with the Environmental Protection Agency. Then the Statesman re-told the story on July 8, just in case we missed it the first time. It's sporting to watch a weekly beat a daily paper on the big news of the day. 1301 Capitol of Texas Hwy, 328-0180

Best Re-Focus on the Family

The Texas Triangle For a while, it seemed The Texas Triangle just couldn't decide what to wear. There were vague stabs at being cute, hip, gossipy, trendy -- but those motifs left some of us yearning for the journalistic days of old. In the last year or so, though, editor/publisher Kay Longcope managed to pull the paper back on track with serious news and columns about lesbians and gays -- the very objectives on which the paper was founded. This may have had something to do with her hiring of David Elliot, a newspaper man's newspaper man, as managing editor. He filled the slot well, having left behind a longtime reporting position at the Statesman. In late July, Elliot moved to Washington, D.C., to perform media work for People for the American Way. Elliot's friend Dan Quinn is now carrying the torch in what appears to be an effortless transition. 1615 W. Sixth, 476-0576

Best Eager Beaver DJ

Jenn Garrison Tooling around in the Mustang, late '79, it was always a kick to smush the chunky pre-set buttons on the ol' Delco, to hear "My Sharona" cranking, only to smush another button and delight at the coincidence of the exact same song playing somewhere else down the dial... Now we are grown and realize that this was just a product of lame corporate fomula, but in a weird way, it still pleases us when it happens today. On KROX one moment, coming through on a pre-taped promo on KGSR the next, and within the hour tackling an airshift on KVRX, Jenn Garrison is the hardest-working rising star of the behind-the-mike set, and at only 25, we'll be sure to check in on her with frequency. KVRX, Mondays, 7-9pm; 107.1 KGSR, Saturdays,10am-2pm, Sundays, 4-6pm; 101X, Saturdays, 2-6pm

Best Eager Beaver DJ: Jenn Garrison of KVRX, KGSR & KROX
photograph by Lucy Brotherton

Best Local Food Show

The Green Gourmet on ACTV Diana Welsch, aka the Green Gourmet, inspires us to take to the stove every time we tune into her cooking program whose moniker comes from Welsch's devotion to gardening and cooking with fresh produce. Welsch is not one of those pained, joyless health food fanatics though; she's a regular gal who loves good food and wants to share her healthy, accessible recipes with all of us. It just goes to show, you will convert more people with delicious alternatives than sermons. Tuesday evenings at 7:30pm on Ch. 10

Best Columnist, Missing in Action

Mike Kelley We recall many a morning that seemed unrelievedly dreary 'til we read the words of Mike Kelley. This Statesman columnist, who had a marksman's bead on Austin foibles, could loose a leisurely stream of satiric barbs at the Lege or South Austin, rattletrap autos (which he owned proudly) or condiments (to us, cilantro will forever be "the Germany of herbs"), and lift the gloomy clouds about us. His column was, alas, discontinued last year, but we keep holding out hope for its return. Kelley is simply too good.

Copyright © 1996 Austin Chronicle Corp. All rights reserved.