Best News Radio Station 2016 | KJZZ 91.5 FM | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix

Sure, KJZZ is home to fantastic syndicated programs from NPR — we're big fans of Jesse Thorn's weekly pop-culture talk show, Bullseye, and the Moth Radio Hour — but the station really makes its bones as Phoenix's go-to audio news source. Home to thoughtful reporting and insightful commentary, the station's reporters dig into economic trends, cutting-edge ASU research, and of course, our always-turbulent political frays. Hardworking local reporters offer analysis and deep dives that distinguish the station from its news radio competition. 

Gone are the days when Republican political operative Shane Wikfors' Sonoran Alliance blog was the center of ex-Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas' world, spewing endless streams of pro-Thomas screeds written by anonymous writers many believed to be Thomas' henchmen. Thomas was disbarred in 2012 for his many ill deeds, and since then, Sonoran Alliance, like the Arizona Republican Party in general, has taken a turn toward relative (and we do mean relative) moderation. That is to say, it ain't no vitriol-spitter like Seeing Red AZ (a past winner of this award), but that's a good thing, at least for diversity of thought. Wikfors himself is a gentleman of the highest order, and unlike many of his peers, can talk to Democrats and journalists without foaming at the mouth. In other words, he's one of the potty-trained Republicans, and despite this, his site remains a must-read for local political junkies, providing a mix of news, opinion, and press releases from selected politicians.

She is liberal, hear her roar. Local lefty firebrand Donna Gratehouse is an unrepentant Democrat and feminist in a state dominated by Republicans hell-bent on doing everything they can to restrict women's reproductive rights as well as pissing on the poor every chance they get. No wonder Gratehouse is ticked off all the time, and she takes all of that righteous anger, wads it up, pours gasoline on it, lights it afire, and sends it hurling like a flaming bocce ball into the Republican night. Granted, her kills are purely rhetorical, but in a state dominated by Koch-brother suckups, ammosexuals (you know, gun nuts), and anti-abortion fanatics who wear lapel pins made to resemble little fetus feet, Gratehouse holds aloft the progressive flame like an Arizona version of Lady Liberty. Only, she's more likely to take that flame and jam it up the backsides of some sexist pig tuskers, if given the chance. Rock on, Gratehouse. Rock on.

Best Blog About Phoenix By Someone Who Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Jon Talton's Rogue Columnist

Former Arizona Republic columnist Jon Talton now lives in Washington state and writes about economics for the Seattle Times, but the Grand Canyon State remains very much on his mind. His David Mapstone mysteries are set in Arizona, and he maintains a regular blog on all things Phoenix, entitled "Rogue Columnist," where he opines on everything from Phoenix's lost (or about to be lost) architectural gems, to the unsolved and unresolved Don Bolles case, to the Republican's misplaced faith in tax cuts, and so on. Consider this: He writes the blog pro bono publica, despite having to churn out several columns a week for the Seattle paper. Now that's love, baby. True love. Because it's obvious from Talton's blogs that he cares deeply about Phoenix and Arizona and the quality of life here, and so expends a terrific amount of intellectual energy on serious discussions of Phoenix's past, present, and future. We hope Talton never grows tired of writing about Arizona, because we know we'll never grow tired of reading him.

Tom and Judy Nichols know a thing or two about writing, and they certainly know the road — their journalism careers have taken them many places. So when they announced that they had quit their jobs, sold most of their earthly possessions, purchased a Roadtrek (lovingly nicknamed The Epic Van), and were blowing this Popsicle stand, we considered hitching along. Then we heard they planned to document the trip, so we decided to stay home and follow along from afar. We have not been disappointed.

Unlike Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty, the Nichols haven't lost everything in Vegas — yet. But they have had some adventures. You can read about them on the blog, follow their route on Google Maps, and even catch some tips and tricks for hitting the road yourself. After the first year, they documented their spending and reflected on what went wrong and right. All of it makes for great reading from (full disclosure: their son Nate writes for us) two members of the extended New Times family.

