KMUW News In 2019
Bears. Beer. Baseball team names. These are the stories KMUW reporters say shaped 2019.
McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita spent hundreds of millions of dollars over several years to prepare for the arrival of the KC-46 air refueling tankers. One of the most critical aspects was training crews on operations and features of the new aircraft. The base built a full-scale replica of the cargo deck for a KC-46 tanker, and began training about a month before the first tanker arrived.
McConnell’s training facility used a model for other Air Force bases that also received the KC-46 tankers.
Two years after Maggie Ballard and her son, Paxton, started the program, more of Paxton's Blessing Boxes are going up around Kansas.
The three men convicted of plotting to bomb a Garden City apartment complex that housed Somali Muslims were sentenced to 25-30 years in prison, ending a years-long case that exposed a network of militia groups in western Kansas.
Singer/songwriter and guitarist Raul Midon has made a big splash in the music industry. Director of cultural diversity Carla Eckels, who produced the piece, says: "The Grammy nominated singer was amazing to talk to!"
From news director Tom Shine:
Beth Golay and I interviewed Kerri Rawson after she published her memoir, “A Serial Killer’s Daughter.” Her father was Dennis Rader, better known as BTK. When I worked at The Eagle, I met Rawson during our coverage of BTK. She continues to be a remarkably strong person.
Wichita State University President John Bardo, who transformed the school with the development of the Innovation Campus, died early this year, leaving behind a legacy as an "innovator."
Starting this year, full strength beer – up to 6% alcohol content – was made available in grocery and convenience stores across Kansas. It was a change two years in the making.
From reporter Nadya Faulx:
There was a lot of anticipation around the law change, but also some anxiety. We'll have to do a follow-up story next year where we look at how liquor stores have handled the change.
At the beginning of 2019, NPR, Publishers Weekly, Lit Hub, and other national media flagged at Jericho Brown's new poetry collection as one to watch. Beth Golay, host of the Marginalia podcast, spoke with the poet about his work.
Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball was not just a defining moment in sports, it was a defining moment in our country’s history. Branch Rickey signed Robinson. His grandson, Branch Rickey III, discusses Robinson’s enduring legacy.
In April, KMUW celebrated its 70th birthday! Our longtime friend (and one-time station manager) Lance Hayes looked back on 70 years of KMUW history and service to the community.
Reporter Jedd Beaudoin says:
For as long as I've lived in Wichita (21 years and counting), I've been listening to the debate over whether "Wichita Lineman" (which Webb wrote and Campbell made famous) was about Wichita, Kansas, or Wichita Falls, Texas. Getting the story straight from Webb (something I had tried to do for more than a decade) felt particularly enlightening. Given that this song is so inexorably tied to our city's identity and history, I felt like I had stumbled upon confirmation of what many of us have suspected (and some have known) for decades.
From reporter Deborah Shaar:
After years of talk about Century II’s future and a renewed development effort for the east riverbank, I thought it was important to highlight the Wichita Wurlitzer. The famous Wurlitzer is built into Century II, yet it is not mentioned in future plans for Century II. The pipe organ has a historical pedigree and a loyal fan base. This story focuses on the effort to keep the Wurlitzer in Wichita.
Kansas is known for its wind, so much so that developers have put up enough wind turbines to make the state a leader in wind energy. But some communities began pushing back this year. The opposition got so loud in Reno County that the county commission ultimately denied a permit for a proposed project.
From reporter Brian Grimmett:
This story takes a look at some of the reasons behind the opposition. It involved a lot of travel to Reno County, sitting through hours of meetings, and convincing locals concerned about the issue to go on the record. Ultimately, I think it helped shed some light on a complicated and emotional issue.
From Carla Eckels:
I went to Wichita’s North High School to produce another story and while there, I learned that band leader Stephanie Byers was preparing to retire. Byers, who is a trans woman, agreed to sit down for a few minutes to share her story. This email from listener Sean Seemster was one of the comments I received right after the story aired:
To: Carla Eckels
Subject: All you need to know is to be kind
If you didn't edit your interview with Stephanie Byers to end with that sentence, then you're very lucky or an interviewing savant.
