We don’t know if WCHL’s addition of Air America will change the winners in talk radio next year, but we do know that Greg Fishel is a vote-snagging juggernaut.

WRAL’s self-described weather geek helped himself to another easy win, part of WRAL’s continued dominance in local television. This year, WTVD slipped to the number three spot in best local TV news behind NBC 17.

In other media, the new local blogs category was a washout with no clear favorites. We offer a few suggestions.

Best Talk Radio: WUNC 91.5 FM
Honorable Mention: 96 Rock, WPTF 680 AM, The Buzz 850 AM

Best Radio for Music: 96 Rock
Honorable Mention: G105 (WDGC)

Best College Radio: WKNC
Honorable Mention: WXYC 89.3 FM, WSHA 88.9 FM

Best local WEB SITE: downtownraleigh.org
Honorable Mention: WRAL.com

Best Local TV News: WRAL
Honorable Mention: NBC 17, WTVD

Best Weather Forecaster: Greg Fishel (WRAL)
Honorable Mention: Mike Maze, Elizabeth Gardner (WRAL)

Best Local Sportscaster: Chris Stout (NBC 17)
Honorable Mention: Tom Suiter (WRAL)

Best News Anchor: Francis Scott (WTVD)
Honorable Mention: David Crabtree, Pam Saulsby (WRAL)

Best Local Columnist: Barry Saunders
Honorable Mention: David Fellerath, Dennis Rogers

Best Blog: orangepolitics.org

By now, most people know what a blog is: a Web log, the online diary evolved into a source of amusement, news or information on arcane topics. Political groups use blogs to post news and event info. Journalists use them as venues for independent reporting. Yet even though thousands of people in the Triangle read blogs, not that many people know that there are local bloggers out there. On the Web, geography isn’t much of a factor. Thus, there is no reader pick for Best Blog this year.

Our own pick for Best Blog is a site that demonstrates how effective the medium can be as a civic forum: Orangepolitics.org, created by activist and techie Ruby Sinreich, is a buzzing site full of news about every conceivable issue: school merger, town-gown relations, traffic, you name it. Local politicians, activists and commentators often contribute guest posts, and the message boards host some very lively debate. The site is elegantly designed and constantly updated, despite being ad-free and non-commercial. We wish every community in the Triangle had an online venue like this one. Here’s your homework for next year: Check out North State Blogs (http://trojanhorseshoes.blogfodder.net/archives/north_state_blogs.htm), which has a blogroll of dozens of North Carolinans’ sites, and Tarheelbloggers.org, a portal into UNC community blogs. If you know of other local blogrolls, let us know.

BEST College radio: WKNC College radio is now on full blast, thanks to WKNC 88.1’s recent signal boost. Now N.C. State University’s student station is broadcasting at 25,000 watts, which means it can be heard for hundreds of miles around. Student DJs, who are training to go into broadcasting, give the station a semi-professional feel. It’s still non-commercial, playing loud rock, electronica and hip hop–music you won’t hear on any other stations. All these things have earned WKNC the title of Best College Radio Station.

Runner up is the station that for 25 years has epitomized college radio: intriguing, often challenging new music that exists below the commercial radar, played by students willing to DJ in the wee hours of the morning (with a lot of those endearing “uhhh”s and zen dead air). WXYC 89.3 FM proudly claims to be the first radio station ever to broadcast live on the Web, so if their 400-watt signal won’t reach you, check out wxyc.org.

WSHA 88.9 FM offers blues, reggae, gospel and NPR shows like Tavis Smiley, but the 50,000-watt station is known as the place “where jazz lives.” The non-commercial Shaw University station has been broadcasting since 1968. With so many jazz fans and precious few stations broadcasting the music, we hope it will be around for a long, long time.

Best Performance by a Would-be Governor: Democrat division

They say the most dangerous place in Raleigh is between state Treasurer Richard Moore and a television camera, but hey, the guy’s personally returning unclaimed money owed by the state to you and–well, so far, he hasn’t brought any money our way, but we’d be happy to play along. Seriously, though, Moore’s banging on the New York Stock Exchange, and he’s threatening to withdraw state pension fund investments from corporations if they don’t shed their Enron-like accounting and management practices. Not a complete waste of time.

