Month: July 2010

Listen to me on KBIA again!

On KBIA’s Off the Clock again this week.
I’d mentioned this piece in a post a while back. It was my first day-turn assignment for KBIA, and I put a lot into it for a day-turn,both in terms of reporting and intensity of tracking down sources. I’m glad to hear it on the air.

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Working with two partners, three mediums, and Camp Hickory Hill

My final KBIA piece was a little disorganized. I wasn’t as happy with the final product as I would have liked to be. Was it marketable? I wouldn’t expect it to air on NPR. Maybe on the whole – all three pieces taken together as a kind of massive narrative – yes, I could see it working; but someone taking in the main audio piece on the radio on their drive home would be left wanting in many ways. I think my biggest lesson from my last assignment was to keep a clear head and to release the focus of the story, the single effect I want to leave a listener with. It was a problem of losing the forest for the trees with this story.

Although I was involved in every component of this story, I was most proud of the sidebar, which I not only did narration for but edited and collected most of the audio. I wanted the gist of this story to be just what was in the sidebar – intimate conversations with real people and how the camp helped them. The main component sounded like a story interspersed with soundbites, and while it was a necessary story, my ideal, no deadline and no limits version of this story would have blended the sidebar with the main bar. I realize that wasn’t possible with our limitations. To avoid this story coming across like a day-turn (which it still sounds like, in my head, although I certainly see the seriously VAST amount of reporting we poured into it), I would have liked a more free-form platform to tell it. Maybe it’s not unique or fascinating enough to be the kind of 20-minute story you’d hear on This American Life, but I think extra time could have given it a really wonderful dimension.

On the whole, I think that extra dimension and that intimacy is what I spent this class looking for. I only found it to my satisfaction twice: once in my first story with Maggie Berglund on Tony Mena – when I felt like we’d really dug under Tony’s skull and gotten a really deep look into his past, his hopes, his personality – and to a lesser extent, in the shorter day-turn story on Food Not Bombs I did for KBIA. Ashlee, Andrew and I might have been on the verge of it in our last week, but something – and maybe it was just our exhaustion – kept us from reaching that. In my next semester, I’ll be trying to tell those kind of stories at KBIA, and I won’t limit myself to audio to do so.

Working with kids and KOMU scripting

My penultimate story was my first story for KOMU, our local NBC affiliate. This story introduced a whole range of new challenges to me, particularly working in a new format with a slippery subject – school lunches. Working with Alex Sagi, we visited three schools over the course of a week and collected massive amounts of footage in an attempt to circumvent the biggest problem I’d run into with video – having enough b-roll. I didn’t want to be in a situation where I had to pair narration with inappropriate or repetitive shots. And to an extent, we succeeded, I think – for the first time, I felt while editing like I had a little freedom, a little wiggle room, and some interesting choices.

The biggest difficulty in collecting b-roll was legal. We were prohibited from including one of the most obvious images in a story about public schools – kids’ faces (at least, kids whose parents hadn’t given approval.) We used two methods to circumvent this problem – shooting kids in lunch rooms from unusual angles, and seeking out alternate methods of talking to kids. I found that kid/parent bonding activities – in this case, we were lucky most churches in Columbia were hosting vacation bible school during the weekend – were the best way to get this permission. While Alex worked on background information about the newer, healthier menus the schools were initiating, I tracked down a variety of kids who were willing to speak.

When I rewatched the video package we put together, I see the flaws in the light of day, and they’re ugly. Maybe it was our inexperience and clumsiness with some of the technical aspects of shooting video. Some of my framing was downright miserable. It’s clearly unusable. No one would run this. At the time, I’d noticed those technical issues and mentally shelved them, convinced none of them were that big an issue. They were. I winced at parts of this. Writing a KOMU script was fun, though, and gave me a chance to work on my redundancy-eliminating skills. If I could go back, I would’ve done a little more work for KOMU. While I was involved with a couple video packages for other outlets, I see the stark beauty of the KOMU script format and how well it helps clips translate into video storytelling.

Yogurt parfaits and hummus among new menu items for Columbia Public Schools this fall
By Alex Sagi and Davis Dunavin

Columbia — Students will have the option of fresh, locally grown produce like yellow squash and zucchini when classes resume this fall in the Columbia Public School District.

To health-conscious students like middle-schooler Kayla Wingate, the changes are important.

