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PEOPLE & MEDIA

Best ADOT Signage
“Bringing Safety Back... Wear Your Seat Belt”
The Arizona Department of Transportation highway signs are a much-needed salve to big-city traffic malaise. Their clever riffs on current events and pop culture include Star Wars themes and football references on Cardinals game days. But the twist on Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” – posted the day of his Talking Stick Resort Arena concert in May – wins top honors.

 

TV Person We Most Want to See Shirtless
Brandon Lee/3TV
No, it’s not a chiseled-ab thing – though the ladies in the office wouldn’t mind a peek. More pressingly, we’d like to get a gander at the nighttime anchor’s oft-rumored collection of body ink. (“Head-to-toe,” one colleague confided.) One can only imagine the artistic treasures concealed therein. Grecian water nymphs? Sanskrit poems? A full back-portrait of KTVK co-anchor Heather Moore? We just hope it isn’t one long, winding strand of barbed wire. Don’t be that guy, Brandon. azfamily.com

 

Best Food Blog
Modern Honey
When did food blogs stop being about home-cooked food? In a time when most blogs seem like Instagram explosions, Melissa Stadler’s Modern Honey is remarkable: She actually develops her own recipes and cooks her own food, from easy dishes like honey mustard grilled chicken to more ambitious projects like dulce de leche cinnamon sandwich cookies. We’ll have whatever she’s making. modernhoney.com

 

Best Streak-Holder
Craig Davidson
Forty years is a long time to do any one thing. But this November, Davidson will celebrate a streak of running every day since 1978. Even with the flu. And a torn hamstring. He’s completed more than 240 marathons and clocked over 202,000 miles. To congratulate him, stop by the Runner’s Den where he’s worked for 20 years.

 

Best TV Outfits
Emma Jade/12News
We love the spunky, distinctively coiffed 12News midday anchor. And we love her wardrobe, which is poised somewhere between “futuristic flight attendant” and “Ferrari seat cover” on the fashion spectrum. Jade’s the bomb. 12news.com

 

Best Celebrity Chef Facebook Follow
Stephen Jones
Whether the erstwhile Delta + Larder chef is calling out a prominent local grocery chain for not-so-subtle harassment (“#blackandshopping”), unleashing a profanity-laced meditation on our current national moment, or debating politics with a Facebook “friend” who insinuated a past love affair, there’s never a dull moment. Always unvarnished and excellently un-PC.

 

Best Law Enforcement Instagram
Gilbert Police Department @gilbertpolice
As if Gilbert needed any help styling itself as a modern-day Mayberry, here comes this sweet, aw-shucks account, which provides peeks into the shifts of Gilbert Police Department officers. They do planks for #WorkoutWednesday. They welcome volunteers to #TeamGilbert. They eat frozen yogurt with the public for #FroYoWithFiveO. It all warms our jaded, influencer-besieged social media hearts. instagram.com/gilbertpolice

 

Best drive-time talk duo
Mac & Gaydos/KTAR
We have much respect for the veteran nightside opiners. They have rhythm, wit and a reliable compass on “the issues that matter,” as the saying goes. Case in point: When the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville blew up last summer, the duo executed a quick takedown of President Donald Trump for his half-hearted condemnation, while the talk-jock after them struck a less, shall we say, anti-fascist tone. That should be their new tagline: “Mac & Gaydos: Funny and anti-fascist to the max.” You’re welcome, fellas!

 

Best Diamondback At-Bat Song
John Ryan Murphy, “No Diggity”
The Arizona Diamondbacks’ starting catcher shows his true ’90s-kid colors with his choice of Blackstreet and Dr. Dre’s 1996 hymn to foreplay. No matter that he was 5 years old when the song dropped… What can we say? We like the way he works it at the plate.

 

Best Colorful Pro Athlete

Archie Bradley
Just when we thought last season’s wild-card-playoff hero had reached the theoretical human limits of free-spiritedness, he goes on Yahoo Sports’ MLB Podcast and explains, in agonizing detail, how he accidentally shat his pants shortly before taking the mound in a game against the Houston Astros this season. The color never ceases.

