1996 Readers Poll
1996 Critics Picks
Best Alternative Marketing Campaign

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
1301 W. Koenig

Best Alternative To Espn, Part 1

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.

908 W. MLK

Best Alternative To ESPN, Part 2

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.

KFON 1490 AM
811 Barton Springs Rd.

Best Bang For Your Buck, One Radio Freq.

With 91.7FM, you not only get a diversity of programming, you get a diversity of stations. Since a nasty court battle ordered the two stations to share the same frequency, the two new kids on the radio have been getting along wonderfully and complementing (and complimenting) each other well -- the cooperatively run community station (KOOP) during the day and the UT student station (KVRX) at night. Both have similar missions -- wildly divergent programming that has a little something for everyone. KOOP has world music, weird music, several great roots- and Latino-oriented music shows, and public affairs programming that features the true left. The station's programmer slots are open to the public, so anyone has a shot at being a deejay. KVRX similarly romps through a mix of alterna-rock (the real thing, not the corporate pseudo-alternative), with dashes of poetry, speaker-busting metal, psychotic hillbilly music, and a different view of the university than what Dollar Bill Cunningham probably wants you to see.

PO Box D

3823-B Airport

photgraph by Laura Skelding   Laura Skelding

Best Biz-newz Scooper

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.

Best Cheap Quick Apple Fix

Like you, your Macintosh is not getting younger. Chances are you cherish it as a bulkhead against the Windows program of world domination, yet worrythat breakdowns and constantly mutating system architecture will make it obsolete and force your defection to the evil empire. Worry no more. The Mac gurus at this shop know everything, can fix anything from old toaster-boxes to the latest supercharged kitchen-sink-included models, and speak in plain English. Plus, they don't mince words about the occasional dogs Apple unleashes on the market.

Macintosh Magic
3004 Guadalupe

Best Columnist, Missing In Action

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.

Austin American-Statesman
305 S. Congress

Best Comeback

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.

KGSR 107.1FM
8309 N. I-35

Best Cry For Help

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.

Channel Austin
1143 Northwestern

Best De-progamming For Gender Roles

Sure, a gal can play MYST and Doom like the best of them, but before the existence of this multimedia maverick we didn't have much of a choice beyond blowing things up. Girl Games, a local company intent on producing interactive edutainment for the young female market (ages 7-17), has been busy designing products that entertain while addressing the issues that concern adolescent girls the most. Their CD-ROM Let's Talk About Me is due out this month, but Girl Games has a rich Web presence, too. Their site plays host to Girls Interwire, an online newsletter written by high school students. Thank goddess for women's intutition.

Girl Games

Best Deejay

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 FM
8309 N. I-35

Best Dell-like Rise To Fame

In a town with one of the highest installed bases of Apple Macintosh computers (witness UT's annual position at the top of the MacWeek 200 survey, with some 12,000 installed), it's no surprise that the nerve center of this two-year-old company is in Austin (okay, it recently moved to Round Rock). Following Dell's footsteps to success, Steve Kahng and company are stunning critics with MacOS computers that are often more cost-effective and innovative than those from Apple itself. Fighting the pains of fast growth with a gutsy, damn-the-torpedos corporate spirit -- typified by their Frank Kozik-designed poster -- it's a good bet that Power Computing will continue to make waves among Mac fanatics.

Courtesy of Power Computing (from a promotional campaign featuring art by Frank Kozik)

Best Editorial Series

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
305 S. Congress

Best Effort To Get Austin Wired

Another nonprofit focusing on online access, Austin Free-Net's mission is to provide the hardware, internet connection, and training necessary for the general public to find all kinds of web-based information that lack of expensive equipment and technical know-how may have previously kept obscure. Starting out by placing computer stations in libraries and low-income housing projects in the central city, Free-Net's directors Sue Beckwith and Jeff Evans plan to have 51 public access stations in locations throughout Austin and Cedar Park by the year's end. We're certainly not the first to commend the group's effort -- the Texas State Library and Archives Commission presented them with a $206,000 grant earlier this year that is sure to make their goal considerably more reachable.

Austin Free-Net
2209 Rosewood

Best Food Story In The Local Daily

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!