“I think that it’s unhealthy for the kids at elementary schools and middle schools or whatever grade to eat processed foods,” Wingate said. According to her friend Carey Bass, Wingate tells her friends to eat healthy and is happy about the upcoming changes.

Laina Fullum is the director of nutrition services for the district. Fullum said along with parents and administrators, she has wanted to introduce local foods into lunches since before she took her position three years ago.

She said on December 2, 2010, she met with farmers and administrators and found a path to begin introducing what she considers fresher, local produce.

Last spring, Columbia public schools worked with its current food provider, Cole Food Services, and began serving locally grown asparagus, watermelon and apples.

Fullum said the district has been testing some new menu items this summer, including beans and rice, yogurt parfaits and hummus, and is considering giving them larger roles on the menu in the fall. Schools are also transitioning from white pasta to whole-wheat pasta, something Fullum said didn’t go over well at first.

“Initially, our kids hated it, but now kids love it,” Fullum said.

Starting in August, students will see expanded salad bar options, including fresh, locally grown tomatoes, onions, zucchini, yellow squash, green beans and berries.

Schools will also provide different main courses. Fullum said elementary schools will have one ‘meatless’ day a week, serving only vegetarian selections. While high schools will continue to have meat on the menu every day, Fullum said the district will try to offer vegan or vegetarian options more frequently.

With those additions, Fullum said she’ll be taking elementary schools’ bagged or “express” lunches, containing snacks like nachos and other processed foods, off the menu. Fullum said those foods have been controversial with some parents.

The new changes come with a price increase of 35 cents per lunch.  Fullum said 25 cents would cover operating costs that would increase regardless of menu options, and the remaining 10 cents will pay for the new, fresh foods.

When it came to finding a supplier for the fresh food, Fullum said she needed a vendor that could provide the quantity necessary to feed the whole district. She selected a group called Missouri Foods 4 Missouri People, based out of Marshall, Mo.

“We’ll be putting out bids to other vendors, but they’re the only ones who can do it,” she said.

The group already provides similar fresh food for Boone County Hospital, University of Missouri Dining Services and Hy-Vee.

Jean Gaddy Wilson, a retired journalist and former MU professor, founded Missouri Food 4 Missouri people one year ago with the help of Eric Cartwright, executive chef of MU’s Campus Dining Services and organic gardener Rick Boudreau. The organization includes about 35 mid-Missouri family and Amish farmers. It serves as the contractor to help get food from the farmers to the large organizations that prepare and sell food in mass.

Fullum said the district spent about $26,000 on all fresh produce last year, but said it is too early to tell how much money the district will spend this year. Fullum said she will work with Missouri Food 4 Missouri People to get the produce but still retain Cole for other menu items.

Working with KBIA

Over the course of the summer, I’ve become particularly interested in communicating with an NPR audience and working in the parameters of an NPR format. It’s the funnest way to tell a story I’ve found. I like the idea of expanding those storytelling tools, to include photos and video and text to reach NPR audiences in a variety of ways. I think the traditional medium of radio is ripe for exploration in what we consider convergence.

I produced three stories over the course of my newsroom shifts at KBIA, each one directed toward (to the best I could manage) a public radio audience. None of the three stories have been aired yet. My first was a story on the Columbia percent for art program, paying to bring two mid-Missouri artists’ work to city hall. This was my first KBIA story, and took me the longest to put together (about a full day.) Of the three, I think it was the least journalistically successful – a lot of reporting went into what turned out to be a relatively short and simple piece. Much more successful, I think, was my Food Not Bombs story, in which I played with natural sound and interview clips and built an unusual structure to tell the story. Unlike some of my early group attempts in Reporting, I think the experiment succeeded with Food Not Bombs – at least, more than it did with, say, the Free Market story with Kelly Hagen.

These stories are the first of what I hope will be a lot of KBIA work I do this year. This fall, I’m hoping to combine pieces like these with some convergence-style storytelling techniques, and see what kind of a reaction I can get by helping KBIA branch into even more new media.

Working with way too little b-roll

In Arrow Rock, officials, advocates and tourists discuss the park’s unique position and the problems facing it in the wake of the backlog and budget cuts.

After re-listening to my second story with Maggie Berglund on Missouri state parks’ budget shortfall and financial problems, I’m surprised it turned out as well as it did. The strengths of the video sidebar, my favorite part of the story, were all Maggie’s; the weaknesses were all mine. I shot most of the b-roll for the sidebar, which dealt with Arrow Rock, one state site unique for containing a historical site within a campable state park. Maggie, meanwhile, did most of the editing. It took a certain degree of brilliance to manage to carve a longer story out of my meager b-roll.

