TV news broadcasts are often vehicles for profoundly stupid commentary, outright government propaganda, and weird scaremongering. They're mostly just there to scare your grandparents into buying bread and water jugs when hurricane season starts. NBC 6 evening news anchor Jawan Strader offers much more than that. This year, Strader debuted an additional weekend program called Voices, which spotlights viewpoints from the city's black community. He has spent considerable time interviewing members of the Dream Defenders civil rights group about what it's like to "drive while black" and face racial profiling. He's also held panel discussions on untreated mental illness in black and brown communities, and even told the story of the "segregation walls" built during the Jim Crow era to separate Liberty City's black residents from nearby whites. In an era when some TV stations are forcing their anchors to read preapproved scripts praising President Trump, Strader is allowing the community at large to guide the conversation.

Best Sports Anchor
Courtesy of WPLG

It's always dicey when longtime local sports anchors retire or move on to different markets. Miami takes its sports seriously, so if the new guy isn't on the home team, he needs to at least pretend to be. When Clay Ferraro joined the Local 10 News team in 2014 after working in Fort Myers for over a decade, even the most skeptical sports fans could tell right away he'd be a good fit. Whether it's a straightforward, quick hit during the news broadcast or a comedic sports parody sketch after the kids have gone to bed, Clay Ferraro's recaps are events worth watching in their own right.

John Morales' role in the South Florida community has grown in importance recently, not only because of the predicted threat of bigger, more powerful hurricanes brought on by climate change, but because of the beloved meteorologist's willingness to wade into what some see as political waters to educate the public on environmental matters. As a meteorologist, he views climate change as scientific, rather than political, in nature. Morales is active on Twitter and Facebook, where he shares news articles and the latest topical research alongside weekly weather reports. The issue became personal this year when the catastrophic 2017 Atlantic hurricane season — which included major hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria — decimated Caribbean islands including Puerto Rico, where Morales grew up. Like thousands of relatives of Hurricane Maria's victims, Morales went weeks unable to communicate with his family due to damaged infrastructure on the island. Perhaps for these reasons he has become even more dedicated to educating the public on ways to curb the looming threats of climate change. In March, Morales publicly declined an invitation to moderate a panel at FIU after learning that climate skeptic James Taylor would be participating. Instead, Morales hosted his own talk about the scientific method and the ways journalists can become complicit in climate denial efforts through ill-informed pursuits of objectivity.

Best Political Miscalculation
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Few people handled the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as poorly as Marco Rubio. Florida's junior senator managed to make things worse for himself with every noncommittal remark he made in the wake of the shooting. The coup de grâce of his political self-immolation was his decision to take part in a CNN town hall alongside a handful of MSD's blisteringly intelligent, staggeringly capable student activists at an arena packed with Parkland parents and students. While it was a bold move to try to connect with his rightfully outraged constituents, Rubio did not fare well. When Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed in the shooting, took the microphone, he immediately told Rubio his comments the preceding week had been "pathetically weak." As the crowd applauded Guttenberg, Rubio's face betrayed his trepidation. But it was when one of the most prominent voices of the #NeverAgain movement, Cameron Kasky, asked Rubio point-blank if he would refuse to take money from the National Rifle Association that the entire nation saw the senator's spirit break live on national television. Kasky repeated the question again and again as the jeers inside the BB&T Center grew louder. Rubio declined to reject future NRA contributions.

Best Activist
Photo by Emilee McGovern

From the moment Emma González took the stage at the Rally to Support Firearm Safety Legislation in Fort Lauderdale — just three days after 17 people were gunned down at her school — she has been a model of compassion and activism for people around the world. In her speech, she called "BS" on those who would dismiss her and her peers and asked politicians in the pockets of the NRA how much the lives of students were worth to them. From speaking to a few hundred people in front of the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale to addressing 800,000 in front of the U.S. Capitol during the March for Our Lives, González has not let tragedy harden her heart, nor fame diminish her integrity. Instead, she's been humbled by her platform, and she's ceded it to students of color in communities across the country who have traditionally been ignored in the gun reform debate.

