The latest edition of Best of Miami is on stands around town, packed with hundreds of our choices for everything from the finest smoky dive bars to the greatest elegant craft cocktails, from the number one spot to kayak to the coolest thrift stores -- and, of course, all of your choices for the tops in town.
If you haven't grabbed an issue yet, here are just a few of the local writers, broadcasters, and bloggers we've honored in this year's issue. For a full list, check out Best of Miami 2014 online or on stands today.
Best Miami Herald Reporter: Jim Wyss
The trouble began in San Cristobal, a hilly town hugging the winding border between Venezuela and Colombia. Jim Wyss was there to talk about contraband, the black-market goods that flood across the border in a country where Hugo Chávez's Bolivarian Revolution continues to wreak havoc on the economy long after his death. A promised interview with a border general turned into hours of waiting, though, and when Wyss tried to bail, he was suddenly thrown into a car and whisked away to a military intelligence compound. This was no interview, he learned; he was under arrest. Such are the occupational hazards of life as the Miami Herald's Andean bureau chief. As one of the last full-time American daily staffers on the foreign-reporting beat, Wyss carries a heavy load from his home base in Bogotá. Yet it's to his credit that writing about an entire continent hasn't led to an influx of dry reports about economic trends or political horseraces.
Instead, between his hard-hitting updates on regional conflicts, Wyss has turned in wild narratives about a War of the Worlds-like radio show terrifying Ecuador, graffiti art taking over Bogotá, and Colombian Christmas ads aimed at shaming guerrillas straight. And as that day in San Cristobal shows, he has put his neck on the line to find the stories. For almost 48 hours after his sudden arrest in November 2013, Wyss sat in jail cells wondering whether Maduro's government planned to make an example of the Yankee reporter who had poked too deeply into the troubled regime's issues.
With the help of American diplomats, though, saner heads prevailed and Wyss was released. And then? He wrote a killer story about the whole ordeal, of course.
Best Blog: Political Cortadito
After four years of barking at dishonest politicians and lobbyists, former Miami Herald reporter Elaine de Valle has pulled off a rare feat in this town: She's treated with the same respect afforded to credentialed journalists employed by the dead-lumber media companies. And it's no surprise why. The hard-nosed, old-school reporter tallied 18 years at the Herald before founding Political Cortadito, where she's become a go-to online watchdog sniffing out the latest shenanigans of South Florida's elected officials. From Homestead to Hialeah, de Valle has blown up corruption and unethical behavior and scored a parade of scoops.
In the first half of 2014 alone, she broke news about Coral Gables City Manager Pat Salerno giving benefits and raises to his favored employees before abruptly resigning, the Doral City Council's surprise move to axe ex-Miami city manager Joe Carollo, and former state representative Ana Rivas Logan's shocking move to bail on the GOP and become a Democrat.
Even when sources slam doors in her face or get her thrown out of rooms, de Valle -- often writing as her alter ego "Ladra" -- keeps nipping at their heels. Her relentless nature and work ethic have made her blog a must-read for thousands of followers who still care about changing Miami's banana republic political culture by using a healthy dose of transparency.
Best Twitter Feed: Michael Maryanoff
"All my jokes are tweets that were too many characters," local stand-up comedian Michael Maryanoff once proclaimed in his Twitter bio. It's not uncommon for standups to workshop jokes on the microblogging service, but -- for all his humble-bragging -- Maryanoff is actually one of the few local comedians making the most of 140 characters or fewer. Some recent gems from his feed:
"How to tell you're at a Cuban party: all the parents are dancing and it's not embarrassing."
"How were people even passive-aggressive before the internet? Especially you-know-who with his stupid office drama posts. Ugh, so annoying."
"Thankfully, the heat in Miami has moved from 'North Korea' to 'China' in terms of oppressiveness."
"You don't need a breathalyzer to figure out when I'm drunk. You'll know when I start calling my girlfriend 'bro.'"
But Maryanoff's road to the stage and Twitter comedy wasn't typical. He began standup as a hobby after being diagnosed with cancer at age 23, and his recovery from the disease has spawned Twitter gold as well: "Wonder when the weight comments are gonna go from 'You gained some good weight post-chemo!' to 'How does your girlfriend still fuck you?'"
If a guy can make a good chemo joke, well, he's probably someone you wouldn't be disappointed to follow.
Best Spanish-Language Radio Personality: Betzy "La Gatita" Vázquez
Her nickname is Spanish for "the Kitten." But Betzy Vázquez has a ferocious, sexy roar that has been waking up listeners of her 106.7 FM morning show, El Vacilón de la Gatita, ever since the station switched to a Spanish contemporary music format in November 2013. The show is also simulcast on sister station 95.7 FM, where Vázquez began the Miami leg of her 25-year radio career. An olive-skinned beauty with perfect hair and an assertive voice, Vázquez got into radio when she was just 15 years old. By her early 20s, she was holding down the midday slot for WAPA radio. After bouncing around several stations in Puerto Rico, Vázquez moved in 2003 to Orlando, where she dominated the midday slot and became one of the most important voices in Central Florida. Today, Vázquez anchors the number one show on 106.7 and is a big reason the station has steadily increased its Arbitron ratings in early 2014.
"We've worked very hard to get the number one spot," she recently told the hosts of Mega TV talk show Charytín y Felix. "There is no formula for it other than to present yourself as who you are, be honest, and speak without fear of censorship."
The Puerto Rican native is the only Hispanic woman in the South Florida market anchoring her own morning program, which airs weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m. ¡Viva La Gatita!
Best FM Radio Personality: Rick Party
Last spring, a gaping hole yawned in Miami's drive-time radio landscape when nationally syndicated Michael Baisden and his distributor, Cumulus Media, couldn't agree on a new deal for the host, whose mix of politics and music had reached more than eight million listeners nationwide. Miami's Hot 105.1 FM had a choice on its hands: Find another coast-to-coast program to pick up for the Magic City's listeners, or turn to a local to rescue its airwaves. Hot 105.1 went local, and Miami listeners haven't looked back. Rick Party may have grown up in Chicago, but he joined Hot 105 twenty-two years ago and has since become an institution on the dial. From 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, Rick Party in the Afternoon makes weekdays feel like weekends.
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He and his team deliver hilarious takes on the day's topics, entertaining listener discussions, and, of course, great music. Each episode ends with a cute moment from Party's young daughter, Zion. Who needs national talent when the homegrown hosts are this good?
Best FM Radio Personality: Eric Reed
Eric Reed is the Brian Williams of Miami sports shows. Hear us out on this one. You trust the brass-voiced NBC newsman to tell it to you straight, right? Well, you can trust Reed when it comes to the latest in Miami sports. Tough draft picks, game-winning plays, and player performance, its all hot takes from the Ticket's Eric Reed Show. Reed's incisive conversation isn't the only draw; whatever the season, you can count on a top-shelf crew of analysts at his side, from Fox Sports Florida Marlins analyst Preston Wilson to Miami Heat guard Norris Cole to ESPN basketball analyst Doris Burke to MLB Network's Brian Kenny and Miami Herald Fins writer Adam Beasley.
That mix of intense sports discussion and expert analysis makes The Eric Reed Show a great sports news show. But like Williams -- who also stars in awesome viral rap videos on Jimmy Kimmel Live -- Reed can also embrace the funny. His end-of-the-week segment "What's Wrong With People?" breaks up the sports talk with some basic, hilarious, shootin'-the-breeze man-talk.