Our finished product was a KBIA audio piece which focused heavily on the big picture and the aforementioned sidebar. The story was probably too dry for a KBIA audience. Although Maggie found some excellent nat. sound for the intro, the main bar focused heavily on numbers. I felt like it was a professionally well-done piece, although my narration was, in retrospect, pretty weak. By the way,

  • A note on narration

This was my first narration in the class, and I had no idea what I was doing. I’ve talked with Maureen McCollum at KBIA about voicing, something I’m trying to crash-course myself in. Voicing is difficult for me, since I’ve had a host of speech impediments throughout my life. I’m used to public speaking but something changes in my voice when I get in a booth. I become a little more self-conscious than usual, obsessing over the waveform shapes and every vocal tic, probably to the detriment of the entire package.

To really integrate a convergence attitude into public radio, I’ll have to get narration down. I’m convinced it’s something I have the ability to be great at, and any hindrances I’ve faced so far are psychological. Most recently, my narration for my Fulton smoking ban piece sounded a lot more natural to me than this early attempt.

Working with Newsy: Four quick shifts

I don’t think I’ve ever produced a script at the pace I pulled off while working at Newsy.com. They have an interesting method of dissemination that I don’t quite understand yet (googling around reveals that my work has turned up in some weird places, like this website), but I liked their newsroom environment and my freedom in choice for stories.

True to Newsy form, I suppose, I found my story ideas through blogs and online news. I wrote my first Newsy script on my second shift there (after spending a shift shadowing a student in the Newsy class) and while I felt good about the story probing an incident a bit more specific and off-beat (while still connected to the national issue of illegal immigration / Arizona)  the only way I could judge the appeal was in blog posts (the aforementioned googling) and comments. Because the issues that tend to interest me are international news (specifically Japanese, Korean and Russian news, although I didn’t get to cover anything interesting there during my time at Newsy, and news from the British Isles, which I did get to tackle, happily, with Cameron’s apology over the nearly 30-year-old Bloody Sunday massacre), and American stories dealing with controversial issues like immigration, racism, and the culture war, I did manage to generate a lot of comments. Way for me to pick divisive, substantial topics and not “Is Lady Gaga causing eye damage?” Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Although I could have done without knowing I inspired the last comment on my Bloody Sunday story’s Youtube page.*


*Not that I don’t agree with the poster in sentiment. I just think he takes it a bit too far.

And of course it’s hard to find an issue more divisive than anything involving Israel and Palestine, a category this script fell into. Complete with a video of a furious Turkish foreign minister railing against Israel, I expected it to generate more controversy than it did.

Working with a National Movement

For my group story with Kelly Hagen, we used three components for the first time: a main text piece, a video sidebar and a text sidebar (it was our faculty editor’s suggestion to split the text sidebar off from the main text piece, a few days before deadline.) Kelly and I worked hard on this story, and I feel like this may have been the biggest discrepancy between the amount of reporting my teammate and I put into a project and the final outcome: in retrospect, I think text probably wasn’t the right area to explore this story. With a little refocus, we could have made an excellent KBIA or KOMU story out of this. The story connected to a national trend, but I feel like we missed an opportunity to localize the story with the Free Skool, maybe a much more interesting subject.

The main text piece was a learning experience for Kelly and I in terms of focus and perspective. We’d adopted (relatively late in) the risky and slightly experimental tack of using a Goodwill employee as an “audience stand-in” which the faculty felt didn’t work, and which, in retrospect, I don’t think did either. Maybe it could have worked with a little more time.

A week or so after Kelly and I finished our story, this one ran in Vox Magazine. So clearly the interest is there. I maintain that counterculture movements are a rich subject for journalism, especially in a part of the country that doesn’t see them much and for whom they’re a novelty (I remember being asked, shortly after I moved here, “What’s a vegan?”)

I think I could have turned out a better story on the subject, and I think I did, with a story I did on Food Not Bombs for a day-turn in one of my last newsroom shifts. Although this experiment wasn’t successful (and that might be because of the medium – I was proud of what Kelly and I managed to do with the video, which was event-based and would have made an excellent day-turn story), I’m still dedicated to pursuing stories within these channels while I’m in Columbia.

Columbia Movement embraces a Free Lifestyle

Davis Dunavin and Kelly Hagen

Karla Gough isn’t convinced you can get anything for free. Cheap, maybe, but not free.

