A Year in the North Country

The stories I reported from the coldest place I've ever lived

Happy New Year!

I have been living in the woods of Transylvania County, N.C. for about a month now after moving back home after Thanksgiving. This was an amicable if not unexpected departure for me, a refreshing change of pace for a career that has sometimes left me feeling burned out and confused. While I have not always left jobs feeling proud of my work, I can honestly say this was one of my best reporting years.

To that end, I wanted to highlight three stories I did for NCPR that capture who I am as a storyteller and what I can do when I’m firing on all pistons. It’s strange to say that this year, of all years, while hobbling through this pandemic, that pouring myself into my reporting was a welcome reprieve from outside troubles. I don’t know what’s next for me quite yet, but after 12 years and hundreds and hundreds of stories, I finally have a body of work I am proud to share with folks.

  1. Following widespread protests after the death of George Floyd, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all police departments to “reinvent and modernize” their departments. The catch? He gave them virtually no instructions on how to do it and nine months to submit a plan, or risk losing funding. In the village of Potsdam, a diverse group of stakeholders began meeting in the fall, but tensions were evident from the get-go. Last month, the only two Black members on the committee decided to the leave the group, citing frustrations over the direction of the conversation. My 9 minute deep dive into what happened.

  2. One of the unexpected highlights of last summer was the elevation of Black artists, academics and creators who have long been underrepresented in media. This is also true of the science and outdoors community. So when a group of Black birders got together to launch #BlackBirdersWeek, I reached out to talk with two of the organizers about their efforts. One of my favorite two-ways of all time.

  3. The only silver lining for an otherwise dismal year for movie releases after the shutdown was the rediscovery of drive-in theaters. I happened to move to a place with three within an hour’s driving distance from me and I hung out with the curmudgeonly owner of one near Watertown, NY, to see how he was preparing for the anticipated uptick in business.

    *Honorable mention story goes to my profile of Ogdensburg’s pugnacious new mayor, an example of Trump’s influence on local GOP politics, a clown car of a legacy which will unfortunately be with us long after he’s dead and gone.

I can’t say enough kind words about North Country Public Radio. This place is a hidden gem in the NPR member station system. I will miss my colleagues: David, Emily, Monica, Todd, Amy, Ethan, Jessica, Emma, and more! They have kept me going every morning on our Slack channel and Zoom calls. I hope to visit again soon, cross country skis in tow.

P.S. Season 5 of Drilled is now out in full, and it’s one of our best yet. This season Amy takes us to the Ecuadorian rainforest for la lucha en la jungla. It’s all about how attorneys fighting both for and against Big Oil can end up hurting the very communities we should be protecting from environmental harm. Binge now!