Joe Jamail is an attorney with ethics. Former Texas attorney general Dan Morales tried to lure the Houston civil icon into a scheme involving the most lucrative of cases, a suit against tobacco companies. But Jamail blew the whistle when Morales attempted to shake him and others down for $1 million. Now Morales is heading off to prison, a vindication of sorts for Jamail's virtue. While legions of greedy upstart lawyers try to lay claim to Jamail's long-standing title of the "king of torts," they'd do better to take a lesson from this brash and brilliant attorney. Jamail's made his many millions, but he's done it with immense compassion for those who need his help most: the little as well as big guys. There may be another tort king some day, but there'll never be another Joe Jamail.
Maybe we're being a little optimistic -- as of this writing, new columnist Rick Casey has not yet filed a story for the Houston Chronicle. But hey, who's his competition? Leon Hale and Thom Marshall? Seriously, though, if you've read Casey in the San Antonio Express-News, you know that his unique feel for the pulse of the city coupled with his ability to turn a clever phrase makes for lively reading. Will he be able to get to the heart of Houston? And will he continue the city government coverage that's made him famous in S.A.? We're keeping our fingers crossed.

Sure, he's a Republican, an Oklahoman and a Sooners and Cowboys fan, but in spite of all that we are drawn to Kevin Whited's weblog almost daily. Maybe it's the fact that he has a lot to say about Texas country music and is not shy about expressing what he thinks. Neither does he back away from commentary on the local media. And it probably doesn't hurt that he often -- though certainly not always -- compares that daily rag he calls the Comical to the Press most unfavorably. Maybe it's his trenchant views on the Astros that keep him in our bookmarks. Whatever it is, we return to his site more than any other.

Ever since Tropical Storm Allison, many Houstonians have found themselves a lot more interested in severe weather than they used to be. Houston weather has always been about extremes, of course, but when one of those extremes causes $5 billion in damage, people start to pay attention. TV stations know this and flog a threatening-weather situation for every last viewer they can scare into watching; tropical depressions anywhere in the western hemisphere always seem to have potential projections taking them right up the Ship Channel. So a voice of reason and sanity is well appreciated, and Channel 2's Frank Billingsley provides it. He won't hype a storm that doesn't deserve it, but he'll let you know when you should be concerned. And when a severe storm hits, he's more willing than most to say when the worst is about to be over, as opposed to telling folks to "stay tuned" to see just how long this thing will last.
Currently syndicated on ten stations across Texas, Tom Tynan began broadcasting the Home Improvement Hotline on KTRH in 1987. Kind of like Car Talk for home owners, Hotline tackles listeners' queries on a myriad of subjects. From plumbing problems to structural questions to energy efficiency issues, it's likely Tom will have a quick, thorough answer for you. He has a degree in architecture from the University of Miami, and is the owner and president of the Galveston-based Tynan Construction Inc. He's written or contributed to six books, and he publishes a bimonthly home improvement newsletter called The Right Angle. Whether you've got a trailer in Lubbock or a condo in Houston, Tom can help you get that sucker shipshape. Listen every Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. till noon.

Every weekday at 4:20 p.m., Houston's listener-sponsored community radio station KPFT gives you some news you can use. Dean Becker wants his pot-smokin' buddies to stay out of jail, and to do that they have to be informed. Becker monitors the drug war like Fox News monitors the war on terrorism, and he isn't afraid to call a spade a spade. In his eyes, the war on drugs is a failure and should be stopped immediately. And he's got no problem getting folks to co-sign that notion. Some of the nation's "highest"-ranking hemp activists have appeared on his show, including former Dallas Cowboy and president of Texas NORML Mark Stepnoski.

De Aldecoa's Cadeco Industries bought the old Uncle Ben's Rice facility on Clinton Drive in the late '90s and turned it into a world-class coffee storage and processing plant. De Aldecoa is the scion of a family that began the business in Spain in the 1920s and extended it to Mexico and later the United States. Born in Mexico, he attended Houston's Strake Jesuit high school and earned an engineering degree at the University of Houston. He became president of the Greater Houston Coffee Association this year and helped spearhead the successful drive to win New York Board of Trade designation for Houston as a green coffee and raw cocoa exchange port. According to de Aldecoa, the new status will provide a caffeine jolt to the local economy. "It's going to create a big job growth for the Houston market," says the coffee king, who notes that coffee imports into Miami increased fivefold when that Florida city received a similar designation.

There's little question as to which local station provides the most solid, least sensationalistic, most in-depth news product -- it's KHOU on Channel 11. The station fields a solid team of veteran reporters, not to mention Mister Hurricane himself, Dr. Neil Frank. And as the other big stations in town head for the ratings crack of stripper and hooker investigations, KHOU has led the way in documenting the pathetic slapstick of the Houston Police Department's DNA lab. This being local TV news, there's apparently no way to entirely escape the occasional inane feature, but Channel 11 limits the silliness better than the rest. The bigger question is, Can KHOU survive? As far as ratings go, it seems that Houstonians prefer the blaring, skin-deep glitz of its competitors. We can only hope viewers eventually swear off the junk food and go for something more substantive.
Maybe this category should be Best TV Anchor You Probably Haven't Seen, because KHWB's generally solid -- if underfinanced -- nightly 9 p.m. news show is still trying to amass an audience after three years. One of the reasons ratings are at least moving in the right direction is the steady presence of anchor Alan Hemberger. He could be accused of having the mannequin looks that are often the only asset of TV anchors who depend all-too-heavily on their producers and TelePrompTers (and in fact, he's a veteran of such fluff as Entertainment Tonight), but Hemberger has spent plenty of time filling his reporter's notebook in the field on big breaking stories. He spent nine years at Houston's most popular news station, KTRK/Channel 13, and now he's back in town lending credence to a fledgling operation trying to make its mark.
There are some talented, intrepid, headline-grabbing television reporters in Houston (Anna Werner, Wayne Dolcefino). But it's time to give a shout out to someone who isn't necessarily a marquee name in town, just a guy consistently doing a solid, intelligent job: Channel 11's Doug Miller. Now in his tenth year as a full-time reporter at the station, Miller basically got his start in print (all right, so we're biased). He was managing editor of the Houston Business Journal, a job that included a brief segment on KHOU's morning news, when he made the jump completely to the bright lights of TV. Downsized newsrooms force TV reporters to be jacks-of-all-trades these days, but Miller tries to focus on City Hall and county politics as much as he can. Whenever he does, he brings an insightful and trenchant look that goes beyond recapping council meetings or mayoral press releases.

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