2009 Readers Poll
2009 Critics Picks

Jana Birchum

All-Time Winner

He is our Tom Joad with a Leica: Wherever there's a fight so hungry people can eat, he'll be there. Wherever there's a cop roughing up a guy, he'll be there. Wherever there's injustice or people in need, he'll be there, camera in hand, to get the picture that lets us see for ourselves the conflicts and suffering, as well as the courage that so often accompanies them, in vivid, stirring detail. He is Alan Pogue, and for four decades this Austinite has gone seemingly everywhere – from the Eastside to Iraq, the state Capitol to Cuba, colonias in the Valley to post-Katrina New Orleans, Pakistan, Palestine, Israel, Haiti, Chiapas – recording the lives of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary struggles. Texas death row inmates, migrant farm workers, women in the U.S. labor movement, families surviving war in the Middle East, victims of poverty and natural disaster – all of these and more have had their stories told in his eloquent images, which all but pulse with the subjects' heartbeats. His are not the evidence of the dispassionate observer but the advocate for their humanity. Pogue takes photographs because it matters to him, because he cares about the issues and the people whose lives are being affected. Like his mentor, the great Works Projects Administration photographer and UT professor Russell Lee, Pogue gets close to his subjects. And it makes a difference, both in the emotional content of the images and in our response to them. But it isn't just his work as a "witness for justice" that makes Pogue invaluable as an Austin photographer. Without him, you lose loads of local lore and history. Cutting his photographic teeth on The Rag, the legendary local counterculture newspaper that ran from 1966 to 1977, he had occasion to shoot many of the iconic Austin institutions of the day: Armadillo World Headquarters, Les Amis, the Drag, the early years of Esther's Follies. And as staff photographer for The Texas Observer for more than 35 years, he's captured for posterity the follies at the Capitol and City Hall and the portrait of damn near every politico to walk those hallowed halls. His documentation of the city's political and cultural life over the last 40 years is unmatched, a vast treasure of Austin in the constant struggle to become itself. We can only hope he'll keep his eye on us and be there, camera in hand, to record what we're doing for the next 40 as well.

Alan Pogue
Texas Center for Documentary Photography
2104 E. MLK

Best Journalist

Although we give our readers their "BOA" freedom, we confess to having favorite reader choices – especially when you choose one of our Chronicle own. This year it’s a two-for-one, a tie between Jordan Smith and Wells Dunbar for Austin’s Best Journalist. We might say that distinction has been our own secret, but in fact Smith is returning for her second award (2007), and we thought it only a matter of time before City Hall Hustler Dunbar started picking up some hardware. As reporters, they mostly work opposite sides of the street and bring very different styles to that work. Smith is our criminal justice expert (a special shout-out this year for “Believing the Children,” News, March 27, her investigative review of the 1992 Fran’s Day Care case); Dunbar specializes in city politics and City Hall (from noise ordinance nonsense to budget bulimia). But they share sharp reportorial eyes, clear voices, and a visible zest for getting it on the page for you. This "BOA" is their joint, well-deserved award – but we’re all proud you noticed.

The Austin Chronicle
1000 E. 40th

Michael Bartnett

Best Local Author/Poet

A former Air Force brat, now a nationally recognized novelist and all-around good-time gal, Bird has been calling Austin home since the Seventies. For this woman of so many words, we only need a few: acerbic, sardonic, and sharp as a tack. How perfect is that?

Best Local Blog

Since its inception, Austinist has steadily built its readership along with its ever-expanding content. It's earned its cred in digital accolades and is a firm favorite in this city’s lust for local haps and views. Keeping a unique voice delivering news, reviews, and personal columns in easily digestible blurbs ensures the staying power of one of Austin’s must-read, always-in-the-know blogs.


Best Local Blogger

A perennial favorite of politically minded critics and readers, Eileen Smith, In the Pink blogger and editor, covers local and national news with barbed-wire zest tempered by self-deprecating humor, endearing her to the snarkiest fans of politics and pop culture.

