Best AM Radio Producer 2016 | Mike Ryan | Arts & Entertainment | South Florida

Producing a radio show might seem like a cakewalk when you have on-air talent as strong as sports journalist Dan LeBatard and his cohort, Jon "Stugotz" Weiner. Really, though, the sports-talk biz is crazy competitive, and as the hosts improvise and adjust their patter, curve ball after curve ball is thrown in producer Mike Ryan's direction on an hourly basis. Yet he consistently gets a bat on the ball and knocks it completely out of the park. He jumps on air, managing to function both as the young guy and the voice of reason. He sings parody songs, butts into conversations at the right time, and perfectly represents the bipolar Miami Heat fan. Sure, the hosts are great — but this sports radio show wouldn't be the same without this particular producer.

Between 2005 and 2010, when Channing Crowder was busting skulls for the Miami Dolphins as their middle linebacker, fans knew he was a character. Crowder's stint with the Fins was a brief one, but he left a lasting impression as a guy who would mix it up by getting under the skin of the opposing players, plus give the media a crazy postgame sound bite. His inability to filter himself turned into highly entertaining radio interviews, during which he revealed that he used to urinate in his pants during games and gave nebulous accounts of possibly selling football jerseys while in college. This led to good things for fans in Crowder's post-NFL career as 560 WQAM's nuttiest sports-talk personality — first as a midday host of his own show and now as the third man on Marc Hochman's afternoon-drive show. Crowder has made QAM must-listen radio, as he spouts off his opinions on pretty much everything under the sun and regales listeners with goofy stories from his playing days. All in all, Crowder the man remains the same. He's as funny, crazy, and unpredictable as ever, which is why he's the best thing going on local AM radio.

Readers' choice: Steve O & Rene

Ethan Skolnick has had himself one hell of a season. Skolnick, who has covered South Florida sports for various outlets since 1995, returned to the Miami Herald this season to cover the Heat, but that wasn't his biggest move of the year. In addition to his impeccable blog and newspaper coverage, Skolnick took on the daunting task of replacing longtime 790 the Ticket afternoon-drive hosts Dan LeBatard and Stugotz — and the results have been extraordinary. Skolnick has thrived in the station's 4 to 7 p.m. slot alongside Chris Wittyngham. For three entertaining hours, Skolnick brings together his unparalleled Heat coverage and entertaining interaction with callers and members of #HeatTwitter.

Morning-zoo radio hosts are kind of cliché. When spouting out their 3,000th fart joke doesn't work, they hit silly sound-effects buttons. They're dumb, they're annoying, and they're the last thing you want to be stuck with while driving to work in rush-hour traffic. Then there's Paul Castronovo. He's been hitting the South Florida morning airwaves for 26 years with his buddy "Young" Ron Brewer — and he's still entertaining. Castronovo knows his audience and is for-real funny, not fart-joke funny (although he'll occasionally dabble in some off-color humor). Castronovo is at his best when he's snarky and loves to mix it up with callers who are less than intelligent. More than anything, however, Castronovo has the rare gift of making you want to hang with him. There's not a single loyal listener of the Paul & Young Ron Show who wouldn't kill to go fishing with Castronovo in the Keys or hit up a Dolphins game with him. Paul Castronovo is like your cool cousin, and he makes that morning commute bearable.

Readers' choice: Paul Castronovo

In today's blog-heavy, traffic-optimized, content-laden news cycle, Amy Shipley is the sort of unicorn the world needs now, more than ever: a person given the time and resources to dig deep into a single subject for months. Over the past year, Shipley, a former Washington Post staffer, led a Sun Sentinel investigation into the way Broward's courts work to keep the mentally ill locked behind bars indefinitely, far from the treatment these inmates so desperately need. The article, called "Trapped: The Crime of Mental Illness," showed that when the mentally ill are diverted to Broward's felony mental health courts, defendants, guilty or not, spend six times longer in the criminal justice system than the non-mentally ill. Shipley's story explained how these people are forced to live up to near-impossible demands and are often thrown in jail if they cannot comply. She illuminated wholly unacceptable practices at Broward's State Attorney's Office and did what most criminal justice reporting fails to do: remind us that we cannot talk about criminal justice without talking about mental health care too.

