I asked Xpress movie critic Ken Hanke what sets a good movie review apart from the rest. "This may sound a little pretentious, but [it] has to be entertaining to read, and the reviewer needs to have some kind of background in film." With seven film books to his credit, several in use as college texts, Hanke is definitely well prepared for his work.
"One of the things I like about film over just about any other art form is the fact that you can take every other art form and fuse it into a film," he observes. Xpress readers seem to agree, having fused their arts-writer votes into a Best-of-Asheville Oscar for the movie man. -- MB
Perennial winner Susan Reinhardt was willing to hazard a guess about the reason for her continued popularity. "I think people appreciate when a columnist isn't afraid to be self-deprecating ... and when you have a closet full of wacky, wonderful relatives and parade them out in public, they can relate." A nursing-school dropout, Reinhardtfell into journalism, working for papers in Athens, Myrtle Beach and Spartanburg (where a coroner took her to the morgue and "showed me a hand in a bucket. I never wanted to cover the police beat again.") Her penchant for human-interest stories segued into writing the column now published in a couple of dozen papers. Fans will be cheered to learn that Reinhardt's best-of collection, Only Hussies Wear Blue Eye Shadow, is due out this fall. -- MB
"I've always wanted to be a writer," confesses Xpress scribe Brian Sarzynski. "I just know I want to write -- and make a living at writing." Before turning to journalism, Sarzynski worked a number of political and education-oriented jobs, both in the U.S. and Europe. It was his profile of the state's divergent policies on gambling and beach bingo ["Keep your eye on the ball," June 21, 2000 Xpress] that first earned him notice as a writer, and lead to his current role covering local politics. His favorite pieces at Xpress are, surprisingly, about non-controversial themes, such as his interview with former Asheville Tourists pitcher Tsao Chin-Hui (Asheville's Newest Millionaire). "It's immensely gratifying," he said about winning the Best Print Journalist award. "I put my name on these things, and essentially, when you do that you expose yourself." To his readers, Sarzynski has but one thing to say: "Thanks -- and keep reading the paper." -- SS
The ongoing controversy surrounding WNCW apparently hasn't doused reader enthusiasm for the station, although WCQS managed to tie for the honor in year's voting. WNCW station manager David Gordon said, "I think it's just the breadth of what we offer that touches folks. ... And we've made a conscious decision to make it wider. The biggest challenge," he observed, is "making sure we're available when people want us. Since I've been here, we've been off the air for days at a time."
WCQS general manager Ed Subkis said, "Our local focus is what we're most proud of." He added that while the station does air National Public Radio programs, it also serves up a wide range of locally generated news and information. "We're glad the community recognizes the value of the station," says Subkis. -- CLB
"It's nice that we have enough people who love all kinds of music [that] listen to 'Dead Air,'" says WNCW's Uncle Dave. And though he's rightfully proud of being voted Best Local Radio DJ, Uncle Dave says he's certain that the music is really the star of his late-night show. Coming on the heels of "The Grateful Dead Radio Hour," "Dead Air" seems to fill a void in the airwaves on Wednesday nights from 10 p.m. till 2 a.m. He's received e-mails from Internet listeners as far away as Australia. "If anything, we do a service to keep the music and spirit alive," notes Uncle Dave, exclaiming that there's "so much great music!" I guess it shows. -- SS
They're fixtures on our TV screens -- those articulate virtual acquaintances who always have something interesting to tell us. "They" are television journalists, and this year, a pair of them from WLOS ran a dead heat in the race for Best Local TV Reporter.
For Darcel Grimes, it's the intangibles that come with her job -- like public recognition and a sense of community -- that mean so much. "Asheville is a great community and a great place to raise a family," she says, adding, "I feel grateful that people have accepted me into their homes."
John Le, meanwhile, is known for his focus on the offbeat, entertaining side of TV journalism. He's done his share of interesting stories, ranging from proper Christmas shopping etiquette to participating in tricycle races. "The best reporters make you forget you're watching TV," Le observes. "They have a way of breaking the glass barrier and making you feel like they're someone you know." Xpress readers obviously feel they know both these local characters. -- SS
I'm not sure whether the hundreds of folks who sat through 18 hours of an extended public hearing on the Wal-Mart Supercenter proposed for the old Sayles/Biltmore Bleachery site are sick of the topic (some of them probably were by the time the marathon ended, whatever their feelings going in). In any case, plenty of other folks apparently couldn't care less: Wal-Mart was our readers' pick for Best Local News You're Sick Of. For better or worse, though, the Supercenter will soon be a reality. Is this our readers' way of saying, "Enough, already"?
More surprising was the second-place finisher: "street kids," "hippie kids," "hippie kids from good families" and "Malaprop's kids and dogs" all tied for the No. 2 spot. Wow. Rude awakening. I've written most of those stories during my tenure at Xpress. Perhaps that's one reason I didn't win Best Local Print Journalist this year ... -- MB
On bad days, our air here in WNC is worse than the brown sludge that besmirches Los Angeles, and there are all-too-many bad days. Our air-quality quotient enters the "unhealthy" phase frequently throughout the year. Gas masks are sometimes not optional for those with respiratory problems, and recent studies have strongly indicated that we here in WNC are responsible for most of the miasma we breathe: Local car-exhaust fumes and factory emissions do more of the dirty work than what drifts across state lines. Want to see more coverage of local air pollution? Stay tuned to these pages. -- MB