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.

The 1940 Air Terminal Museum

There was a time when air travel was not a giant pain in the ass. When you went to sleek terminals that reeked of the romantic adventure of flying, where you walked out to your plane and up one of those stairway ramps past the propellers, where there wasn't a sneaker search or a Starbucks in sight. You can still get a whiff of that time at the old terminal at Hobby Airport, which sits in all its Art Deco glory off to the side of the massive operation that's there now. The museum inside isn't exactly designed for the ADD-wracked video-game crowd, but it's a charming glimpse into the past.

The Big Easy Social and Pleasure Club

Nobody is ever sad at The Big Easy, at least not for long. So what if your ex got over you in like two seconds and is now engaged to a millionaire? You can't be worried about that, there's music to dance to and booze to drink. There's live music almost every night, and most often there's no cover charge (when there is, it's a measly $5 or so). And Big Easy regulars do something called "blues dancing," a kind of do-your-own-thing-whatever-that-is style that includes lots of semi-grinding, sensual posing and shaking with some dips thrown in. "Blues dance" a couple of times and your ex won't even cross your mind.

Best Place to Look Like You're ­Exercising When You're Really ­Cruising

Memorial Park Jogging Trail

Historic Camp Logan, the WWI military camp, makes up much of the area that is now Memorial Park. These days, so many couples meet and date on its jogging trails, some call it Camp Romance. Memorial Park is one of the largest parks in the country and in addition to the jogging trails, there's a pool, a golf course, tennis courts, and...oh, what the hell...all you care about is cruising. And yes, there's plenty of cruising going on. Wearing skimpy shorts and tiny tops, joggers get a real look at what they're getting. Everyone is already sweating and breathing hard, jogging up and down, up and down, in rhythmic sync, up and down, so it's just half a step from really athletic sex. Love and seduction in running shoes — what could be better?

Best Of Houston®

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