Austin American-Statesman
305 S. Congress

Best Hypnotic Radio Station

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.)

Lower Colorado River Authority
3505 Montopolis, 512/473-3200
6550 Comanche Tr., 512/473-3333

Best Local Food Show

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.

Channel Austin
1143 Northwestern

Best Local Television News Expose

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.

3201 Steck

Best New Local Daily

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

The Austin Chronicle
4000 N. I-35

Best Newsletter

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.

In Fact Daily Newsletter
PO Box 3224

photograph by Jana Birchum   Jana Birchum

Best Non-Deity In The Ether

What a friend we have in SubGenius. This is not an Austin-based website, but there are enough freakin' SubGeniuses in Austin to warrant notice for the page of this 15-year-plus nonreligious cult that worships a pipe-smoking salesman named J.R. "Bob" Dobbs. Okay, we confess that at least one staffer is a long-time, high-ranking church member, we're just not saying who!

Best Place To Hang Ten

Location, location, location. If that's the key to launching a successful business, then where exactly do you locate a "cyberspace" cafe? Perhaps the demise of the Eastside's Discovery Incubator could have been foretold, so this year's opening of the WWW Cafe across from the downtown Omni hotel gives new hope to cybercafe fans. Head towards the basement to find them.

WWW Cafe Inc.
1914 Guadalupe

Best Re-focus On The Family

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.

Texas Triangle
609 W. Sixth

Best Reason To Ignore Your Screaming Hangover

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.

705 N. Lamar

Best Reporter

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
305 S. Congress

Best Save

With $325K in federal funding cut from his budget and no local underwriters stepping up to the plate, longtime ACL executive producer Bill Arhos thought his program was a goner. Well-connected music maven Robin Shivers was hired to convince local businesses that underwriting ACL is a smart media buy. Before Shivers even got to work, Ford Trucks rode to the rescue with a whopping $200K and helped save the 22nd season of the program that is the city's best-ever music ambassador.

Austin City Limits
KLRU, 2504-B Whitis

Best Sunday Morning Wake-up

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.

8906 Wall St. #203

Best Talk Radio Show

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.

705 N. Lamar

Best Tv Commercial

Go ahead - make fun of the science guys in glasses and plastic pocket protectors: The look is a total aphrodisiac for at least one of our editors who's gone Net crazy. That appeal didn't escape the folks at Computer Nerds, whose endearingly goofy ad on TV stole our hearts. The thing is, they WILL come out to your home to fix your computer woes, whether you can't get Netscape running because of your modem or just to let you know that your screen is black because you DO have to plug it in. Thank heavens for Computer NERDZ!

Computer Nerdz
2438 W. Anderson, Ste. A-1

Best TV News Format Change

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.

3201 Steck

Best Used Mac Gear

With just a few quick calls to inquire about the availability of a mouse to match a Neanderthal Mac Plus, we learned that there is one place that keeps them, up-keeps them, and sells them at a price way below the competition: Mac Alliance. With their prices, we might not have to wait until next century to upgrade.

Mac Alliance
900 Old Koenig Ln.

Best Virtual Barn Raising

Community groups lacking in software, tech-knowledge and funding can command a World Wide Web presence virtually overnight with the help of the Metropolitan Austin Interactive Network (MAIN), the nonprofit organization known to conduct "web raisings" that can have a site up and running in as little as an afternoon's time. Although not as direct a form of shelter as our Amish brothers and sisters might have erected, the MAIN website has links to many other not-for-profit agencies (whose sites they've probably set up, too), that put essential information -- such as city and state job bank listings, information on subsidized housing, and health and medical advice -- at the fingertips of citizens who need it most.

Austin MAIN (Metropolitan Austin Interactive Network)

Best Web Browser In Black & White

The best in CD-ROM, surfing the wildest websites, helpful guidance on local providers -- The Austin American-Statesman's Harley Jebens is our favorite Information Superhighway Patrolman. Every week in XL Ent., he sends us someplace new, fun, weird, informative, or just different. Thanks, Harley!

Austin American-Statesman
305 S. Congress

Critics: Kids
Critics: Outdoors & Recreation

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