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Baltimore Sun’s Best: Readers’ Choice 2021 people & media

The Baltimore Sun’s readers have voted on what’s the best in the region from antiques to urgent care. This year’s winners include people and businesses recognized for outstanding service and customer satisfaction over the last year. Several businesses stood out from the crowd despite the downturn in commerce due to the pandemic.

Winners of the Readers’ Choice ballot were selected by readers in May.

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For more categories, go to baltimoresun.com/best.

Aaron Dante in the new studio where he records his podcast, "No Pix After Dark." The mural behind him is by Paige Orpin.
Aaron Dante in the new studio where he records his podcast, "No Pix After Dark." The mural behind him is by Paige Orpin. (Kim Hairston/The Baltimore Sun)

Best podcast

No Pix After Dark Podcast

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Aaron Dante learned his storytelling skills as a kid during weekly dinners in Baltimore with his extended family. His eight uncles and three aunts would gather and take turns telling tales, each more outlandish than the last, but based on nuggets of fact.

“I learned how to engage people,” said the 41-year-old raconteur, who lives in the Waltherson neighborhood. “How to keep them on the edges of their seats.”

Three decades later, he’s putting the lessons he learned into “No Pix After Dark,” the weekly podcast that Dante, who works in real estate, puts together on evenings and weekends. The podcast’s name refers to the difficulty of taking photographs after sunset. “Only stories are good after dark,” Dante said.

No Pix After Dark is in its third season. Each of the more than 125 episodes is structured around an interview with a family member, friend, neighbor, community leader, local business owner or politician. Upon occasion, the podcast has featured folks who make national headlines, such as the Florida whistleblower Rebekah Jones, the scientist who allegedly was fired for refusing to censor Florida’s COVID-19 data.

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Dante began the podcast in 2018 shortly after his eldest son, Lucca, was born.

“I wanted him to have something to remember me by,” he said. “I wanted him to meet all the great people I knew and hear about their trials and tribulations and how they overcame them.” (His younger son, Nico, is 7 months old.)

Over the years, Dante has found that personal stories often elicit the strongest responses from viewers. He interviewed his mother about her decision two decades earlier to withhold her cancer diagnosis from him because she feared he would drop out of college. (She has recovered and is doing well.)

He interviewed a couple who had suffered a miscarriage, decided to adopt, and overcame hurdle after hurdle before coming home with their son.

“I tear up just thinking about that podcast,” Dante said.

A question he asks every guest is: “Tell me about your favorite childhood memory.” His listeners respond to these personal glimpses, and it helps his interview subjects relax.

“Representation matters,” he said. “People like hearing stories about the people they know. When someone trusts you with their story, it is a great honor.” — Mary Carole McCauley

New episodes of the podcast are released at 8:30 a.m. Mondays at nopixafterdark.com and is carried on all major podcast platforms.


Best 2021

Activist: Kate Cook

Honorable mentions:

Franca Muller Paz

Keisha Allen

Ralph Moore

Clergyperson: Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, Transfiguration Catholic Community

Honorable mentions:

Rabbi Steven Schwartz, Beth El Congregation

Pastor Rod Hairston, Messiah Community Church

College athlete: Jared Bernhardt, Maryland

Honorable mention:

Terry Nolan Jr., Towson University

College professor: Mileah Kromer, Goucher College

Honorable mention:

Shawn M. Bediako, UMBC

DJ: Landis Expandis

Honorable mentions:

DJ Kory with a K

Mr. Miles the DJ

Michael Pachino (DJ Mike on the Mic)

Instagram account: @bmorefood

Honorable mentions:

@thebrokenplate_jules

@ourtimeofthemonth

@millennialmrktg

Meteorologist: Justin Berk, Just In Weather LLC.

Honorable mentions:

Ava Marie, WBAL TV

Tom Tasselmyer, WBAL TV

Amy Aaronson, WBFF

Oriole: Trey Mancini

Personal trainer: Jessica Kern, Inline barre

Honorable mentions:

Marissa Walch

Jenna Scott, Earth Treks

Kelly Whelan, Maryland Athletic Club

Podcast: No Pix After Dark Podcast

Honorable mentions:

The Enough Podcast, Anna Larimore

Harford County Living with Rich Bennett

Silver Linings Playback

Politician/government official: Bill Henry, Baltimore City comptroller

Honorable mentions:

Brandon Scott, Baltimore City mayor

Zeke Cohen, Baltimore City Council, 1st District

Calvin Ball, Howard County executive

Radio host: Michael Eugene Johnson, WOLB 1010 AM

Honorable mentions:

Tom Hall, WYPR

Reagan and Bethany, formerly of Mix 106.5

Bob the Paper Guy, WTMD

Radio station: WYPR-FM 88.1

Honorable mentions:

89.7 WTMD

93.1 WPOC

WEAA 88.9 FM

Raven: Lamar Jackson

Honorable mentions:

Justin Tucker

Ronnie Stanley

Redditor: WhoGunnaCheckMeBoo

School principal: Kirk Sykes, The SEED School of Maryland

Honorable mentions:

Tracey Ford, Maryvale Preparatory School

Jacqueline Williams, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute

Craig Reed, Perry Hall High School

Sports talk show: Big Bad Morning Show 105.7

Stage actor: Megan Anderson, Everyman Theatre

Honorable mention:

Molly Cohen, The Acme Corp.

TV personality: Rick Ritter, WJZ

Honorable mentions:

Deborah Weiner, WBAL-TV

Ashley Hinson, WBAL-TV

Twitter feed: Scan the Police // Baltimore City, @scanthepolice

Honorable mentions:

Nick Frisone, @BaltMediaBlog

Phil Davis, @PDavis_LLC

Visual artist: Juliet Ames, Broken Plate

Honorable mentions:

Charlotte Hager, @artebycharlotte

Katie Pumphrey

Krystal Mack

Writer: Laura Lippman

Honorable mentions:

Nora Roberts

R. Eric Thomas

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