KMUW News In 2015
Of the hundreds of stories KMUW reported on in 2015--ranging from Wichita's streets, to its airport, to its local officials and local personalities--here are some of the most meaningful, as chosen by our reporters.
Nearly 600 chronically homeless people live in Wichita. The city police department began a pilot program--the Homeless Outreach Team--to help get homeless individuals connected to the services they need and, ideally, into their own home.
Reporter Abigail Wilson discusses what the piece meant to her:
It’s not uncommon for me to feel very attached to people I interview, and this piece was no exception. I wanted to tell the story of homelessness in Wichita and the dedicated police officers that are trying to help. Spending the day with Officer Nate, Tex and Darryl brought me to places I’d never been and provided a look at lifestyles that many of us are lucky enough to never experience. To me, this story highlighted the importance of “reaching out” to those around us, even if it might be uncomfortable or inconvenient.
Wichita's airport underwent a massive makeover this year. Reporter Deborah Shaar looked at the progress on the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport's new terminal and says:
My story on the new terminal at Eisenhower National Airport provided an update on the project and let listeners know the details of the new building—inside and out.
A sales tax referendum on the November 2014 ballot would have put roughly $27.8 million toward street repairs in Wichita. The referendum was defeated, but the cracks and potholes remain. Reporter Sean Sandefur took a driving tour of some of the streets most in need of a little TLC. In some sections of the city, entire neighborhoods are criss-crossed with streets covered in potholes and ruts--and residents may have to wait a while for repairs.
KMUW lost a family member this year when beloved Wichita chef and frequent food commentator Tanya Tandoc was killed in her home in early June. News director Aileen LeBlanc has this to say about working on a feature memorializing Tanya:
It is truly a day that a newsperson dreads. Waking up to a tragic story and one that is personal. The morning that we learned that our commentator, Tanya Tandoc, had been killed, I knew I HAD to cover it as a news story. But though I did not know Tanya very well, I knew that the public liked her, I liked her and what stood out immediately was that the KMUW staff loved her.
I decided to do a feature which could be a tribute to Tanya's work at the station as a food commentator for the last five years. I begged her friends Jedd Beaudoin, Jon Cyphers, Lu Anne Stephens, Kate Clause and Fletcher Powell to be interviewed and asked them questions about working with this dynamo. It was not easy but Tanya deserved that we, her KMUW family, give her a feature that would bless her work and her spirit. I think we did that. Miss you, Tanya.
In the aftermath of a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal, one Wichita doctor headed back to his home country to help where he could. Dr. Manish Bajracharya, a pediatric intensivist at at Wesley Medical Center, spoke to KMUW's assistant news director Carla Eckels about his plans to spend four weeks in Nepal.
Education--in particular, school funding--was a central focus in the Kansas Legislature this year, and it wasn't just teachers who felt the effects of tighter budgets. As reporter Sean Sandefur found out, the state has lost 25 percent of its school librarians over the past decade, many of them replaced by media clerks, who are paid hourly wages and may lack teaching credentials.
Complete High School Maize was one of just two schools in Kansas to be named a "2015 National School of Character" by the Washington, D.C.-based education nonprofit Character.org.
"This is voluntary school. No one gets sent here," says Kristy Custer, principal of the alternative school. "The students that are here, they want to be here, they want to do a good job, and they take a lot of pride in their school."
"I think sometimes people underestimate. They see you on TV with Matt Lauer and they're like, 'Oh my gosh, she just got there!'" Jones told KMUW's Carla Eckels during a trip to Wichita to speak at the Alpha Kappa Alpha 80th anniversary banquet. "And people haven't seen me since I graduated from Heights in 1996, but it has been a long road."
Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans and upended the lives of people who called the city home. Reporter Abigail Wilson spoke to one couple--Mike and Katie West of the band Truckstop Honeymoon--who live now in Lawrence but still feel a deep connection to the Big Easy.
Abigail says of getting to work with the couple:
Jedd Beaudoin suggested this story with musicians Mike and Katie West as a piece marking the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The West family lived in the Lower Ninth Ward, and in the time since the hurricane, they have relocated to Lawrence, Kansas. I love interviewing musicians and artists because they have such a way with words and descriptions; they paint a vivid picture and you can feel their emotions as they speak. The Wests were willing to discuss details of an incredibly trying time in their lives, and in combination with their music they helped me share a glimpse of the destruction and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Aileen LeBlanc and digital assistant Hugo Phan took a trip to the Annoor Islamic School in north Wichita. Aileen had this to say about why she wanted to visit the Islamic Society of Wichita's private parochial school, particularly in the wake of a local official's "public warning" of an "Islamist threat":
A local county leader had taken time during a public meeting to speak about Muslims and the fear of those who follow Islam. This was shortly after the terrorist attacks in Paris. I wanted to get "the other side" out. I decided to go to the Islamic Society of Wichita – their school and their mosque--to put humanity back on the table. The piece introduces you to school children from pre-K through middle school. You see them happy, and at play and excited about picture day. We also learn about some of the pressure and threats that have affected this community in our midst. The Facebook reaction was huge. Several days after we aired the story, the attacks in San Bernardino shook us all again.
Reporter Abigail Wilson spent more than a year producing a 30-minute documentary to mark 45 years since a plane carrying members of the Wichita State University football team crashed into a mountainside in Colorado. On why she wanted to report on the crash, she says:
This documentary started as a research project for my graduate program at Wichita State University. But the academic paper I had planned for the project didn't seem like it was enough; it felt too sterile. "The Pieces That Remain" allowed me to explore my own feelings and those of my family. One survivor of the crash wrote after hearing the documentary wrote that the piece is the "best that has been done on the crash in all 45 years.”
KMUW kicked off an ongoing series that looks at the individuals--including architect Charles McAfee and Pizza Hut co-founder Dan Carney--who have helped shape Wichita and the city's reputation as an entrepreneurial hub.