The manager of Columbia’s Goodwill spends her “very busy” days behind the cash register, on the sales floor or in the unloading dock, sifting through items donated and deciding how much they’re worth.

She takes donations from individuals and businesses – up to 300 per day. They’re things people don’t want anymore, from clothes to furniture to household items and knick-knacks, and, as in Goodwill stores across the country, they sell at unusually low prices. Gough grew up in an environment where charity was important, but every penny counted. She’s never heard of people who would just share things freely without paying or expecting payment.

But according to community organizer Richard Schulte, an MU graduate who builds collectives in Cleveland, a nationwide movement is encouraging people to substitute consumer buying habits with free economics: a community-based sharing of goods. Some adherents describe themselves as freegan.

Freegan practices including sharing of goods, dumpster-diving, free stores and schools and squatting in abandoned buildings. Free economics encourages obtaining anything from food and household goods to entertainment, education and skills without using money. In Columbia, events and activities like the Really Really Free Market, which gives away the kind of goods that might cost a few dollars at Goodwill for free, and the Free School, which provides free education and skills training, have given a local shape to the movement.

Karla Gough blanks at the term “freegan.” Gough says all kinds of people come to Goodwill, from two-year-olds to the elderly. And though she’s used to dealing with people strapped for cash and looking for bargains, she’s never heard of a movement that would do away with buying and selling altogether.

“Yeah, that must be a younger generation thing,” she says. “I mean, I’ve never gotten anything for free before.”

A free lifestyle is news to many, like Gough, who grew up having to pay for everything. For many Americans struggling with debt or unemployment, these practices are becoming a more appealing alternative every day, according to those at the forefront of the movement, like Schulte.

“Columbia is filled with a lot of free-spirited people,” he says, “people interested in living alternatively.” But he adds that people in larger cities have a longer history of supporting free and community-based economics.

“It’s on people’s radar here more than 5 years ago,” Schulte says. “For being a midwestern college town, majority white, I think Columbia has a fairly diverse group of people – orientation, ethnicity, and perspective. I think there are enough people who have compatible perspectives who are curious that they’ll check it out.”

Back at Goodwill, Gough has been hearing about the Really Really Free Market, but doesn’t know how it would work.

It’s only the second of its kind in Columbia but it’s part of a phenomenon of people attempting to craft lifestyles without money. She considers how it would impact the Columbia community and access to donated goods.

“I think it’s awesome if the free stuff is going to the right people,” she says.

“But my main concern would be, ‘How’s anybody going to know who’s getting the free stuff? Who’s picking up these boxes full of stuff?’ I mean, how do you know if it’s going to people who need it the most?”

At the Really Really Free Market, anyone who wants the free stuff is getting the free stuff, no matter if they need it or not, according to Angie Galik, who organized Columbia’s Really Really Free Market in April with her partner, Sam Bullington.

Galik sees the event as a demonstration of community trust, generosity and “the goodness of human nature.” No bartering is necessary. It’s not a swap meet, she says.

The selection of merchandise spread around the Boone County Courthouse steps on the afternoon of Sunday, June 6, might be familiar to Karla Gough: clothing, books, furniture, toys, jewelry and other household items, ranging in condition from an unopened coffee maker to a vacuum cleaner with a note reading, “Help me, I don’t suck anymore.” Galik and Bullington watch as visitors browse, sometimes piling their finds into boxes, sometimes unloading boxes to leave on the steps.

“We started (free markets) on a smaller scale in Minneapolis in 2001,” says Bullington. Working with a group of about 25 people, Bullington says he held markets once a year. Galik and Bullington’s goal for Columbia is once a month.

There are no rules, and so no limit to how much visitors can take. Nonetheless, Galik says she’s never had a problem with anyone taking advantage of the system. In fact, Bullington says most visitors experience the opposite.

“Some people feel guilty; they don’t think it’s okay to take,” says Bullington, who offered a free counseling service for those feeling guilty with what they took at the first Really Really Free Market. “There’s this inner resistance and obstacles to receiving that people have.” Bullington says the market introduces people to unconditional giving, breaking down fears of scarcity and building new relationships between people at the market.

Bullington says the Really Really Free Market serves students’ needs as well.

“Students come to school and spend money on crap at Target that is incredibly wasteful and expensive,” Bullington says. “If there were a free market at the beginning and end, students could have alternatives.”

