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Best of Utah

Best of Utah 2009: Media & Politics

Salt Lake City's news scene.




Nineveh Dinha

Born in Sweden with Middle-Eastern roots, you don’t get much more exotic in the Salt Lake City TV market than Nineveh Dinha—you also don’t get this many incorrect spellings of a name on a write-in ballot (among the funniest: “Ninny Divinni”). Dinha was already an Edward R. Murrow news award winner in Arizona before she joined Fox 13 last year, but it didn’t prepare her for City Weekly’s prestigious new Best TV News Hottie prize: “Me?! The girl who was bullied all through elementary, middle and high school voted TV News Hottie? Get out of here! You’re messin’ with me, right?” No way, Ninny.
2. Chris Vancour, ABC 4
3. Kerri Cronk, Fox 13

Radio From Hell, X96
Radio From Hell
is a radio-land miracle. Where else can one find so many disparate features like infrequent interviews with hosts Bill and Kerry’s bastard child Kyle or daily boners? Or how about Punk’s Movies, where Punk treats listeners to a sampling of the creme-de-la-dregs of cinema, like the little known indie gem, Ninja Cheerleaders? And, yet what is most miraculous is that such an ecelectic array of RFH features are strung together with all the humor you expect and none of the typical ass-hat, disc jockey sound effects and shenanigans. Credit here is due to the incredible triumvirate of Kerry, Bill and Gina. Whether it’s Kerry explaining how conversations with check-out clerks must go because no one cares that you gave up on carbonated beverages six months ago, or Bill interjecting in a session between a caller and love-psychic Margaret Ruth to bolster the caller’s confidence by getting her to repeat that her ex is a “douche-nozzle,” or Gina’s never ending crusade against being labeled a cougar, the cement that holds the bricks of X96’s Radio From Hell together are the combined forces of KBG.
2. Radio West, KUER 90.1
3. Maximum Distortion, KRCL 90.9

Gavin Sheehan,

TV news stations are often out to lunch on the local scene, which is why folks are surprised KUTV 2’s Gavin Sheehan stays up to date on the latest in Salt Lake City arts and entertainment—if they discover him at all. Not sure if his co-workers are jealous much, but the station’s Website doesn’t include Sheehan on its main blog roll, instead burying him in the games section (good luck finding it). Such neglect is a shame, considering the subjects that populate Sheehan’s writing. He ventures off the beaten path to score interviews with, say, the local designer behind “SL,UT,” or a couple of bands whose gear got stolen while they were sleeping. He attends every downtown gallery stroll and tries to feature new artists each month. Bottom line: Sheehan cares. And, unfortunately, these days that’s pretty rare.
UPDATE: Gavin's Underground now blogging for City Weekly!

Mark Koelbel, KUTV
More than just another pretty face, KUTV 2 anchorman Mark Koelbel is not afraid to step out from behind the desk and get his hands dirty—as he did while covering the 2007 Crandall Canyon Mine rescue operation near Huntington. Koelbel has a knack for marshalling the technical aspects of difficult stories that often elude lesser minds, yet brings a human touch to the often robotic world of TV journalism. Plus, he looks very happy to be playing the drums in that YouTube video. Rock on, Mark!
2. Dan Evans, Fox 13
3. Bob Evans, Fox 13
Chris Vanocur, ABC 4

Like any institution and ABC 4 reporter Chris Vanocur has his endearing mannerisms. Whether it’s his folksy delivery, his aw-shucks grins when hanging out with the Guv, or the way he punches home his on-camera deliveries with carefully chosen props, it’s always a pleasure to marvel at his time-tested performances. While the glory-days of his Winter Olympics bribery exclusive are long behind him, he’s still trundling out banner-headlined exclusives on the Legislature, the liquor laws and the LDS Church that have other hacks scratching their head at how he does it. While some question just how exclusive some of his stories are, we cry sour grapes. When Vanocur says it’s an exclusive, that’s good enough for us.
2. Nineveh Dinha, Fox 13
3. Rod Decker, KUTV 2

The Provo Daily Herald

The California Supreme Court’s decision to strike down an anti-marriage law that discriminated against gays and lesbians sent ripples throughout the homophobic community—particularly in Utah. Within hours of the court’s announcement, Utah’s daily newspapers’ message boards filled up with the usual anti-gay/pro-gay babble. (Interestingly, the most horrifying, send-the-queers-to-the-gas-chambers bigoted statements appeared on The Salt Lake Tribune’s site, with the Deseret News’ site apparently frequented only by the somewhat unhinged.) The Herald’s message board, however, included the highest proportion of gay-supportive message of the three dailies. Lest anybody get the idea that an outbreak of sanity had descended on Happy Valley, a Jan. 2 Herald editorial and Web poll showed broad support for Facebook’s decision to remove a photo of Provo mom Heather Farley breast-feeding her child in a flower garden. Pro-equality, but not pro-breast—who says consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds?