Antarctica is known for many things: crippling cold, ravenous polar bears, hypothermic death, penguins. But it's virtually uninhabited by man, which leads to a wonderful thought experiment: If humans were to colonize Antarctica (which may become a popular idea as the world continues to warm), what kind of continent would it be? Aaron Jackson, part-time Weston resident and founder of the humanitarian rights group Planting Peace, saw an opportunity in March to get at least one point across: If we're going to inhabit a new continent, the whole thing better be LGBT-friendly. Jackson — a straight, cisgender male whose past work includes delivering medicine to Haitian children and establishing an "Equality House" to counter the hate-filled Westboro Baptist Church — took it upon himself to sail down to Antarctica on a research boat, for the sole purpose of declaring Antarctica the world's only "LGBT-friendly" continent. That photo of Jackson kneeling next to some Antarctic penguins (which can't seem to figure out what kind of fish he is) ought to be plastered over the Sistine Chapel.

Lawyers might look all business as they waltz into the courthouse to try their cases, carrying themselves proudly with their expensive suits and knowledge of obscure Latin phrases. That's true even in Broward, a county notorious for its wild judiciary (like the half-naked drunk judge, the pot-smoking judge, and the Anna Nicole Smith-obsessed judge). But the sheen of professionalism is frequently shattered online at Bill Gelin's Justice Advocacy Association of Broward Blog, or JAABlog, a site dedicated to airing grievances and gossip within the 17th Judicial Circuit. Gelin, a Fort Lauderdale attorney, started posting in 2006. Under the cloak of anonymity, lawyers dish in his comments section like they're in the high school cafeteria. Some call it juvenile, but others praise Gelin for the much-needed transparency. "Without me, there would be no accountability," Gelin says. He's right, and the Broward Courthouse surely wouldn't be as interesting.

Seventeen-year-old Elijah Manley loves to tell people, "If you're not sitting at the table, then you're on the menu." And this youth rights' advocate is tired of being directed to the kiddie table. Last year, he decided to run for president — not student body president at Fort Lauderdale High School, where he's a junior, but president of the United States of America. Last June, he filed forms with the Federal Elections Commission. This past year has been a whirlwind for the young candidate, as he traveled to New Hampshire to campaign, Wisconsin for the Socialist Party's national convention, and Washington, D.C., for meetings with VIPs. He knows the Constitution dictates that he has to be 35 to be inaugurated, but he doesn't see why that should prevent him from running. In his spare time, Manley serves as president of Youth Assembly, a youth rights' organization, and has been a thorn in the side of county and city commissioners, constantly proposing lowering the voting age to 16. He hasn't been successful yet, but has vowed to continue pushing for youth rights even after he turns 18.

Here's a not-so-outlandish little theory: Donald Trump is full of shit. He's making it up. All of it: his candidacy, his platform, his xenophobic declarations, his taunting of opponents on Twitter, his run to the White House. Trump, who has built an empire on being a bombastic headline hog, has always been about one thing: Trump. He's a narcissistic boor of the highest order, and his desire to push his brand by any means necessary has always been, and ever remains, his modus operandi. The man not only has to have his name on hotels and high-rises but insists on also stamping it on steaks, wine, ties, hats, fake universities, reality-TV shows... and even the Oval Office. So far, "The Donald" has played us. He has shouted out dumb racist things, made abysmal degrading comments about women, stirred up racial angst among a vocal and angry minority, and bullied and insulted his opponents, all in the guise of "telling it like it is." He inexplicably beat the establishment Republican candidates and rose to the top. And now he has no earthly idea what to do other than to see how far this thing can go. Ask him a foreign-policy question or get him to talk international nuclear strategies and Trump will look at you like you asked him to solve Beal's conjecture. But get him to talk all things "Trump" and he'll bloviate until his comb-over barks. Donald Trump's presidential candidacy is one big marketing scheme that just has to implode before November... right?

It's rare that a real-life villain has his own cartoon castle to call home, but with Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump has just that: a brick-and-mortar embodiment of all that the hobgoblin developer-king has come to represent. Compared to the rest of his South Florida properties — Trump Hollywood, the Trump National Doral golf course — Mar-a-Lago is downright beautiful, which makes sense considering Trump didn't actually build the castle himself. (That honor goes to Marjorie Merriweather Post, heiress to the Post cereal fortune.) In Trump fashion, he simply paid $10 million for the estate in 1985, ruined some of the gold-plated walls, and installed three bomb shelters on the property. Now, it serves as the capital for Trump's grotesque, Hunter S. Thompson-esque presidential campaign. Dolled-up Palm Beach ghouls wander the halls. A team of mostly foreign workers awaits Trump's every command. And Trump himself sits, eating a steak so hard it could "rock on the plate," as the New York Times put it, waiting for the end of the world.

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®

Best Of