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Media Critic's Picks 

BEST AFTERNOON DRIVE-TIME RADIO SHOWMatt & Ramona, WLNK-FMIt's irreverent to the core, but listening to this show is the perfect way to sit in traffic. Matt's the hyper one, Derek is the neutral zone, and Ramona has personality plus, girlfriend.

BEST POPULAR MUSIC RADIO STATIONWPEG-FMTop 40, top schmorty. The kids are alright with hip-hop these days, whether they're black, white, yellow, or purple. Jocks like Mr. Incognito and DJ Storm stay ahead of the curve.

BEST CLASSICAL MUSIC STATIONWDAV-FMWith live classical music and a more soothing way to do the morning commute with Mike McKay, long may they roll over, Beethoven.

BEST TALK/NEWS RADIO STATIONWFAE-FM90.7 excels with that dying news format: longer-form local reporting and journalists that win buckets of awards every year. Plus, we love NPR programs that add a little civility to the madness out there.

BEST RADIO PERSONALITYSheri Lynch, WLNK-FMYou could almost be over her success and the estrogen-laced morning show, but now she's even an author. She's Charlotte's best export.

BEST MORNING DRIVE-TIME RADIO SHOWWBT-AMQuit howling if you like those two-man teams who laugh too much at each other's jokes. Sometimes you just need the news, weather, traffic and some morning chat, courtesy of Al and Stacey.

BEST SPORTS TALK RADIO SHOWPrimetime with the Packman, WFNZ-FMIt's kind of weird to have this category because there's only one sports radio station in Charlotte, but so it goes. Timely guests and a variety of topics make this car go. A challenge to the boys: Go one week without anyone screaming "you suck" on the Whiner Line. I dare you.

BEST LOCAL TV NEWSCASTWSOC-TVCan't wait to hear the howls on this one. I'm going on ratings this year, folks, and my take is that the longtime news leader is edging in baby steps away from the crime format, due in part to news director Robin Whitmeyer. At least, that's what I think I'm seeing.

WORST LOCAL TV NEWSCASTWCCB, Fox News RisingThe folks who bring you soft news and Mark Mathis tried to do it again in the AM, but despite anchor changes (see Richard Spires, below) and a little more seasoning, that deal still ain't rising.

BEST LOCAL TV ANCHORJohn Snyder, WCNC-TVHe may not have the marquee 6 and 11 gig, but he's personable, has great pipes, and you can just tell he's been around the block. Wish we'd see him more.

BEST NEWS ANCHOR WE SHOULD SEE MORE OFShannon Bream, WBTVOK, the 5pm news is nothing to sneeze at, we know. But this anchor-reporter who used to be an attorney adds some spark to a newscast, and should be doing more of them. We can almost forgive her for being in beauty pageants, too.

BEST LOCAL TV METEOROLOGISTSteve Udelson, WSOC-TVNo hype, and cool under forecasting pressure. It's taken a while, but he grows on you.BEST NATIONAL TV SHOW WITH A CHARLOTTE CONNECTIONThe Super BowlI know Kwame Jackson, The Apprentice runner-up, had Charlotte roots (see next category), but seeing the black and blue almost beat New England was the sh**.

BEST CHARLOTTEAN ON A REALITY SHOWKwame JacksonFirst, we had Clay, then the GQ-dressed, Harvard grad from Charlotte almost won the Donald's job on The Apprentice. Makes us much prouder than some idiot who eats pig testicles on Fear Factor.

BEST NATIONAL CABLE NETWORK BASED IN CHARLOTTESpeed ChannelBased in Pineville, the relocated Speedvision has cornered the market on racing coverage and takes advantage of Charlotte-area experts, hosts, and behind-the-scenes crews for its programming.

BEST LOCAL TV SPORTS ANCHORChuck Howard, WCNC-TVHe's at the track and the football game, not back watching it on the monitors in the sports office. He's a pro in a market with local sports coverage that shrinks as time goes by. (Honorable Mention: News 14 Carolina Sports Staff. Their sports team may not be household names in the market, but they outshone the bigger boys during the Super Bowl.)

BEST LOCAL TV NEWS REPORTERStuart Watson, WCNC-TVHis low-key delivery may be deceiving, but Watson works long and hard with the investigative team to turn great stories, as witnessed by a Peabody Award this year.