Best Miami Documentary
Courtesy of William Fundora

Initially, Robert Ramos set out to make Rene De Dios and the South Beach Shark Club as an homage to the shark fishermen he grew up around, and to the Miami Beach that once was. That passion project expanded into a 17-minute documentary while Ramos and producer Pedro Gomez studied film at Miami Dade College. The short film received the Faculty's Choice Award at MDC before going on to win five awards at Miami Film Festival's CinemaSlam, including best writing, best director, and CinemaSlam Champion. The documentary explores the life and legacy of Rene De Dios, a heroic figure to many locals with a devoted following of angling acolytes eager to stand alongside him on the South Beach Pier or take fishing trips to the Keys with him. But the movie also offers a look into the South Beach of the '60s and '70s and its development over the years. Rene De Dios and the South Beach Shark Club is a love letter from Ramos to his city's past and present. Now, Ramos and Gomez are crowdfunding to expand the movie into a feature-length documentary in time for festival season.

Best New Artist
Photo by Naza Quirós

César Paniagua is not exactly new to Miami, but he's a noticeable recent addition to the city's musical landscape. Paniagua moved back to his home country of Costa Rica in 2010 after graduating from Miami Beach Senior High School in 2008. He began to flourish as a musician in his hometown of Sarchí, eventually playing around the country with his band, Camelolloide. Paniagua returned to Miami with his blues guitar, harmonica, and a book of original songs featuring a brand of "tropical rocanrol" that blends eclectic influences from musicians such as Muddy Waters, the Beatles, and Jack Johnson. Paniagua has quickly carved out a niche for himself here, playing gigs all over Miami from Las Rosas in Allapattah, to Kill Your Idol on South Beach, to Churchill's in Little Haiti and the Wynwood Yard. He's also collaborated with local musicians such as Rick Moon and filmed a music video for his song "Nobody Knows." In May, he released Del Sol y La Roja Juventud, a five-song EP featuring tracks recorded and produced in Miami, Mexico City, and Sarchí.

Best Acoustic Act
Courtesy photo

Miami-based folk singer Keith Johns flipped the script on the traditional folkie origin story. Just two years ago, he was a physicist working at a carbon dating lab by day and writing and recording music by night. His efforts resulted in the 2014 EP Maps and Plans, and by the time he released his full-length album Grateful Fool in 2016, he'd quit his day job for an earnest shot at a music career. Johns has earned a faithful audience around town with solo acoustic and band performances at festivals, and particularly through his ongoing First Fridays residency at the Wynwood Yard, where he performs original music and invites other local folk artists to showcase their talents. He's also earned a sizable streaming audience outside of Miami with his lyricism, which leans as heavily on the transcendentalist and naturalist writings of Henry David Thoreau as it does on the scientific spiritualism of Carl Sagan. "Come, won't you look at the stars in the night/And the people on the street/They're one and the same and I'm certain in time/They'll switch places and repeat," he sings on "Isn't It Grand?" "How bland, if it always went as planned," he continues. If anyone can rhapsodize on the joys of surrendering to life's unexpected turns, it's this physicist-turned-folk singer.

Best Band
Courtesy photo

It's difficult enough for most rock bands to find success in 2018, when hip-hop and electronically derived music rule the day, and particularly in a DJ mecca like Miami. The men of Venezuelan band Viniloversus know all about the daily grind necessary to grow an audience. They'd built a sizable following in their native South American nation and were already Latin Grammy winners by the time economic and political turmoil forced them to emigrate to the United States. The band channeled its experience into the 2017 English-language album Days of Exile, which they supported with an East Coast tour that culminated in a set at Okeechobee Music Festival. While the pangs of extrication linger in kiss-offs like album opener "So Long School Boy" and the raging, distorted guitar of "Broken Cities," it is ultimately the optimism of a song like "So Many Stars" that makes Viniloversus a compelling listen. "Can you believe it?/Fate has conceived it/Of all the places we could be/We are here, we are free."

Best Drag Night
Photo by Carina Mask

The acrylic studded claws are out at Miami's monthly Celebrity Deathmatch lip-sync battle, and these queens are out to snatch wigs. Celebrity Deathmatch takes the cartoonish aggression of its late-'90s stop-motion MTV namesake and combines it with all the urgency of two drag queens lip-syncing for their lives in the final minutes of RuPaul's Drag Race. The battles are held inside an actual wrestling ring, so queens are free to death-drop on their nemeses until a winner is declared by the audience. Participating drag queens craft their looks based on monthly themes. Cardi B battled it out against Nicki Minaj on pop-star night, and Mario and Luigi hit the ring at the Mario Party-themed edition. Admission to Celebrity Deathmatch is always free, courtesy of the LGBTQ-focused anti-tobacco organization This Free Life, and there's an open bar during the first hour of each event. Drag Race veterans such as Seasons 2 and 3 star Shangela have also been known to guest-host.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®