Best of Utah 2010: Media & Politics | Best of Utah | Salt Lake City
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Best of Utah

Best of Utah 2010: Media & Politics



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Best Newshound
Matthew LaPlante, The Salt Lake Tribune

The Salt Lake Tribune
’s LaPlante is a machine who turns out exclusives at the drop of a hat. Whether it’s about the National Security Agency building a new spy base in Utah or the 2009 canal tragedy in Logan, LaPlante works his sources and his material to the bone. His stories on a series of employee suicides at Hill Air Force Base, in particular, was a powerful indictment of a deep-seated malaise. Combined with his award-winning blog, Dispatches, La Plante remains a force to be reckoned with.

Best Acerbic Fly On the Wall
Mike Brown, SLUG

Mike Brown—the SLUG Magazine scribe/doorman/jack-of-all-trades—gets around and tells it like it is. Whether revealing the colorful writing on a bar’s filthy bathroom walls, dressing like a clown to infiltrate a gathering of Juggalos or revisiting the experience of getting hit with a car as a cautionary tale of crazy ex-girlfriends, Brown reports largely on matters most readers wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. We can’t wait to see what he covers next.

Best Political Reporter
Robert Gehrke, The Salt Lake Tribune

As the lead political reporter for The Salt Lake Tribune, Gehrke is a one-man wrecking crew on and off Capitol Hill. He scoops the competition on a regular basis, and during the Legislature, it seems like he’s everywhere. He also has a knack for digging out the absurdity of politics, such as Greg Curtis (in his role as a lobbyist) telling him to “find another fucking boogeyman” during the 2009 legislative session. And his best work is often not in print, but on the Trib’s political blog, where he is more free with his sense of humor.

Best Blog Zombies
Deseret News Bloggers

Whether opinion, news, sports or one of the many parenting blogs, the Deseret News bloggers all seem to follow the same template: They make an observation, usually a personal experience or a recent study, then close out their blog by basically begging for comments. What they avoid is actually saying something that makes people think and comment on their own, as good bloggers tend to do. Even more depressing is the all-too-often echo when nobody actually responds to the question.

Best Dishonest Business Strategy
Deseret News’ “More Mormon”

The Mormon-owned newspaper wants to appeal to Mormon readers, so, to lure readers, it instituted policies and even censored stories—such as those covering local protests against California’s Prop 8 during that heated campaign in 2008. Yet the paper refuses to acknowledge that its plan requires giving readers their news through a celestial prism. At a time when newspapers are on life support, targeting a niche is a smart business move. If only it was done honestly.,

Best Political Blog
The Sausage Grinder

Like a Utah response to Jon Stewart, Provo Daily Herald reporter Joe Pyrah’s blog, the Sausage Grinder, may be the funniest infotainment to come out of Utah (and certainly Utah County). Take, for example, Pyrah’s analysis of former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.’s meeting with the Western Governors’ Association: “Proving once again that if he wants to show up at a suit-and-tie event in a jean jacket, he can, Gov. Huntsman welcomes the Western guvs.” Or offering pointed critiques of short-lived education proposals at the Legislature that would have held students back who didn’t pass standardized reading tests (“In related news, a tanker truck full of Worst Ideas Ever crashed into the Capitol on Thursday”), Pyrah stays on top of his politics, technology and “Whatever I feel like” beat and never lets up with his ruthlessly hilarious commentary.

Best Mormon Law Blog

We love our Latter-day Saints who love to question—whether that be questioning authority, tradition or the law. Blogger Clint Dunaway, of Dayton, Ohio, has proven himself a profound font of prescient questions in a community stereotyped for its obedience. In February, Dunaway asked, “Is it possible to get married early, not delay starting a family, have a large family … pay tithing, pay fast offerings and not put yourself in a financially precarious situation? And if so, why do so many Mormons file for bankruptcy?” Whoa, good question. Dunaway also correctly predicted that the LDS Church’s lack of notice or signage indicating “No Gay Kissing” on Main Street Plaza might put the kibosh on trespassing charges against Derek Jones—a City Weekly staffer—and his boyfriend Matt Aune. He was right. Salt Lake City Prosecutor Sim Gill dismissed the charges for that exact reason weeks later.

Best Local Podcast
Geek Show Podcast

The Geek Show gang won this as handily as they did last year, but something’s changed since that time: The Podcast is more Not Safe For Work (in case you thought NSFW stood for Nimoy, Shatner, Frak and Wookies) than before—which is what you would expect from grown men who drink and play with dolls, er, action figures. Panelists Kerry Jackson, Jeff Vice, Zack Shutt, Leigh George Kade, Scott Pierce and Shannon “Wildcard” Barnson may cuss a little more now, but GSP is still an authoritative, go-to source for sci-fi, comics and videogame news and opinion—heavy on the opinion.
2. A Damn Podcast
3. The Awkward Hour

Best Straight Talk From Real Dudes
I Know Everything Podcast

Adam Sherlock does not want to procreate. Oh, we’ve never met the man, but we know exactly why he and his wife aren’t planning to have kids. It’s just one of countless intimate details the Utah resident shares with listeners on his podcast with Levi Lebo on I Know Everything, an anything-goes spin-off of Sherlock’s A Damn Movie Podcast with Adam Palcher. On its face, the informal talk show about nothing in particular might sound dull, but the two co-hosts are natural-born storytellers—funny, sharp and always game to dish on embarrassing moments.