Michelle Hagopian, a University of Missouri student and Really Really Free Market volunteer, says the concept of sharing goods took some people by surprise at the first event in April.

“For a lot of people, it was definitely a new thing,” Hagopian says. “They were amazed that people would come put their stuff on the lawn and give it to others. A lot of people were asking me, ‘Will there be more of these? ‘Cause they should have these more often.'”

Galik and Bullington are looking for someone to take over after they move to Colorado in July. If they are successful, the monthly Really Really Free Market in Columbia will join ones they say are held once a month across the country in metropolitan areas as well as college towns like Austin, TX, and Athens, GA.

To the old guard, like Gough, education and goods are still things that cost money. Gough says she’d gladly donate to help those in need, just as Goodwill donates to support battered womens’ shelters and those who recently got out of prison. But she doesn’t expect anyone else to.

But according to Schulte and others, the old lines are being erased and free lifestyles may be even more important in Columbia in the future.

“Now everyone’s talking about the double dip in the recession, thinking that we’re going to go lower than we are now,” Schulte says. “People are now seeking alternatives to build a better quality of life and build their community.”

Working with a small-town story

My second-week team story had the slug CITYADMINISTRATOR. I wasn’t happy with the final product, mainly because it turned out only as a text piece (my fault for misplacing the photo on a drive, and not finding it until after the deadline), but also because I thought my reporting could have been much stronger. I was fighting a cold most of the week and felt a little out-of-it during the reporting process. My partner and I made two trips to Ashland, which were informative, but could have gone better as information-gathering sessions. This was my first experience reporting a small-town story, and my career up until now has mostly been involved in working with people who want media attention.

The story had to do with Chris Heard, a city administrator who angered a group of small business owners in Ashland in one way or another – accusations had some basis in action, but much of the complaints had to do with Heard’s “attitude” as an out-of-towner.

When I discovered this story, I’ll admit I was excited. I thought I’d found something great that would catch people’s attention. In my experience, stories like this tended to start arguments, which has always been one of my marks of a great story. Unfortunately, that’s not what this was. A variety of factors resulted in this week’s story not becoming the lightning rod of excitement I’d hoped for. Coming down with a cold didn’t help, as it put me out of commission during a couple of the most important working days for the story, and fortunately Miranda Wheatley was able to take a little of the slack (she was certainly more familiar with small-town people than I was, and her interviews produced some good results.) The multimedia components I’d envisioned, similarly, just weren’t there.

Chris Heard, the subject of the story, shut himself off to us, meaning we were missing a couple important pieces of the story. While he spoke with us, there just wasn’t enough substance there. And on Tuesday, less than two days before the final project was due, our story took a radical shift when Heard’s main opponent, Alan Beckett, backed down and apologized for causing a fuss.

On the whole, there was probably an interesting day-turn story in here somewhere. I wish I could have nailed it down. But it’s also possible that this small-town drama just wasn’t as interesting to a non-small-town audience as I’d thought it would be.

Alan Becket (left) whispers to Chris Heard (right) before the commencement of the city council meeting in which he apologized to Heard on June 1, 2010. Becket had been one of the loudest voices calling for Heard's removal until that night. (Davis Dunavin)

From petition to handshake, Ashland’s City Administrator weathers residents’ anger

Davis Dunavin and Miranda Wheatley

When Chris Heard took the job of Ashland city administrator in December 2007, he planned on friendly lunch meetings with local business owners. Instead, at the city council meetings in May, his constituents called him “condescending,” a “bully” and someone who “displays an air of pompous arrogance.”

In the most recent meeting, with the city council pledging to support him through the year and his main critic apologizing to him in person, Heard appeared to have survived the storm of criticism. For many locals, the controversy has been exhausting and aggravating in a town not used to media attention. Some have refused to speak to the media or spoken only on condition of anonymity, while others have expressed a wish for the entire ordeal to “just be over.” But how did the city’s administrator end up in the center of a firestorm?

From the beginning, Heard was an outsider in this tight-knit community of about 3,000. He took the position after the departure of Ken Eftink, Ashland’s first city administrator. Heard, a graduate of Missouri Western State College in St. Joseph, came from a well-traveled background. During his college years, he spent time working one of the most deadly jobs in the world – on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska. His previous job had been as assistant city administrator in St. Robert, Mo., a larger community with almost 10 times the staff.

