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Best TV News

WNYT (Channel 13)

While we were supremely sorry to see Ed Dague retire, NewsChannel 13 has made a successful transition to the post-Dague era. New anchor Jim Kambrich fits seamlessly into the evening broadcast team with Lydia Kulbida and Bob Kovachick, and the other anchors (Benita Zahn, Elaine Houston) and reporters (Steve Scoville, Kumi Tucker) are among the best in town. While you’re not going to get your Jerry Springer-esque news jones satisfied here—there are plenty of other options for that—WNYT is the station to turn to for the most interesting, informative and intelligent local newscast.

Best TV News Anchor

Lydia Kulbida
WNYT (Channel 13)

It’s one of the more mysterious TV phenomena: the successful news anchor. However well developed your journalistic skills and camera savvy, if the audience doesn’t believe, trust and like you, you’re dead. Of course, audiences have often loved and trusted morons; we won’t name names, but the Capital Region has had its share of Ted Baxters and Ron Burgundys over the years. Channel 13’s Lydia Kulbida—lucky her—has both the professional skills and the mediagenic personality. Kulbida has also established, as a regular panelist on WAMC’s The Media Project, that she’s smarter and more insightful about both print and broadcast journalism than either the executive editor of the biggest local daily paper or the region’s mighty public radio pooh-bah. She’s a worthy successor to the great Ed Dague.

Mostly fair: Tim Drawbridge. Photo by: Chris Shields

Best TV Weather Anchor

Tim Drawbridge
Capital News 9

Whatever you think of the young, upstart news team, we have strong feelings about the Channel 9 weathermen. Tim Drawbridge, the morning meteorologist, is our fave. His cast is less extreme than the competition’s whiz-bang tropospheric play-by-plays. He’s unafraid to brandish his weatherman clicker and wear double-breasted blazers. But perhaps his most endearing quality is the helpful, albeit geeky, way he explains why weather does what it does without going all Weather Channel on us. And he plays bagpipes.

Honorable mention: Channel 9 weatherman Jay Kendrick, for his relaxed demeanor and soothing delivery.

Best TV Sports Anchor

Dan Murphy
WTEN (Channel 10)

WTEN’s Dan Murphy brings a hard-bitten, caustic edge back to sports reporting. Raised in Poestenkill, he’s a Capital Region classic, his unsmiling persona much like that of the prick principal in the plaid coat whom you’re more than a little afraid of. He’s an agglomeration of bad ties, great sports predictions, inscrutable dryness and lean, bristling commentary. He doesn’t bother with the cutesy, post-Kilborn wordplay of younger sportscasters. He doesn’t try to warm up to you or make friends with the camera. He pulls no punches and tells it like it is, registering disgust or disappointment at professional athletes with barely a twitch of a facial muscle. And you’ll get no warm banter or lilting, cocktail-party laughter out of Dan Murphy during the credits—he’s got a job to do, and he takes it dead seriously, his few smiles never quite reaching his eyes.

Best Daily Newspaper

Daily Gazette

Maybe it’s because we’ve got a weakness for the few local media outlets not owned by a major megacorp; the Gazette stands strong on its own. There’s no fancy compartmentalization of sections, unlike, say, the Times Union. Though its national coverage comes mostly from the Associated Press, its reporting of local news is strong, and it’s unafraid to spell out the facts. That said, the paper’s composition could stand a makeover, and the Web site should let users browse daily stories free of charge.

Best Daily Print Journalist

Paul Grondahl

Paul Grondahl did such a bang-up job in his multipart article on Albany’s Central Avenue, “Broken Dreams, Second Chances,” that we’d fork over a Best Of based on that work alone, even if we’d never heard of the guy before. The author (most recently of I Rose Like a Rocket: The Political Education of Theodore Roosevelt) and longtime Times Union feature writer has no small number of significant and compelling pieces to his credit, but this thorough and often-touching study of Albany’s ragged roadway and its residents—from entrepreneurs to alcoholics—was a particularly well-crafted and inspired bit of daily journalism. (Props, too, to the accompanying photos by Michael Farrell.)