Meanwhile, the other would-be governors (Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, Attorney General Roy Cooper and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall) are either off the radar screen completely or else–in Cooper’s case–so annoyingly present in his own self-promoting TV ads (paid for by you and me) that he’s making us all a little ill. Cooper’s dropped the ball completely on the death-penalty moratorium issue. Speaking of identity theft, whatever happened to the progressive Roy Cooper?

Best Performance by a Would-Be Governor: Republican division

Richard Vinroot? C’mon, GOP-ers, don’t make us beat him again. Bill Cobey? Sure, if you thought Jesse Helms should’ve run for governor. We’ve got a soft spot in our lib’rul hearts for Patrick Ballantine, who once got every Republican state senator to co-sponsor the public campaign financing bill (just to show that it was the Democrats who wouldn’t pass it). And if the Republicans want a conservative flamer, Fern Shubert’s got it all over the boys in the race. But we’re inclined to agree with Democratic political consultant Brad Crone, who startled a business audience recently by saying that even though incumbent Mike Easley is proving that North Carolina can survive four years without any governor, the sad fact for Republicans is that they don’t have a candidate who can beat him. Better luck in ’08, when–we hear–state Sen. Fred Smith of Clayton, who builds a mean suburban tract house, will be the GOP heartthrob.

Best Citizen Comment at a Public Hearing:

Carlie Huberman Carlie Huberman’s take on the Dix Hill tract was short and to the point: “If we take the fields away, then other kids won’t get to know how beautiful Raleigh can be,” she said. “Is money worth a kid’s childhood memories?” An 8th grader at Ligon Middle School, Carlie’s grown up in a house across the street from the Dix tract. “I have always loved the beautiful open fields and hills that are there, along with the gorgeous old trees. In the spring, the flowers pop up all over the hills, changing them from green to golden,” she told a legislative study commission. “These fields are some of the only ones left in downtown Raleigh. I think that being able to grow up next to them has helped me to become who I am.” The state’s looking to close Dorothea Dix Hospital and sell the 335 acres remaining of the original Dix tract for big bucks. Developers are salivating; the land overlooks downtown from the other side of Western Boulevard and abuts NCSU’s Centennial Campus. But if Raleigh takes the long view, it’ll see lots of other places where downtown housing should go, and only one place where a great central park could be. That’s what Carlie sees, too, looking from her front porch.

Best Forecast on Iraq Invasion by an Elected Official

We wrote about it at the time, which was March 2003. It’s worth recalling now. Congressman Brad Miller’s letter to constituents who’d contacted him about the then-pending invasion was prescient indeed. “I would like to support the President” for patriotic reasons, national unity, etc., it began. But: “Like you, I have often found the arguments for immediate military action against Iraq unconvincing, at times even contrived.” The evidence that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with al Qaeda was “thin,” Miller wrote. It was clear that Iraq had no nuclear weapons, he said, and if it retained some chemical or biological weapons or the ability to make them–if it did–“it is also not clear what immediate threat the weapons pose.” Military force to stop genocide, yes, Miller said. But not to invade countries of our choosing without international support or sanction: “I am very skeptical of using military force to depose a regime that we find repugnant without the assent of the United Nations and of our traditional allies.” Other nations didn’t think much of the U.S. argument that we alone get to decide which regimes to topple and which to leave alone, he added. Finally, Miller wrote, “I greatly fear that Iraq will … dissolve into warfare between ethnic groups, much as Yugoslavia unraveled after the fall of the Tito regime.” Well, Brad, you were wrong about that. The ethnic groups are too busy trying to get rid of us. You were right about this, however: “Military action against Iraq may well exacerbate the resentment, the hatred that many in the region now feel toward the United States, giving more support to terrorist groups like al Qaeda.”

Best Phone Messsage By an Elected Official

“Oh, and by the way, your wife is hot.” –Durham City Council member John Best Jr., in a voicemail message to Indy senior ad rep Lee Coggins on Feb. 25. Best called to congratulate Coggins on her San Francisco marriage to longtime partner Suzanne Robinson, which was chronicled in that day’s edition of the The Herald-Sun, in a piece about same-sex weddings. Best, a Republican serving since 2001, led the opposition to a proposal to extend health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of city employees in June 2002. The proposal went down 4-3, with Best telling the local daily he “didn’t feel comfortable supporting a lifestyle he thinks the majority of citizens disapprove.” The plan passed in October after another opponent switched his vote, leaving open this question: Do California marriages count in Best’s eyes, whether or not the parties are good-looking?