 

Best Political Scandal
Don Shooter Gets the Boot
It’s been a year folks, what with John McCain thumbs-downing the Obamacare repeal, Jeff Flake quitting, Joe Arpaio getting convicted, pardoned and running for Senate in short order, etc. But for this, we gotta go with Yuma state representative Don Shooter being shooed out of the Arizona Legislature in a #MeToo victory. The House voted to expel the long-serving Republican on February 1 after news reports and an internal investigation exposed his sexual harassment of women over many years. Mr. Cowboy Hat’s reaction to the shun? A literal mic drop, and an announcement that he plans to run for state Senate. Nice.

 

Best Reason to Believe the Children are, indeed, Our Future
His slight frame and Rivers Cuomo glasses belie the fact that 17-year-old Mesa teen Jordan Harb is a gosh-darn powerhouse. This past May, the incoming senior at Mountain View High School made a choice other Type-A teens would likely balk at: accept a low GPA and forego sleep to co-organize the Phoenix March for Our Lives on March 24 to protest gun violence in schools. “My grades have definitely taken a big hit,” Harb told PHOENIX in April. “But the impact that we are making as a movement is worth the sacrifice. I can re-take a class, but I can’t go back and stop a kid from being shot.” A+, kid.

 

Best Media Madonna
Carey Peña
Carey Peña’s flair for reinvention has taken her from TV news writing/producing to the KTVK anchor desk to political show co-host. Her latest metamorphosis? Podcast queen (she hosts two in her in-office studio) and CEO of Inspired Media 360, the company she established to create her own inspirational content beyond the network model. What will her next move be? Only time will tell, but we’ll be watching (and listening). careypena.com

 

Most excitable local Twitter Feed
Sal DiCiccio
Like a certain wispy-haired reality TV star, the Phoenix city councilman is not one to hold back on Twitter. “MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” he dashed off after a Phoenix PD sting turned up rampant fare violations on Metro Light Rail. Hmm, yes. Freeloader not paying $1.50 train ticket = all-caps capital crime. Have a Valium, Sal.

 

Most Newsworthy Brouhaha
#RedForEd
Sadly, Arizona has long ranked among the bottom for education funding, resulting in a large-scale teacher migration due to abysmal pay. Fed up, teachers around the state walked out of their classrooms in May and swarmed the state Capitol, taking a Red-hued cue from West Virginia teachers who scored raises following a strike. After six days, Governor Doug Ducey signed a compromise with a conditional 20 percent pay raise by 2020. Slow progress, but progress nonetheless.

 

Most Impressive Culinary Couple
Danielle Leoni and Dwayne Allen of The Breadfruit & Rum Bar
The pair opened the avant-garde Jamaican restaurant The Breadfruit 10 years ago, and they’ve been racking up awards and rave reviews ever since. Leoni became the first Arizona chef to earn the Smart Catch designation from the James Beard Foundation and recently appeared on Food Network’s Chopped. Allen is the rum savant behind the restaurant’s cocktail program, and he can expound on the nuances of more than 150 rums. 108 E. Pierce St., Phoenix, 602-267-1266, thebreadfruit.com

 

2018 Best of the Valley Best Famous Ex-Xavier Student
Emma Stone
A Made film debut in Superbad (2007) 
and has since been nominated for two Academy Awards, winning one for La La Land. She’s now the highest paid actress in the world, per Forbes.
A Dropped out of Xavier Prep after her freshman year, but also has local ties: Her dad is Valley construction CEO Jeff Stone.
A The scene in La La Land where Stone’s character tap dances in Griffith Park with Sebastian, played by Ryan Gosling, was one of the most romantic scenes of 2016.

vs.

Aidy Bryant
A Debuted on Saturday Night Live
 in 2012. Nominated for an Emmy for 
her work on the show.
A Graduated from Xavier Prep in 2005, but still has local ties: Her mom, Georganne, owns popular Phoenix boutique Frances.
A The SNL “Birthday Party” skit where Bryant’s character hits on her friend’s dad, played by Ryan Gosling (this guy again), was one of the funniest bits on the show last season.

