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Best Radio Station
The Planet 94.3
Even in a year of changes (from WNFZ to the Planet, a change in ownership, Shane Cox coming in as program director), 94.3 still managed to knock off the defending champ, WIVK. The format was hardened up just a bit, to feature more Pearl Jam and less of the Cardigans, but there's also been more classic alternative rock (whoever thought that phrase would see print?) like the '80s' U2, the Cure, and old REM. It's the most forward-looking commercial station in town, but then, that's not so hard.
Runners Up: WXVO, WIMZ
Best Radio Talk Show
Hallerin Hill, WNOX AM/FM
One of the funnier things you'll hear on local radio is some ticked-off caller accusing WNOX's Hallerin Hill of only airing views he agrees with. In fact, morning radio's gregarious, relentlessly upbeat kingpin is if anything too indulgent of those with, um, unorthodox views. He recently spent the better part of three hours debating the possibility of a grand conspiracy to control the weather. It's not all in fun, eitherHill takes his position as forum-provider seriously. He gives even the most improbable no-hope candidates for local office the chance to present their platforms in more detail and with less condescension than any other media outlet in town. Sure, he can get preachy, and sometimes his shilling for sponsors is wearing, but overall his show is a class act and an engaging one at that.
Runners Up: Mike Keith's Sports Talk, Phil and Billy
Best TV News/Best TV News Anchor/ Best TV Sports Anchor
WBIR Channel 10/Bill Williams/Bob Kesling
Channel 10 dominated its categories as decisively as it does the quarterly Arbitron ratings. When it comes to TV news, Knoxville loves the "Straight From the Heart" crew. Tellingly, the WBIR news department's strongest competition for "Best News Show" came from the station's own Live At Five broadcast. And who do viewers trust most to tell it like it is? Bill Williams, of course, the earnest, grandfatherly anchor with the soothingly dramatic voice. Williams will be honored this year by the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, but it doesn't take a plaque to know he's long since become a key part of East Tennessee life. Sports guru Bob Kesling rounded out the WBIR near-sweep, a testament to his combination of good ol' boy affability and informed commentary.
Runners Up: News Live At Five, WATE; AnchorLori Tucker, Kim Stephens; Sports AnchorJim Wogan, Mark Packer
Best TV Weather
Channel 6's Matt Hinkin
You have to be able to trust the men and women who tell you about the weather; their judgments affect our everyday comings and goings. Knoxville trusts Matt Hinkin and the 6 Eyewitness Storm Team to shoot them straight. Maybe it's the Six-Degree Guarantee that tells us Matt puts his money where his Doppler is. Maybe it's the fact that this nine-year Channel 6 veteran from Topeka, Kan., is just such a solid upstanding young man that you can't help but believe him.
Runners Up: Todd Howell, Margie Ison
Best Radio DJ
Phil Williams, WIMZ
Why do we continue to love Phil, even as we continue to grow ever-more weary of the hopelessly tired classic rawk warhorses flogged by his station, 103.5 WIMZ? (And just what exactly makes Foghat classic, anyway?) Maybe it's because unlike most of the drive-time gabbers out there, Phil's schtick is a part of his naturally gregarious persona, not just a shrill, cynical put-on. There's something charming and genuinely funny about his Mel-Blanc-meets-Jerry-Clower routine, even if we do have to sit through yet another spinning of "Freebird" to hear it.
Runners Up: Shane Cox, T.K. Townsend
We think you, the voting public, showed remarkable taste in selecting historian/critic/reporter/tale-teller Neely for the third year in a roweven if he is a Metro Pulse staff writer. J.N.'s talents are abundantly evidenthis encyclopedic historical knowledge, his incisive wit, his way with a good yarn. But what really sets him apart is perspective, his knack for looking at subjects from an angle the rest of us just didn't see. As evidence, we submit his weekly "Secret History" column from this very publication, or any of the (many) stories that carry his byline every month in the same.
Runners Up: Sam Venable, Ina Hughes