BEST LOCAL NEWSPAPER REPORTEREric Frazier, Charlotte ObserverAs a columnist on family issues, Frazier doesn't disappoint; plus, his stories on the aftermath of a Statesville wreck that killed seven joyriding teens and a series on discrepancies in Ritalin prescriptions between black and white children were compelling work.

BEST LOCAL COLUMNISTTommy Tomlinson, Charlotte ObserverT-Squared's insights into both the big issues and everyday life have just enough Southern flavor to keep us happy. Is he officially the new Kays Gary yet?

BEST COLUMNIST WHO'S STILL HIGHLY POPULAR DESPITE EDITORS' ATTEMPTS TO HIDE HIMDoug Robarchek, Charlotte ObserverWeek after week, for years, Robarchek has cranked out his odd combination of low and high humor, mini-short stories, limericks, you name it, delighting or grossing out readers and winning awards out the wazoo. If you think that's easy to do, just try it. His editors keep him safely out of sight of readers for some reason (our guess is a mix of jealousy and spinelessness), but he still provides some of the city's most fun water cooler talk. -- John GroomsLOCAL COLUMNIST YOU'RE SICK OFDannye Romine Powell, Charlotte ObserverShe always "wins" this one, but I single her out this year for suggesting that women send developer Dee Dee Harris $50 to make her gaping hole on Park Road fill up with a Saks Fifth Avenue.

BEST LOCAL CRITICPerry Tannenbaum, Creative Loafing(No bribes or coercion went into the selection of this pick.) Other theater critics may come and go, or just be part-time elsewhere, but Perry's knowledge of the local performing arts scene and beyond translates into insightful reviews. Plus, he was the only local arts critic to explain what really happened in all the hoop-de-doo at Charlotte Rep.

LOCAL CRITIC YOU'RE SICK OFSean O'Connell, South Charlotte WeeklyO'Connell's showy, I-know-everything attitude too often bumps up against the reality of his shallow grasp of film history, while his attempts at humor are, we suppose, funny to somebody. I give him 1-and-a-half stars. -- John Grooms

WORST MEDIA FIASCOThe Fall Of Richard SpiresWBT-AM's smart firing became WCCB-TV's dumb hiring, as the radio host resurrected as TV host imploded and resigned amid domestic abuse charges, bad check charges, and not showing up for a court appearance. Yikes.

WORST MEDIA IDEAThe Buzz, Charlotte ObserverIn a puzzling display of faux populism, the daily's editorial section added a better-edited version of Rhino Times' Sound of the Beep. The result has been the degradation of a formerly respectable op-ed page. Using valuable columnist space for readers' short, anonymous rantings -- rarely as witty as the callers believe and often ignorant to the core -- is a criminal waste of that section's limited space. A newspaper of record's editorial section should be an oasis of thoughtful analysis of current issues -- and that's what the Observer's used to be before The Buzz effectively sent the section into the toilet. -- John Grooms

WORST LOCAL MEDIA FLOGGING OF AN EVENTWachovia Golf ChampionshipIf local media outlets spent this much airtime and pages getting people to register to vote and go to the polls, the result would be mind-boggling. It's an exciting event for the city, but geez.

BEST STORY NO ONE IS DOINGCharlotte Bobcats ApathyThe NBA Bobcats are here, and the arena is going up, but how many people do you know who care, or who are buying season tickets? Sure, I know they haven't started playing yet, but that dead silence you're hearing is the lack of buzz. Come on, reporters: Get out of the "Center City," put down the orange pom-poms, and find out if the rest of us care.

LOCAL ISSUE THAT NEEDS MORE ATTENTIONTeacher EquityDespite years of yapping about equity and hundreds of millions of dollars bringing inner city school buildings up to snuff, what's going on inside them has changed little. The best, most experienced teachers are still teaching at the whitest, most affluent schools while low income kids make do with higher numbers of inexperienced teachers. It's the biggest issue in local education, and it needs more attention from the school board. -- Tara Servatius

LOCAL ISSUE WE'RE SICK OFWhere To Put SchoolsThe Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board's main obsession this year seems to have been where to locate new schools. The board is so afraid to offend anyone by expanding in the wrong place that it has virtually become paralyzed as suburban schools overflow. In the process, it has wasted endless amounts of time obsessing over school construction issues that affect only a handful of schools. Get over it and just build the damn things already. -- Tara Servatius

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