 

2018 Best of the Valley Luxury Lifestyle Influencers
The Bubbly Blonde
thebubblyblonde.life
Instagram:@thebubblyblonde
 (427K followers)
A McKenna Wesley is indeed very blonde – golden to platinum, depending on her dye cycle and Instagram filter; dark roots peek out from time to time – and very bubbly, judging by her copious exclamation points. (Sadly, she’s not as into emojis as we’d hoped.)
A She punctuates blown-out pics of her luxurious hosted travels (and of herself, duh) with posts partnering with charities like Children International and Valley of the Sun United Way.
A She’s Fohr Card-verified, which means her followers are determined to be real, not bots.

vs.

We the Classy
wetheclassy.com
Instagram: @wetheclassy 
(90.3K followers)
A Venessa Kaufman shares the mommy side of luxury/fashion blogging, toting her husband (“Mr. K”) and young children (Blake and Zara – of course) along on shoots at luxe restaurants, in spare parking garages and in front of a trendy cacti tableau. Zara has her own Instagram style account and often models “mini me” versions of Kaufman’s outfits.
A She gives credit to her frequent photographer, Riss Rahm 
(@rissrahmphotography). As journalists, we appreciate proper attribution.
A Giveaway central: She recently rewarded followers with a Naked palette and Gucci bag.

Worst of the Valley
We generally like to “go positive” in BOV, but these anti-BOVs deserve a shutout.

Worst Tweet
Like a genie, you can never put a bad tweet back in its bottle. So learned Fox 10 anchor Kari Lake when she dismissed #RedForEd as “nothing more than a push to legalize pot.” Tell us about chemtrails, Kari.
Worst press conference

Prescott Rep. David Stringer’s “not enough white kids” remark could have made this list by itself, but it was his bizarre mea culpa at Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles – alongside race opportunist Rev. Jarrett Maupin – that ultimately will seal his admission to the WOV Hall of Fame.
Worst newspaper headline

“Violence Erupts” read the August 23, 2017, front page of The Arizona Republic, in Pearl Harbor-size fonts, after Phoenix police used teargas to disperse anti-Trump protesters. About teargas: It’s slow. You can walk away from it. Dumb headline.

 

2018 Best of the Valley Trio
Best Investigative Reporter

Newspaper
Laura Gómez
What does the border mean to you? What are some of the misconceptions people have about the border? These are the two questions Arizona Republic reporter Laura Gómez asked everyone she met while driving 2,000 miles along the U.S.-Mexico border. Her findings on bordertown life and the current fencing – or lack thereof – rounded out “The Wall,” the Republic’s immersive, nine-month multimedia project on President Donald Trump’s call for a border wall that won the state’s paper of record a Pulitzer in 2017. Originally from Bogotá, Colombia, Gómez came to Phoenix in 2014 to work for La Voz, the Valley’s Spanish language weekly, and now covers the Southwest Valley and frequently contributes to local and national immigration coverage.

Radio
Jimmy Jenkins
The senior field correspondent at KJZZ News, Phoenix’s National Public Radio member station, comes from a law enforcement family and, as such, focuses much of his investigative reporting on criminal justice. With a bachelor’s degree in criminology and a master’s in journalism from his native Indiana, Jenkins was ideally poised to do a deep dive into the chaos of Arizona’s prison health care system this past winter. His December report on the private health care provider Corizon Health’s failure to provide adequate care to inmates in 10 state prisons won him a prestigious Edward R. Murrow award and got the attention of a federal judge, who called for a hearing into the matter.

TV
David Biscobing
We hate to sound like a broken BOV record – ABC 15 reporter Biscobing has now claimed this category three years running – but the Emmys rarely lie, no? In 2017, the former East Valley Tribune reporter actually shared the Rocky Mountain Emmy for Best Investigative Reporting with himself, winning both for “Cash for Compliance?” (an exposé of the extortionist tactics employed by a Valley-based disability-advocate group) and “Imposter Doctor” (a hidden-camera sting of an illegal Botox clinic run by ex-felon Craig Allen Scherf). One thing’s for sure: If you’re running a spurious moneymaking scheme in the Valley, you don’t want to be in this cat’s crosshairs.