Hope Woodside, Fox 13
Next year, Hope Woodside will have to give points to the other anchors. This marks her 12th successive win. More than a TV anchor, Woodside has become a phenomenon with her own fanbase that carefully tracks her wardrobe night in and out. Those who watch News at Nine with the sound off, however, are missing some good journalism authoritatively delivered. As other TV news stations continue turning the anchor merry-go-round, the friendly Woodside is likely only to cement her position as the trusted face of Utah TV news.
2. Mary Nickels, KUTV 2
3. Kerri Cronk, Fox 13


Lord help us ever since our reality was taken over by hostile beings from a strange world called the blogosphere. A strange dimension, which, while providing its share of fun, creative and witty bloggers also opened up a world of “citizen journalists” covering the political beat from their mother’s basement study, dumping their editorial rage and uncorked quiet desperation out into the interweb for all to see and marvel at, and be disgusted by. Thankfully, one site is chucking away with the weblog and running a site aiming for real everyman/woman journalism. Richard Markosian started after leaving the corporate world to start a documentary filmmaking career. Since creating, his site’s emphasis has been on local stories by local people. With contributors ranging from pole-dance instructors to Salt Lake City Councilman Soren Simonsen, the site not only embraces citizen journalism, but community journalism. The site editorializes and throws its own opinion around, but the agenda is clearly spelled out. And the format is a nice blend of text and video. Like from another world, this is how citizen journalism was meant to be.

Jerry Sloan & Hot Rod Hundley

The professional sports world is, if nothing else, mercurial. The jersey you buy today may bear the name of someone who’ll be traded tomorrow, and coaches are treated like fast-food packaging. So it’s impressive to note the rock-solid foundation on which the Utah Jazz have been built, both on the bench and behind the microphone. This season, long-time coach Jerry Sloan become the first coach in NBA history to lead a single franchise to 1,000 wins. And just weeks later, veteran broadcaster Hot Rod Hundley marked his 3,000th game as a Jazz announcer. Makes that Lou Gehrig guy look like a minor-leaguer.

John Hollenhorst, KSL 5

After nearly three decades in the business, you might wonder when KSL 5’s John Hollenhorst might start getting cranky. Or burned out. Neither appears to be the case. Hollenhorst is a true journeyman of the news trade—thorough, balanced, with a keen sense of where he’s going with a story, instead of seeming to make it up as the video rolls. His coverage of last year’s tedious raid on the FLDS compound in Texas was the best on local TV; he remained cool, knew his topic and grabbed a couple of scoops in the process. Hollenhorst can even make a water conservation story sound compelling. Now that’s some skill.

Fox 13

Many posture that local TV news affiliates are a joke, but while Fox 13’s fun-loving crew often makes us laugh, their antics accentuate rather than detract from the quality of their broadcast. From Big Budah’s jolly approach to monster truck rallies and home gardening expos on Good Day Utah to evening anchors who seem downright approachable, Fox 13 proves that reporters can do serious work without taking themselves too seriously.
2. KUTV 2
3. KSL 5

Damon Yauney, Fox 13
When he started with Fox in 2001, Damon Yauney seemed shy bantering with anchors on Good Day Utah. But over the years, he’s become a veritable force of nature alongside Dan Evans and Kerri Cronk. With calm confidence and gentle wit, he manages to smoothly segue from Big Budoh’s antics to his weather updates. Maybe having a lead in a Murray City production of Oklahoma a few years back gave him a boost. His chiseled bod and handsome looks also don’t hurt. But it was probably his pet segments that pushed him over the top this year. When he gets all sweet and cuddly with puppies and kittens looking for a home, what’s not to love?
2. Kevin Eubank, KSL 5
3. Jodi Saeland, Fox 13

David James, KUTV 2
It seems like James has had a stranglehold on this category for ages, but it wasn’t that long ago that he usurped regular winner Mike Runge. And all he does to keep his edge is to keep working: as a broadcaster for KUTV 2, as host of Jazz flagship radio station KFNZ’s morning show, as host of Jazz pre- and post-game television programs. His quick wit gives him a distinctive flavor in an over-saturated sports-radio market, while his casual charm makes him a natural for TV. Somehow, in a world where sports fandom can often seem obnoxious, he makes it seem OK to be a smart, reasonable lover of the games.
2. Dave Fox, KUTV 2
3. Wesley Ruff, ABC 4