Texas Monthly
701 Brazos #1600

Best Local Entertainment Website

Since its inception, Austinist has steadily built its readership along with its ever-expanding content. It's earned its cred in digital accolades and is a firm favorite in this city’s lust for local haps and views. Keeping a unique voice delivering news, reviews, and personal columns in easily digestible blurbs ensures the staying power of one of Austin’s must-read, always-in-the-know blogs.


Best Local News Website

KXAN and KVUE are smart enough to know how to put together terrific news websites. Though distinctly different, each has an excellent staff of professionals, working hard to make the transition from live-on-air reports to having all the news at your fingertips. It's the wave of the future, newsies, so congrats to both KXAN and KVUE for providing such user-friendly, up-to-the-minute news.

3201 Steck

908 W. MLK

Best Local Non-'Chronicle' Publication

Maybe it's just that our sense of humor never left the dorm, but we concur totally. Let's let the "largest student-produced humor publication in the U.S." speak for itself: "Frost Bank Tower: Still the Tallest Building in Austin. Take That! Austin 360 Condos"; "If only I could find a dorm-dwelling guitarist to offer a record deal"; "Diploma Buyback$ Now"; "Cholos hold frat-themed party"; and our office's personal fave: "Shorts-wearing man not cold." That's some funny shit, y'all.

Texas Travesty
2500 Whitis

Best Local TV News

Good reporting takes time, and Austin’s ABC affiliate knows to give its reporters what they need. Whether it’s letting Elise Hu spend all day on the Legislature floor or maintaining Angela Kocherga in their Mexico City bureau, there’s a lot more going on here than five-second sound bites to camera.

3201 Steck

Best Locally Produced TV Show

Hands down the best place to catch a show, either live in the studio on UT’s campus or from the comfort of your home. For 35 seasons, Austin City Limits has produced the most important and engaging music program on television, consistently raising the bar with its genre-spanning artist selections and local spotlight. Don’t miss this year’s remarkable episodes of Willie & the Wheel, Okkervil River, and Allen Toussaint.

Austin City Limits
KLRU, 2504-B Whitis

Best Music Station

Can we begin to extol KGSR's virtues? After almost 20 years, they've landed Austin like a big-ass bass, hook, line, and sinker. It's easy to take for granted the Austin-centric programming, but venture too far away, and you'll find that most towns aren't blessed with Patti Griffin, Roky Erickson, Hot Club of Cowtown, and the Gourds popping up regularly enough to make you feel right at home. KGSR reflects Austin. Let the readers speak.

KGSR 107.1FM
8309 N. I-35

Best Photographer

Timing is everything for this intrepid photographer, a frequent Chronicle contributor, who has an uncanny knack for showing us the irony in the mundane (a man on a stoop, a woman out for a jog) – the scenes most of us take in with nary a thought. His deep portfolio of photos ranges from funny to fun, gut-punching to soothing. Austin is fortunate to have this soulful Scotsman in its midst.

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Public-Access TV Show

Shasta and Arcie, last year's "Best Of" cover girls, aren't resting on their laurels. They continue to stick it to the man while their clothing sticks to them in all the right places. And while you are illuminated about the Illuminati or schooled about chem trails, you also learn to cook up something delicious. Nothing helps the bitter pill of conspiracy go down better than hoecakes.

The Cola Sisters
PO Box 302102

Best Radio Music Deejay

On one hand, he says a lot of the things we think about saying, and on the other hand, he says the things we wouldn't dream of. So Austin has a prurient interest in tuning in to his morning show every day, and we sometimes even wish he hadn't taken us where he did … but we go. Willingly. With his beauteous and wicked co-host, Deb, and a rowdy playlist, Jason Dick can start your morning off like no one else can.

Jason Dick
101X FM
8309 N. I-35

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Radio Talk/News Host

It hardly seems like shit stirring when it is dealt in such melodious Queen's English, but the whip-whackin', talk-smackin', Jason-crackin' half of the 101X morning team can dish it as well as take it. Seems a theme for this miss, as her previous gig – the meat between Mix's JB and Sandy sandwich, and won in a Be-a-DJ contest, no less – was often spent calling out the men on their BS, just like she does now, as one of the most smartass (emphasis on the smart) voices on Austin radio.