But with a smaller budget and less staff, Ashland was a different story. Taking over from Eftink meant taking charge of a population that had nearly doubled since the last census. From the many different accounts of their styles, Eftink was more relaxed in his approach and easy-going in his enforcement of city regulations. In conversations with business owners and records from city council meetings, Heard more often has followed the letter of the law.

“Is he the friendliest person to work with? No. But that’s not what we’re paying him to do,” said city attorney David Bandre. “He’s efficient, and he’s an excellent city administrator. He does a good job.”

Heard’s problems with business owners and residents of Ashland came to a boiling point on May 4 when a yelling match erupted at the city council meeting and more than 40 people presented a petition calling for his removal.

Cory Myers of Myers Construction drew up the petition that listed a dozen or more characteristics about Heard that made him unfit to be city administrator.  The petition said Heard “delights in making life miserable for anyone having to deal with him,” and that he “thrives on being in control.” The writers of the petition also accused Heard of “playing games of revenge.”

Throughout the criticism, Heard has refused to go on the record with reporters, saying only that he can’t comment on the story. But he said he takes his job seriously.

At recent city council meetings, Alan Beckett has been one of Heard’s most vocal critics. In an interview, his soft voice contrasted sharply with the degree of his anger toward Heard.

“He needs to move on down the road,” he said. “Somewhere else that’s a little less community-oriented. Someone looking for a dictator, not a democracy. I believe in my heart we have a serious problem here … This guy’s doing nothing more than just handicapping us and we sure don’t need that right now.”

Beckett’s disagreement with Heard began over the replacement of an old trailer in his mobile home park. Set-back regulations in Ashland kept Beckett from simply replacing the old trailer with a newer model. Beckett asked for a variance from the city council.  After a lot of discussion and three weeks of waiting, he went around the council and got a variance from the Board of Adjustments. The process left him bitter over his treatment by Heard.

In minutes from the May 4 council meeting, Darryl Woods, majority shareholder of Ashland’s Main Street Bank, accused Heard of pulling city money from the bank and “moving it to Wall Street.” In an interview, Woods expressed fear that Heard’s personality has hurt Ashland’s image and its prospects for future business.

“Ashland prides itself on a community-based group of people,” Woods said. “I feel like we’re being portrayed as anti-community and cold and rigid by his representation. I feel like it’s stifling growth, it’s stifling business, and we want someone who better represents what this community’s all about.”

Earlier this month, however, the mob of voices died down and only a single voice spoke up about Heard.

Beckett returned, this time with an apology.

“I’ve set down and tried to come up with a little different approach tonight. I’m not up here raging mad,” he said in a five-minute speech that referenced his connections to the community of Ashland.

Bandre said the city’s goal is to make Heard a little more “people-friendly,” including working with a mentor on his demeanor and working with Mike Jackson, Ashland’s mayor. Jackson has supported Heard, and the council has confirmed that Heard’s contract will be in place at least through the end of 2010.

Ashland aldermen have agreed to create an Economic Development Committee that will help keep business owners informed about changes and regulations in the community.

And though tensions have eased, Beckett made it clear at the meeting that it wouldn’t take much to light a fire under him again.

After shaking Heard’s hand, Beckett added, “I can assure you, I can fill this place up next meeting with business people and people from the community, and if you don’t think I can, try me.”

Working with Tony Mena, profiling and PTSD

This was my first group project for Convergence Reporting this semester, and my favorite, not just in terms of final product but in the overall reporting experience.

MU student, poet and Iraq war veteran Tony Mena

Maggie and I worked very closely with Jim MacMillan to learn about reporting on post-traumatic stress disorder. It was a lucky stroke that Jim has the background he does as we came into this story. He guided us through the script with the amount of knowledge we could only have gotten from someone with a specialized background, and consulted us well pre-interview.

Relistening to the story, I’m surprised elements of it worked as well as they did – particularly the sidebar, which I’d worried would sound muddled and confusing (Tony’s voice commenting on Tony’s poem with only some light changes in nat. sound to indicate the transitions?) As the first substantial piece of non-text reporting I’ve ever done, it helped that it was a kind of reporting I’m used to (a profile.) This was also my first experience working with an NPR format, which I loved. I enjoy writing stories with an NPR tone, and I’ve enjoyed learning (especially over the course of the semester) what kind of subject matter is marketable to KBIA audiences. The success of this piece has encouraged me to turn my work a little more in that direction – I hadn’t decided to work on an independent study with KBIA at this point, but my experience on Mena’s story was a big factor in my decision later in the summer.