As Grandma used to say, that Kelly Craig is a hoot. A member of the NBC 6 team since 1990, Craig cohosts the 10:00 a.m. edition of Today in South Florida with Gerri Helfman and Bob Mayer. Although it's an odd hour for a newscast, it does have its own cult following. One of the principal reasons people tune in is Craig's personality, especially her self-deprecating sense of humor. Don't misunderstand us. She still delivers the main news stories in a serious manner, but as the show progresses and the segments become a little lighter in tone, Craig begins to cut loose with Helfman, who often plays Abbott to her Costello, or Ethel to her Lucy. Craig never takes herself too seriously. And most important, she's not afraid to be herself, which is why she has such an easy time connecting with viewers.
For more than a year now, Unruh and crew have been relentless in hammering away at incompetence and corruption in the biggest and arguably most important bureaucracy in Miami-Dade County: the public school district. They've chronicled misspent construction dollars, highly paid do-nothing employees, sex scandals, and nonexistent classes. Prying the lid off a secretive self-protective government entity ain't easy, but the red-faced, sputtering reactions of school officials confronted by Unruh indicate she's making progress. We all should take comfort in their discomfort. Thanks, Jilda.

Every station pays lip service to producing local programming designed to enlighten and educate the public, but WPLG makes good on that promise. Channel 10, for instance, was the only English-language station to broadcast a county mayoral debate last fall. And no other station in Miami devotes as much time to the problems plaguing the community. WPLG held a series of town-hall forums last year during the Elian Gonzalez crisis, and recently the station added to its lineup a new Saturday-evening public-affairs program called The Putney Perspective, hosted by reporter Michael Putney, who continues with his highly regarded Sunday-morning program This Week in South Florida. WPLG's news division produces the strongest investigative packages in the area, and the station's commentaries by general manager John Garwood pull no punches. All in all WPLG represents the very best of what a local television station should be.

Best TV Station To Die In The Past Twelve Months

WAMI

Barry Diller's ballyhooed experiment in local programming died with the sale late last year of his thirteen-station USA Broadcasting company to Univision for $1.1 billion. WAMI was designed to be the flagship station in Diller's empire, a groundbreaking experiment that would revolutionize the industry. Instead it turned out to be a pathetic joke. In its two-and-a-half years on the air, WAMI promised far more than it ever delivered. The station was supposed to produce hour upon hour of local programming but quickly abandoned that and became best known for its M*A*S*H* reruns. Shows like The Times and Sportstown were interesting but never received the financial support they needed. The station's only hit was a T&A jigglefest called 10s. Not exactly original television. Univision is expected to transform WAMI into a Spanish-language station.

Size does matter, you say? Well, when it comes to performance, there's one place in town where skill infinitely overrules dimensions: PS 742. Perhaps the only venue in Miami exclusively devoted to the promotion and production of South Florida artists, Little Havana's cozy PS 742 seats about 38 people comfortably, but even if there were 138, the word uncomfortable could never be associated with this amazingly unpretentious cultural hangout and performance space. Culture? Unpretentious? Miami? Yes, miracles other than Elian sightings do occur on SW Eighth Street. This season alone the intimate venue was transformed from a runway for Magaly Agüero's enigmatic, Spanish-language performance Ceremonia Inconclusa (Unfinished Ceremony) to a cabaret for Lourdes Simone's performance poetry and boleros. It's also worthy of mention that the space doesn't limit itself to one particular culture or genre. PS 742 has hosted acts as varied as the Isadora Duncan Dance Ensemble, Middle Eastern Dance by Hanan, and Ayabombe's Haitian Dance and Music Troupe. It's no surprise that the place already has the lived-in feel of other long-standing cultural institutions such as Casa Panza across the street.

Best Vertically Challenged Basketball Player

A.J. Castro

Southwest Miami High School's boys basketball team, led by five-foot eight-inch point guard A.J. Castro, gave its win-starved fans much to cheer about this year. After decades of lackluster seasons, the Eagles squad tallied a 22-7 record, upsetting perennial powerhouses and reaching the county finals for Class 6A play. At one point the gutsy Cinderella team was ranked second in the state. At the heart of the dream season was the team's fast and slippery playmaker Castro, who frustrated many a taller opponent. On the court he is fearless, taking control with lightning-quick passes, nervy rebounds, and wicked three-point shots. And he has a knack for scoring when the team needs it most. During the Eagles' final regular-season game against their district rivals, the South Miami Cobras, Castro whooshed an arching three-pointer that won it for the Eagles as the clock ticked off its final second. The short guy was named to the first-string all-state team by the Florida Sportswriters Association, the McDonald's All-American Team, and the county all-star roster. Not bad for a scrappy Cuban kid from the burbs. He's a senior now, and when he accepts that scholarship to Cornell, as expected, the hoops around Westchester will never be the same.

It's all in the eyes. Those deep, penetrating eyes. You just know that when Bill Kamal says it's going to rain, it will rain. Watching him, you get the feeling he isn't just predicting the weather; he actually can see the weather, the same way a psychic sees the future. How else to explain the fact that he was the youngest meteorologist in the United States to receive the American Meteorological Society Television Seal of Approval for excellence in television presentation? He has been with Channel 7 since 1994 and currently is its chief meteorologist. In his 22-year career he has earned two Emmy Awards. Personally we think he should drop the first name and just go with Kamal. But not simply Kamal. It should be KAMAL! And he should wear a big white turban. And his segments should be backed with a dramatic and mysterious soundtrack. Now that would be exciting television.

Best Record Label To Leave Town In The Past Twelve Months

Chocolate Industries

Our city's international reputation as a hotbed of bass-influenced oddball electronica is owing in no small part to the steady stream of ear-grabbing records released by Chocolate Industries. Boasting a roster that includes local artists Edgar Farinas (Push Button Objects) and DJ Craze plus kindred Austrian spirits Funkstörung, the label is known for producing works with elaborate cover graphics that seem as labored over as the music within. The label's proprietor, Seven, has departed Miami for the chillier cultural climes of Chicago, but thankfully he's kept up Chocolate Industries' intriguing output, continuing to issue sonic weirdness from South Florida and abroad.
More than a decade since Luther Campbell's 2 Live Crew grabbed the nation's headlines, South Florida still seems to be living in that outfit's shadow, saddled with the widespread notion that its hip-hop scene is just one long porn film. On Dirty Life Miami's latest rap hopeful, X-Con, doesn't exactly depart from his hometown's trademark sound of jittery beats and prominent synth lines, or its lewd lyrical tone. ("Whoa! Lil' Mama" offers a warning to a lap-dancing stripper -- "I don't care where you shake it/Just don't drip it in my cup" -- that would surely garner ol' Uncle Luke's approval.) What separates this gruff-voiced rapper from the current horde of gangsta-rap clones is his flair for vivid storytelling, gift for fashioning head-noddingly infectious hooks, and impassioned delivery that seems to summon up every ounce of his body's 285 pounds to drive home his gritty rhymes. Fuse all those traits, and you've got one of the past year's most memorable collections of songs.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®