Deb O'Keefe
101X FM
8309 N. I-35

Best Sportscaster

Twenty years of the "Best of Austin," and now 20 years of Mike Barnes as KVUE’s voice of UT football. Yup, he’s been covering the Longhorns since Mack Brown was still a Tarheel. While the view from the stands may have changed, Mike’s still the guy who loves a tailgate and a game.

Mike Barnes

John Anderson

Best Sportswriter

Considering our lack of professional teams, Austin sure does like to talk sports. And one writer in particular does just that very well: Cedric Golden. With his no-nonsense style and careful coverage – of everything from the Longhorns to the recent Testosterone Festival – he’s clearly on his A-game. We may sass the denizens of the Bat Cave on the lake, but the Statesman has itself a Golden egg here.

Cedric Golden
Austin American-Statesman
305 S. Congress

Best Talk/News Station

Two weeks ago, KUT celebrated its 51st anniversary of broadcast, and if there were any lingering questions over how vital Central Texas’ public radio station continues to be, one only has to look to the ongoing controversy over recent programming changes for the answer: Yes, people still care. A lot. KUT, a charter member of National Public Radio, offers a mix of both national and local programming. It was one of the first stations to pick up All Things Considered, NPR's flagship news program in 1971, and since then, such nationally beloved shows as This American Life and Car Talk command KUT airtime alongside such homegrown shows as Latino USA, the nationally syndicated Latin issues program hosted by Maria Hinojosa on the UT campus. Hinojosa is just one of many personalities that have come to feel like family for KUT listeners. It’s the nature of radio that, going on voice alone, we fill in the blanks for the faces, and feel a closer kinship for it. Not to mention the fact that you can tell the time by who's purring in your ear: Who needs a sundial when you have KUT's Morning Edition host Jennifer Stayton on the morning commute and Bob Branson, with his rush-hour traffic reports, on the way home? But it’s the music hosts, with their hours-long blocks of programming, that Austinites have grown especially attached to, hence the citywide uproar over the significantly reduced hours of KUT mainstays Larry Monroe and Paul Ray and the canceling of Eklektikos host John Aielli’s podcast, Aielli Unleashed. All three radio personalities have received "Best of Austin" awards over the years and have come to emblematize KUT. But rocky economic times and flat listenership – we'll leave be the conspiracy theories – have resulted in a not-so-subtle shuffling of all three if not out the door then very near the frame, to the mighty wrath of longtime listeners. Then again, there's a (quieter) contingent that's pleased at the opportunity for new voices at the station. The Chronicle is of course no stranger to public blowback when a formula is tweaked, so we’re on the fence about the changes. Here's what we know: When KUT began broadcasting 51 years ago, Austin looked a lot different. The city and the station have grown up together; truth be told, both are going through some growing pains right now. And that's okay. We couldn't quit either one of you if we tried.

KUT 90.5FM
300 W. Dean Keeton

John Anderson

Best TV Anchor

TV personalities come and go, but Maggio's been a steady anchor for Austin since the mid-Eighties – a monumental feat in the fickle TV news business. The reason for her staying power? She's pure Austin, man, and Austin loves Maggio.

Judy Maggio
3201 Steck Avenue

Best TV Reporter

Has there ever been a year that KVUE's Quita Culpepper didn't win best TV reporter in town? Yeah, okay, there was – seven years ago. What is it about her that we love so very much? Is it her sassy, no-nonsense style? The fact that her enthusiasm for her job shines through her reports and from her anchor desk on Weekend Daybreak? Maybe it's her role as intrepid tester of all things as-seen-on-TV on the "Does It Work Wednesday" segment? It's all these things (and more!) that get us tuning in and turning on to Culpepper year after year.

Quita Culpepper

Best Weatherperson

No fair-weather friend he: KXAN's Spencer is enshrined in the local community like no other. He brings a visible, weather-nerd excitement to even the most mundane forecast, and we count on him during real "weather events" (remember those?). Throw in his beaming demeanor and tonnage of volunteer work, and you get a tornado of goodness.

908 W. MLK

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