Published in Galveston and distributed throughout the region, The Police News ("Gulf Coast-Piney Woods Edition") is a fascinating combination of tabloid, blotter and public service. One front-page headline in its June issue screamed "Toddler: 'I Don't Want to Die'...Then Mom Stabbed Her" — 23 times before cutting the four-year-old's throat, in fact—while next to it was a captivating first-person account of two HPD officers and a cadet caught up in an after-hours gun battle at a Park Place beer joint they were busting for selling bootleg whiskey in 1964. Inside, the paper publishes names, mug shots and charges for the current most-wanted fugitives in Galveston, Brazoria and Montgomery counties (no Harris, though, oddly enough) — there are a lot of child-porn connoisseurs in the woods up north, apparently — and an enlightening article on "throw downs" (weapons planted at crime scenes by cops after unjustified shootings) that opines, "several officers' lives were ruined over two pieces of human garbage that were really not worth the effort."

Charles Kuffner is one prolific blogger. He posts volumes daily at www.offthekuff.com, which, by the way, is the oldest progressive-politics site in the state. He started in 2002 and has legions of fans and followers. The boy can crunch his numbers, often in mind-­boggling detail, on political races from country clerk to U.S. senator. And while he leans left, he also entertains with random play lists, baseball trivia and the occasional photo of his adorable daughters. Best of all, he scours the blogosphere (so we don't have to) and links to anything and everything you need to know in Texas. No wonder Texas Monthly named him one of the 35 People Who Will Shape Our Future.

OutSmart has been a consistent Best Of winner, and until they start putting out a crappy product, they'll likely remain so. Instead of crap, however, they consistently provide insightful coverage of the city through a GLBT lens — politics, entertainment and history. The writing is as sharp as the design, and the magazine often scores Q&As with big-name stars. Houston is lucky to have it.

After almost 30 years in the news business, and more than 22 of those at Fox 26 News, anchorman Mike Barajas gives viewers a continuity that few others can. Barajas served as host of Hola Houston, a talk show that dealt with issues in the Hispanic community. He covered the first space shuttle disaster in 1986, and was there again when tragedy struck the shuttle in 2003. He interviewed Bill Clinton in the White House and covered the inauguration of former Texas Governor and President-elect George W. Bush. He followed Pope John Paul II's visit to San Antonio and then Mexico (Barajas even named one of his sons John Paul). But it isn't just the big stories that Barajas is interested in. Sitting at the anchor desk, Barajas takes everyday stories, such as a family home catching on fire, and brings them to the audience in a way that shows, for example, the impact the tragedy has on the family. A rare blend of caring and professionalism, Barajas sets the standard for other journalists in the city.

Classy, aggressive and informative without being sensationalistic. Just your average local news show, right? Sadly, not so much anymore. But KHOU is the Houston station that comes consistently close to that standard. "Defenders" Jeremy Rogalski and Mark Greenblatt are some of the best investigative reporters in town; it even looks like the station will somehow survive the departure of Mr. Hurricane, Dr. Neil Frank.

Discerning viewers often cringe when a local news station's investigative team airs another hyped report, knowing they'll likely be ­subjected to a three-part, hidden-­camera ­series on some government bureaucrat ­using too many paper clips. KHOU's Defenders (ya gotta have a catchy name, of course) are ­different. Mark Greenblatt and Jeremy Rogalski entertain, inform and expose at the same time. Greenblatt has made officials from both the Houston Fire Department and the Police Department squirm as they try to explain away things like not inspecting schools or covering up murder statistics. And there's a whole lot less of the "look at me" antics some other ­stations substitute for investigative reporting.

Along with reporter Cristina Terrill, Great Day Houston host Deborah Duncan makes Houston mornings fun, lively and informative. While other talk shows skim through headlines and sensationalized teasers, Duncan explores her topics thoroughly. During a recent show on jazz, she had several performers play samples of the different styles of jazz, from bebop to fusion, and then talked with local musicians about their love of the music. Other recent topics on the show include cheating spouses, local theater productions, infertility, antiques, sleep deprivation, music festivals, chronic pain and adoption. Miss a show? Rebroadcasts are just a click away online.

The murder trial of Ashley Paige Benton fascinated Houston — a teen girl involved in a gang fight in Montrose, where she stabbed another teen to death. Her first trial ended in a hung jury; as the retrial process began, the trial judge entered a gag order. That kept Benton's media-savvy and sound-bite-smart lawyers, Brian Wice and Kent Schaffer, from telling the sympathetic parts of her story to the city. They immediately went to the appeals court, which unanimously ruled in their favor. Very, very shortly after, prosecutors offered a better deal than they ever had before — five years deferred probation, with possible early termination after two years. Don't mess with the spinmeisters!

No one likes The Man telling them when they can and can't have groundbreaking intellectual discussions about genocide in Darfur or the subprime mortgage meltdown, which, face it, are the kinds of things most people talk about on their cells while driving. But here's one instance where The Man is looking out for The Children, and he's saying: "Hey, dumbass, I know how important it is for you to tell your dumbass friend about some dumbass thing you did last night, but let's put it on hold for the three blocks around the elementary school." Since most people can't even drive well in the first place, this seems perfectly sensible. But don't try telling AT&T that. A company spokesperson argued against the measure before the West University Place City Council put it to a vote. Which means, obviously, that AT&T wants to kill kids. At least in West U. But the rest of us probably don't, so let's all follow this rarest of beasts: a new ordinance that actually makes sense.

Hotel Zaza

Do you like to impress people? Do you have a shitload of money? If you answered yes to both, then you might want to consider a stay in one (or all) of Hotel ZaZa's "­Magnificent ­Seven" theme rooms. These include the Rock Star, with "your own frosted-glass, private elevator access," mirrored walls and a ­stainless-steel kitchen. (Apparently, you have to take care of the coke and the whole asphyxiating-on-your-own-vomit thing.) Or maybe you'd prefer the Bella Vita, where even the furnishings seem to be getting it on — as the Web site says, "large tassels flirt endlessly with plush drapes as they caress the wood floor." (Heh...they said "wood.") But we ­digress. These are just two of the super-swanky choices. Go check 'em out for yourself and see which one fits your style.

Best Of Houston®

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