The 2013 Houston Web Awards: The Best Of Online Houston

Fox26 newscaster Isiah Carey got over his embarrassment and learned to embrace the power of social media. He’s among this year’s winners, all creative users of the latest technology.

In 1996, a young reporter in Little Rock, Arkansas, ran into a problem with a grasshopper. The insect flew into the 27-year-old's mouth, and all hell broke loose. The entire profanity-laced tirade was caught on camera, including an unintentionally hilarious change in his voice from deep baritone to what the YouTube description calls "ghetto." "Even when it happened, people in the newsroom thought it was hilarious," Isiah Carey, now an investigative reporter for Fox26, said. "I was embarrassed, but I thought that was the end of it." What happened next is the stuff of Internet legend.

The video, part of station KARK's in-house blooper reel, was thrown out when they moved. But a passerby came upon the tape in the trash behind the old building, took it home and uploaded the clips he found to YouTube. Within weeks, Carey's ghetto curse-fest had millions of views, and producers from the Comedy Central show Tosh.0 were pursuing him.

When a grasshopper flew into Carey's mouth, all hell broke loose, and the resulting video became a viral sensation.
When a grasshopper flew into Carey's mouth, all hell broke loose, and the resulting video became a viral sensation.
Fox26's Isiah Carey turned an embarrassing caught-on-camera tirade into a strong social media presence.
Jeff Balke
Fox26's Isiah Carey turned an embarrassing caught-on-camera tirade into a strong social media presence.

Viewers of that YouTube video ultimately convinced Carey to embrace his "too real" outburst. He agreed to appear on Tosh.0, and his entire approach to social media changed. "People said, 'I love you. You're so real. You don't get this from other reporters,'" he said. Before long, he was a fixture on Facebook and Twitter, mining the social networks for story ideas.

"Being a journalist, my main goal is to talk and meet with people, because I know everyone has a story," Carey said. "People now reach out to me for stories more than ever as a result of social media."

In this, our third year of Houston Web Awards, Isiah Carey is the winner of Best Media Personality Twitter and just one example of the incredible diversity of efforts undertaken on a daily basis by people in the Houston Web community.

They come from every walk of life, smartphone, tablet and laptop in hand, and show us the best of what the Web can be while they breathe life into 140 characters, six seconds of video, millions of words and billions of pixels.

And it takes work. Carey routinely surveys his followers on the weekend to find out what they're doing, but he jokingly admonishes "homebodies, shut-ins and stay-at-homes" not to clutter his timeline. He takes Instagram photos of his red pants and posts about his visits to the dollar store. His best-known saying, "The devil is busy," is something his mother and grandmother repeated to him while he was growing up in Baton Rouge. He stretches its meaning to include everything from crime to the high cost of gas.

He admits he's aware of the line between sharing a personality and expressing an opinion, and he's careful not to cross it when it comes to stories he covers. He also doesn't flood his timeline with "boring" news updates. Instead, he strikes a balance between his sense of humor and the serious business of the news.

"You can share a little bit of yourself with the public," he said. "If you want them to watch you, give them a little of yourself." And call it a public service when he warns his followers not to be taken in by fattening foods that are on sale. "The devil is busy," he said. "All day long."

Professional athletes and coaches are given fairly stern guidelines on how to behave (and, more important, how not to behave) on social media. Some take to them naturally, while others struggle. From Rob Gronkowski posting photos of himself with a partially clothed porn star to the Texans's own Kareem Jackson tweeting from a cockfight in the Dominican Republic, the learning curve can be steep.

That isn't the case for Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey, our winner for Best Local Sports Personality Twitter. Morey, a self-proclaimed nerd who grew up with computers and studied computer science at MIT, understands the language of the Internet and sees the real value in being a part of it. And though he does use Twitter for responding to media reports and chatting with fans, he believes there are bigger reasons to be on there.

"You get a real sense of what's on people's minds and a direct channel," he said. "It's a very useful thing to have it when pursuing free agents."

He wouldn't say whether one of those free agents is Dwight Howard — whom the Rockets reportedly have targeted this offseason — citing NBA tampering rules, but he does believe that having that direct line to players is beneficial for teams, particularly when fans get involved.

"All the players are on Twitter now," he said. "Worst case, it helps you understand them better. Best case, you can use it in a way that lets fans directly interact with potential free agents."

And what can fans say to players they want to see choose Houston as their new home?

"Give them some quick snippets about Houston," Morey said, adding, "Show them the love they will get when they get here."

If you want Morey himself to respond to you or even give you a follow, that might require a different approach. "Suck up to me," he said, laughing. Kidding aside, Morey said fans should not ask him to retweet things. "Don't tweet a million times. Go for quality over quantity.

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