Peter Corbett has been hitting the Arizona trails forever — both by foot and on wheels — and has compiled a wonderful guide to places far and wide, but all within the Grand Canyon State's boundaries. The longtime newspaper editor (he recently joined the Arizona Department of Transportation's communications team) has been using his vacation time wisely, documenting spots from Bisbee to Yuma and many in between. He also includes information about lodging and national parks. We come for the pictures and stay for the stories. You will, too. Better put in that vacation request first.

Looking for the most legit cultural institution the Valley has to offer? It's a stretch up the Loop 101 and housed in a stately contemporary complex where, if you're into counting, you'll see more than 6,500 instruments on view. Which is why it's called the Musical Instrument Museum. Home to both musical instruments and related objects, the museum's amassed a collection of almost 16,000 things — from Arizona's own rock 'n' roll history to folk and tribal instruments. You'll find galleries organized by region, a space dedicated to mechanical music, a look at modern popular music, and hands-on areas where you're totally allowed to touch the goods. The MIM also hosts concerts in its theater space and special events focusing on various global cultures throughout the year.

Whatever was going on with alien technology in 1947 must have resulted in galaxy-wide vehicular recalls. That year, UFOs were crashing all over the damn place, most famously in Roswell, New Mexico — giving birth to one of the most famous conspiracy theories in U.S. history — but also here in Phoenix. In his 1950 book, Behind the Flying Saucers, UFOlogist Frank Scully (no relation, it seems, to Dana) alleges an extraterrestrial craft crashed at the Dreamy Draw Recreational Area near Piestawa Peak, and that two alien bodies were yanked from the wreckage. Theorists suggest the Dreamy Draw Dam was built to cover up evidence of the ship and while that's, you know, not true — the dam wasn't built until 1973 — it's fun to wander the placid desert landscape there and speculate that there's something otherworldly behind the mysterious hum that can be heard near the structure.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, the iconic representation of the Virgin Mary encircled by gold rays with the moon at her feet, is a cross-border phenomenon. It's also a symbol of resilience.

To see a stunning example, check out the 18th-century painting Virgen de Guadalupe at Phoenix Art Museum. First seen last fall in the exhibition "Masterworks of Spanish Colonial Art," the painting is now on permanent display.  A generous grant provided for conservation of the painting to remove decades of soot and salts from water damage, bringing it back to life. It is the only 18th-century, large-scale painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe displayed in the Valley.

One of the things that makes the painting unique is that the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe is depicted in the four corners of the painting. It's the story of an underdog, chosen by the Virgin to be her messenger. She appears before an indigenous man, Juan Diego, in 1531. He gets an audience with the archbishop to tell him what has happened, but is disbelieved. The Virgin then instructs Juan Diego to collect roses in December. He finds them, and takes the roses to the archbishop. When he opens his cloak, the roses fall to the floor. The painting depicts this narrative and the devotional image together.

Transcending borders as both a religious and cultural icon, devotion to her is almost as widespread among religiously minded Mexican-Americans in our community as it is in Mexico.

We're not here to praise Governor Doug Ducey's business leadership group, "Arizona Zanjeros," who, we suppose, are hoping to increase the flow of business opportunities into our state. No, we're talking about actual zanjeros: ditch riders, men and women, who control the flow of water through our city's system of canals by opening and closing the gates on canals and irrigation ditches across the Valley. These zanjeros helped make our desert way of life possible — and in some ways, continue to do so.

In spite of Ducey's group's recent cultural appropriation of the zanjero title, let's not forget: Historically, it was the labor and expertise of Latinos living in Phoenix who proved instrumental to the early irrigation operations. They helped with the physical construction of the canal system, and often served as zanjeros, covering hundreds of miles a day. Nine canals make up the Valley's complex canal system, largely constructed between 1870 and 1913. They were built upon the prehistoric irrigation canals of the Hohokam, which were feats of engineering genius in and of themselves. The Hohokam were present in Central Arizona for 1,500 years, producing one of the largest canal systems in the New World. That's a legacy to be proud of.

Today, being a zanjero is a trade that is disappearing, as farmland gives way to development.

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