Best Print Imitation of Reality TV

Times Union

The Times Union took a grand stab at a print reality game show when it ran “Singles Serving,” by TU staff writers Steve Barnes and Kristi L. Gustafson, at the end of June. The concept: Three bachelors tried to woo a willing, food-savvy bachelorette with homemade meals. (The article is quick to claim that “the focus of the game is our guys’ kitchen prowess, not whether the bachelorette finds romance with one of them.”) An insider reported to Metroland that this project required at least 20 hours of reporting on both authors’ parts. The resulting monster of an article included recipes, bachelors’ bios, a walk-through for each date and an invitation to readers to vote for their favorite bachelor. What’s next, a Times Union version of Survivor? Picture it. Survivor: Albany—scale the Egg, run across all six lanes of 787, eat at the SUNY Albany campus . . . all right, we’ll stop.

Best Daily Newspaper With the Teensiest-Weensiest News Staff

The Record

The Troy Record has been experiencing an ever-tightening crunch in its newsroom. Reporters have been leaving for other jobs, and JRC, the parent company, doesn’t replace them because, from what we’re told, circulation is too low to warrant it. Right now, there’s one editor-in-chief, one city editor, three copy editors, one night editor, one editorial assistant and a small handful of reporters (three of whom have been yanked from other positions to supplement the news staff). Although the Record uses Associated Press stories to help fill out its state and national pages, all regional coverage is done by the staff. We give the Record news staff props for keeping it going with a dwindling team.

Best News Web Site

Times Union
www.timesunion.com

Need a quick online overview of what’s been happening in the Capital Region over the past week? The best combination of thoroughness and timeliness is found at the Times Union’s Web site, with its attractive, easy-to-use layout. If you’re going back more than a week, however, beware. Leaving aside whether archives should be free, the article search engine isn’t exactly up to Google standards.

Best Arts Magazine

200 Proof Magazine

Form and content: 200 Proof Magazine, launched at the beginning of this year, is striking for both. The magazine features some of the area’s best poets, writers and artists. It’s also something of an art object in itself, with its oversize format, rugged cardboard construction and arresting graphic design. And please don’t whine about the price—elaborate objets d’art don’t come cheap.

Best Morning Radio

WRPI (91.5 FM)

By itself, Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! would be enough to get us out of bed in the morning, but it so happens that this gem of a program is the crown jewel in an entire sparkling broadcast morning on WRPI. From syndicated programming like Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s Counterspin and the politically-socially-spirtually conscious New Dimensions to engaging and eccentric locally produced shows like Barbara Kaiser’s Jazz & . . . , Rezsin Adams’ Nation Magazine (name another radio show that consists solely of a lone voice reading complete articles from left-leaning magazines), Steve Breyman’s On the Barricades, Friday morning’s Latin music show Tropicala y Más, and Gerald Zahavi and Bryan Le Beau’s Talking History, WRPI runs an idiosyncratic gamut. Smart, challenging and tasteful in equal measures, WRPI might just be the best thing that’ll happen to you until lunch.

Best In-Your-Face Reporter

That WRPI News Guy

He doesn’t make a lot of friends among his sources. He doesn’t like to give his name. He doesn’t respect people who don’t like microphones shoved in their faces. He believes in comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable—or at least the second half of that. We’re not sure his approach is always the best, but we have to say this: He tapes meetings no other reporter shows up to, asks the difficult questions and asks them again when they don’t get answered. And the world clearly needs more of that.

Best Forecast If You Need to Know Todays Weather in Nine Different Nearby Locations

Mike Landin’s Regional Forecast
WAMC (90.3 FM)

Maybe you’re a traveling salesman, and today’s calls will take you from Albany to Lake George to the Central Adirondacks to the Champlain Valley to the Berkshires to Ulster County to . . . yikes. You get the picture. That is to say, when you listen to Mike Landin’s exhaustive (exhausting?) forecasts for the entire Northeast, you get the entire picture. The humidity! The visibility! The barometric pressure! The heating degree days! The pollen index! The moon phases! The likelihood that fish will be biting! The highs, lows and chance of precipitation in every subregion of upstate New York and eastern New England! (“Honey, it’s going to be five degrees cooler in the Adirondacks than in Albany! Pack the car!”) OK, we know, weather geeks eat this sort of thing up. And, we admit, we kinda get a kick out of it too—but only when we’re not in too much of a hurry.