We would all do well to start our days with that message. To carry our days out with it. And to end our days with it. Stephanie Byers sounds like somebody who lives it.
You've delivered another interesting and thought-provoking piece of work.
Thank you, Carla! If there's any kind and appropriate way to express thanks to Ms. Byers (for courage and for quiet insight into the human condition), I hope you can pass mine along to her. I hope your inbox is flooded with positive, kind, response to this piece.
Carla Eckels says:
I produced a story highlighting longtime tailor Eugene Canidy, who is an expert in men’s fashions. He shares details about how he decides on “The Look."
Canidy, who retired not long after the story aired, says he was absolutely amazed by all the responses he received from KMUW listeners. A man ordered 200 shirts from him because he knew what a “preachers collar” was (sometimes called mandering or band collar). Canidy still keeps busy with his own business, The Boardroom, where he helps customers with purchasing men’s clothing and tailoring needs.
One rule change to the Jayhawk Community College Conference led to big national wins and attracted filmmakers. But it also created controversy and poor attendance. Now the league is trying to recapture the local draw of community college sports.
This story discusses Woody Guthrie's role in the development of country music with a variety of experts on his life and work. It reminds us of his unique contributions to American music.
From reporter and Strange Currency host Jedd Beaudoin:
This was a particularly important story for me because Woody Guthrie has influenced everything from country and folk to punk rock. Understanding what has kept him out of the Country Music Hall of Fame was central to this story. Moreover, the message of his music resonates to this day.
I spoke with a few experts in Guthrie's life and work but the finishing touch was talking with Old Crow Medicine Show's Ketch Secor, who added depth and and a Guthrie-esque voice to the story. Without our eleventh-hour conversation I would have had a story I felt good about but with it, I felt that this became a story that spoke directly to Guthrie's importance.
Dom Flemons (ex-Carolina Chocolate Drops, Grammy nominee/Grammy winner) discusses the tradition of the black singing cowboys in film. Flemons has been instrumental in reigniting interest in this tradition.
From Carla Eckels, director of cultural diversity:
Actress Karla Burns portrays the legendary Hattie McDaniel on stage and knows an extensive amount of information about McDaniel. I wanted to produce a story with Burns talking about the first African American Academy Award winner at her birthplace near downtown Wichita. What I didn’t know until we arrived was that there was a missing marker that shared history about McDaniel!
Dozens and dozens of comments poured in from people who appreciated learning McDaniel was born in Wichita and also inquired about the missing marker. Many people commented that it needed to be replaced. The Kansas African American Museum created a post on their website where people could donate. At last check, the museum was more than halfway to reaching their goal to replace the marker. Stay tuned.
Fewer Kansans are hunting and that's leading to fewer dollars for protecting animals and their habitat. The state is trying to attract new millennial, Gen-Z and women hunters to keep the conservation coffers filled.
From reporter Stephan Bisaha:
This story gave me a chance to report an aspect of Kansas life that rarely gets reported on. Plus, it was my first time abandoning a rental car in the mud.
From reporter Deborah Shaar:
This story updated the city's position on the future of Century II. The piece received a lot of attention because it was the first time the city announced that it would not support renovating Century II for performing arts, and was looking to build a new facility.
For years Kansas has been pushing schools to relying on test scores over teacher experience to decide the best way to help struggling students. But new research from the University of Kansas calls the state's approach flawed.
A leisurely kayak trip down the Arkansas river leads to the remarkable discovery of a grizzly bear skull that could be as old as 20,000 years. The skull was likely unearthed thanks to significant flooding that took place on the river this spring.
Well-known sports logo designer Todd Radom designed the logo for the Wichita’s new baseball team, the Wind Surge. Reaction from the public was not favorable, but Radom says he’s not worried.
Water — who gets to use it, when and how — sparks fights all over the world. The latest battleground is in south-central Kansas, near the federally operated Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. In its simplest form, it’s a clash between the refuge, which isn’t getting its legal share of water, and the local farmers who may be forced to cut back on how much water they use on their crops.