In the age of MySpace, local artist Jake Trimble had an idea for something revolutionary, something that was online and collaborative, but that was a little more like “ourspace.” The creation was the Website, a site where people share poems, sketches, photos, even thoughts— mostly random thoughts. Trimble drew the name of the site from a submission he received that read simply: “In a car with two girls, its 1 a.m. And I kinda feel like shit. This is nice; this is summer.” Like all submissions, it is posted without the name of the contributor—a purposeful decision by Trimble, which not only lends the art anonymity but also something universal. Many submissions are photos of scrawls from diaries or notebooks, light sketches or single line poems. The site proves that anonymous Internet commentary can actually be something beautiful, and owned and enjoyed by everybody.

We decoded X96’s secret to success years ago, but let’s reiterate: It’s as much about the personalities as the music, if not more so. The alternative-rock station’s mix of the new and the old obviously strikes all the right chords with music fans, but without the DJs, a personable lot free of smarmy “I’m in radio!” satin-jacket vibes, it wouldn’t work nearly as well—just ask the other stations that play most of the same tunes to half as many listeners. “I think X96 has a great connection with our listeners, and we’re always able to provide what they want on a local level,” says program director Todd Nuke’Em. “Kerry, Bill, Gina, Corey, Andy, Portia and the rest of us have our own unique interests and personalities to add to the music that we play.”
2. KRCL 90.9
3. KUER 90.1

Leland Freeborn

Just before you pass the small, sagebrush town of Parowan on Interstate15, an extraordinary vision of a blossoming radioactive cloud rises before you. Dominating half of a billboard like a flashback to a 1950s Cold War nightmare, it promotes survival plans for the post-atomic bomb era. Those plans are apparently penned by local Leland Freeborn, aka the Parowan Prophet. While others in the prophet business keep to themselves and scorn publicity like the plague, it’s nice to see some folk taking their, shall we say, colorful views on the road—literally.

The Blanding Values Committee

Since 1989, a sculpture by artist Joe Pachak representing a Hopi fertility god graced the entrance to Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum—that is, until a plucky group of local busybodies got fed up with the sight of it. The reason? Like every self-respecting fertility god, it has a penis. To be precise, what the abstract carving really has is a knobby protrusion, but the mere suggestion of male genitalia was enough for the Blanding Values Committee, and they demanded the sculpture’s removal. Park management complied by moving the sculpture to a remote location in the park, going to show that Blanding is not just a place—it’s also a process.

Jeff Robinson, KCPW 88.3

After all the upheaval and departures at KCPW, the arrival in August of Morning Edition host and news director Jeff Robinson signaled a new voice on the airwaves. A former TV anchor and reporter from Pocatello, Idaho, Robinson’s youthful features clash with his odd mixture of gravelly yet nasal tones. At the edges of his accent, you can hear so many worlds trying to burst out. A one-time resident of Virginia and California, there’s a definite good ol’ country boy swing to some of his vowels that makes tuning into KCPW sound at times more like an Appalachian hoedown than a news broadcast in the Beehive State.

John Weston Osburn

City Weekly
regularly receives letters from folks in the pokey—generally extremely earnest, sometimes well-written, but invariably far too long for publication. Few incarcerated letter writers, however, display wit and way with words of one John “Weston” Osburn, who wrote in to tell not of “some egregious abuse of power, some travesty of institutional racism or heinous incident of police brutality,” but to complain of a toothache (“My poor old folks paid good money once to straighten out the choppers, and now some sadistic apron-wearing maniac right out of Little Shop of Horrors is going to leave me looking like a meth-ravaged fiend.”). Those of us who can barely function with a loose filling could only marvel at Osburn’s ability to maintain a sense of humor about the whole thing. We hope his teeth found relief.

Let’s Go to Utah, Dave Chisholm

Dave Chisholm is a modern day Renaissance man. A classically trained multi-instrumentalist and grad school scholar, he recently revealed another one of his talents with Let’s Go To Utah, a comic book featuring the rather ghoulish adventures of characters based on real-life figures from Chisholm’s world. Besides offering Salt Lake City readers the novelty of seeing familiar people and places in vibrant 2-D, Utah is one hell of an entertaining five-part series. The plot unfolds like a gripping TV series—or, as Chisholm prefers, an epic song. He sets the tone. He controls the pace. Are you ready for the ride?