Pumping up the volume: (l-r) WSPN’s Brendon Boyle, Ezra Selove, and Hannah Carlen. Photo by: Ellen Descisciolo

Best Music Radio

WSPN (91.1 FM)

As far as we’re concerned, music radio in the Capital Region barely deserves our attention anymore. It’s a plague that continues to sucker-punch the entire country—treating listeners like lowest-common-denominator, mass-market imbeciles—and things aren’t likely to improve anytime soon. For now, we’re turning our radios to small, independent stations, if we’re turning them on at all. A fully student-run operation, Skidmore College’s WSPN is truly a labor of love, as students get no academic credit for their work there and its DJs are volunteers, so it’s doubly impressive that WSPN does so well for itself. To stabilize the changing tastes and fleeting affiliations of student DJs, WSPN’s relies on its wonderfully devoted community DJs. Sadly, this year is the last for the station’s old guard of board members, but an eager new class stands in wait. For those outside WSPN’s broadcast radius, an online feed can be found at www.skidmore.edu/wspn.

Best Radio Show to Have a Good Day To

Hello Pretty City
WRPI (91.5 FM)

This show is at once darling and smart as a whip. It’s awkwardly hosted and frequently goofy, and the hosts positively percolate with delight in the world as they play some of the best music the airwaves have to offer. Like a grown-up Powerpuff Girl, adorable yet spunky Laura Glazer, who cohosts the show with her pals Bret and Brian, is unafraid to play Alice Cooper next to Architecture in Helsinki or Johnny Cash with Tilly and the Wall. Glazer’s high, sweet voice has roused us from slumber many early Tuesday mornings this year, putting smiles on our faces by the time we punched the ol’ Metroland time clock. Hello Pretty City has moved to Wednesday nights for the summer (10 PM-midnight); the effect is the same, just with a nocturnal twist.

Best Bad Local TV Commercials

Martin, Harding & Mazzotti: The Heavy Hitters

I’m sittin’ at home watchin’ Jerry Springer . . . ’cause I don’t feel like workin’ . . . I mean, ’cause I can’t work since I smacked up my truck when I spilled hot coffee in my lap while tryin’ to chain-light my cigarette . . . but look . . . it’s the guys with the baseball bats . . . and they’re going to make those bastards pay! Used to be, you sat home watching daytime TV, and you got plenty of advice on how to clean your floors and spice up ground round. Nowadays, the pitch is that you, too, can turn your latest ankle twist into a lucrative personal-injury case—and no commercials do a better job of capturing the shameless tawdriness of ambulance chasing than those of “the heavy hitters,” Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Whatever the setting (baseball fields, locker rooms, dark shrouds of mist), we just can’t get beyond the fact that the guys (and gal—“Boys, are you ready to go to work?” she demands, smacking her bat in her hand) look more goofy than intimidating. C’mon, folks—surely John Edwards didn’t start this way.

Readers Poll

Best Local TV News
1. WNYT Channel 13

Best Local TV News Anchor
1. Lydia Kulbida
2. John Gray
3. Liz Bishop

Best Local Meteorologist
1. Bob Kovachick
2. Steve Caporizzo

Best Local Sportscaster
1. Rodger Wyland

Best News Radio Station
1. 810 WGY
90.3 WAMC (tie)

Best Local Music Radio
1. WFLY 92.3
2. WEQX 102.7

Best Local Radio DJ
1. Bob Mason
2. Jason Keller

Best Local Publication
1. Metroland

Best Local Arts Coverage
1. Metroland

Best Local Print
Journalist
1. Alan Ilagan

Best Local News Web Site
1. www.timesunion.com

Best Local Arts Web Site
1. www.metroland.net

 

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