Best Smoked-Out Fans
La Barra Real

Soccer is not a game you watch on your butt. La Barra Real understand that. In the north end of the Rio Tinto stadium, they can be found from half an hour before Real Salt Lake takes to the pitch until the final whistle, standing and chanting. While the RSL-provided smoke machine wraps them in a fog that can switch colors, Real’s arguably most passionate devotees keep up their heroic support no matter the odds facing their team. At halftime, they dance and sing to recruit new members, all the time proving themselves eloquent and fiery Hispanic ambassadors for Real and for Utah’s brightest and loudest example of this state’s ethnic diversity.

Best Inspirational Blogger
Stephanie Aurora Clark Nielson

We still love Heather “Dooce” Armstrong for her confident wit and ability to make even washing machines seem entertaining, but Stephanie Aurora Clark Nielson takes our breath away each time she writes. The Utah “mommy blogger” started her site in 2005 to share her thoughts on parenting, entertaining, fashion and such. But when a near-fatal plane crash left Nielson with 80 percent of her body covered in severe burns, Nie Nie Dialogues became a powerful focal point in her healing. Think your life is hard? It takes two hours for her to shower, she wears compression gloves around the clock and she can no longer easily embrace her children. Nielson doesn’t use the blog to complain but rather to give thanks and find beauty in unexpected places.

Best Faithfully Green Blog
Green Mormon Architect

Just when you thought there was no diversity in Utah, a blogger popped up that added a little color to the tapestry of Mormon Utah. A little dab of green, that is, from a Salt Lake City architect waging a clever and sincere blog battle to remind readers that Mormons can and do care about stewardship of the planet. From thoughtful updates on newly LEED-certified temples to top lists for being green and LDS—“The stuff in Revelations doesn’t sound so bad if you believe in Global Warming”—this blog—especially when it was being regularly updated—was a refreshing take on why there’s no sin in being a keeper of the faith and a good steward of the planet.

Best Sports Reporter
David James, KUTV 2

He’s on KUTV, he’s on KJZZ, he’s on Fox Sports Net Utah, he’s on KFAN 1320 radio—face it, David James is everywhere. He’s not flashy or brash; James is a throwback to the classic sportscaster who’s more about the game—whatever it may be—than promoting his own agenda or “brand.” Smarts and humor also come into play with James, making him the kind of guy you’d like to talk stats with over beer (or Diet Pepsi) at Lumpy’s.
2. Dave Fox, KUTV 2
3. Mike Runge, Fox 13

Best Citizen Journalist
Holly Richardson

For the past two years, Holly Richardson has blogged as “Holly on the Hill,” where she delves into the political stories of the day and actually reports on issues instead of just stealing from professional journalists. Best of all, her conservative political stance doesn’t devolve into snarky pettiness. She uses facts, and, often, the words of other politicians to make her points. Her blog is a must-read for anyone interested in Utah politics, regardless of political affiliation.

Best Local Food Blog

Stuart Melling’s local food/restaurant blog gets, according to Melling, approximately 600 views per day. That’s pretty darned good for a blog devoted to food and drink in Salt Lake City, but it’s not surprising, since GastronomicSLC reviews are in-depth, intelligent, fair and honest, and typically illustrated with more food snapshots than you can shake a fork at. The team of “amateur” critics writing for GastronomicSLC provides a fresh, unbiased perspective on dining around town.

Best Return From Sports Hiatus
Utah Blaze

The year 2009 was tough for plenty of businesses, and pro sports was no exception. After more than 20 years in operation, the Arena Football League, including the Utah Blaze, was forced to cancel its 2009 season, and it wasn’t clear when—or if—the league would return. But a new leadership group purchased the assets of the old league and has relaunched the league with a combination of old and new franchises. Your Utah Blaze are among the returnees. If you mourned the loss of the chance to experience the high-scoring 50-yard indoor war, weep no longer.

Best Grizzlies Player
Ryan Kinasewich

Like an ice-devouring tornado, Grizzlies Captain Ryan Kinasewich has shredded, goaled and slap-shotted his way into local hockey fame. Besides earning this loving readers’ choice award, the aggressive 26-year-old puckster is also the Grizzlies’ all-time East Coast Hockey League scorer. He’s got points, power and finesse on the ice. He’s also got serious stats—like turning five hat tricks (three goals in one game) in his career with the Grizz—like a puck pimp on ice. Here’s to five more!
2. Mitch O’Keefe
3. A.J. Perry