Missourian Clip #16 – Fall at Devil’s Icebox

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MU student in fair condition after fall at Devil’s Icebox

COLUMBIA — MU student (//////) fell about 25 feet into the Devil’s Icebox Cave just before 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

The student, 18, had been walking with friends in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park when he went off the boardwalk to “explore on his own,” his friend said. He was climbing the fence to get back onto the boardwalk when he slipped and fell into the fissure that leads into the cave.

 (Click title above to read the whole clip)


Even though I knew I was going to report an accident, it was strange to see Rockbridge Park filled with sirens and flashing lights.

I so often go there for pleasure that I was drawn to the story immediately, volunteered to be the one to run down there and see what was up with the “kid who fell” at the Devil’s Icebox.

As I pulled up, they were coming out of the woods with a backboard. As I ran up to the scene, they were shutting the ambulance doors.

I spoke to his friends and his girlfriend, and from what I could tell, the one who fell had been pretty lucky, all things considered. Walking off the path, he slipped while climbing a fence and fell backwards into the vertical opening of the cave.

There are rocks down there, and cold running water.

But the girlfriend said she went down there and got him, and the two managed to get up the stairs before the ambulance arrived. He was conscious, and talking to them. They said he was in pain, and I saw blood on his girlfriend’s jacket.

It could have been a lot worse.


Missourian Clip #15 – Bias Free Coalition

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City coalition discusses ways to integrate Muslims and Latin Americans

COLUMBIA — The Bias-free Columbia Coalition met Tuesday evening in Columbia City Hall to discuss efforts to make Columbia a welcoming community for people of all backgrounds. In the third meeting of the ongoing series, the presentations centered on programs that help integrate Muslims and Latin Americans.

Rashed Nizam and Arwa Mohommad of the Central Missouri Islamic Center gave a sample of a presentation they have developed to spread awareness of Islamic culture.

Mohommad, who was born in Columbia to Iraqi parents, tried to dispel myths and misconceptions about Muslims throughout the United States and within Columbia, stressing that Muslims vary greatly by ethnicity, level of practice and culture. 

She explained that in Islam, jihad does not mean “holy war” but usually “personal struggle for the sake of God,” wearing a hijab should be a choice that each woman makes for herself, and the Quran holds men and women to be equal. She also gave advice for police officers and others who enter Muslim homes and places of worship to respect gender boundaries, remove shoes and give women time to cover before entering. 

(Click title above to read the whole clip)


Another sort of cultural story. I like the subject matter, but it was hard to report on. My story after all was not an exploration of myths and stereotypes about Muslims, but a simple report on a city hall meeting. I was torn, because the interesting parts of the presentation were anything but hard news, and the hard news itself was very dry and took up an insane amount of space, since all the organizations involved had long, unwieldy names, and the coalition was a team of about 12 different groups that needed to be named. I did the best I could, but it wasn’t easy to keep it short and interesting…

Missourian Clip #14 – Cross Country Xtreme

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Cross Country Extreme Features Obstacles, Costumes and Mud

COLUMBIA — Patches of bright colors broke through gray November woods on Saturday as dragons, zombies, brides, firefighters and other characters raced along off-road trails and through obstacle courses.

Under the mud and costumes were couples, best friends, athletes, children and at least two energetic dogs — all participants in XCX, or Cross Country Xtreme. The first wave started the 4-mile race at 9 a.m. at the Midway Travel Plaza sandbar.

(Click title above to read the whole clip)


I did this story on my way out of town for Thanksgiving break. It was another very fun story to report on and to write – with opportunities to talk to some interesting characters and use some creative descriptions. I pushed myself a little bit to keep talking to people to get some of the more interesting stories, instead of just talking to who was the most obvious or whoever looked the most accessible, I did a little bit of both. I knew right away I wanted to talk to the mother and daughter pair, since I had already talked to so many guys, and the daughter was one of the younger runners. I thought they would have something cute to say, and sure enough they did! As with the mushroom hunting and civil war stories, this is the kind of story I actually want to write for my career, so I found it very enjoyable.

Missourian Clip #13 – Fire Destroys Abandoned Buildings

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Fire Destroys Abandoned Buildings

COLUMBIA — A fire destroyed a building Thursday night on what was once Sinclair Farm, an MU research facility on Sinclair Road.

The fire, which began at about 8:40 p.m., engulfed the L-shaped building, which was made of metal with a wooden frame, and caused the roof to cave in.

(click link above to read whole story)


I was settled into a nice movie night, when I got a phone call from the newsroom. All the GA people were out of commission, and they needed someone to report a fire. Not having a smart phone, I had to have the ACE text me the fire checklist, question by question, as I ran out to my car, plugged the address into my GPS, and was on my way…

Yes, I snuck past the police… twice. Once by accident, and then once again to get back on the right side of the incident. Yes, I saw the building curling up like discarded jiffy-pop foil and the water falling like a spray of golden fire, lit from the inferno below. It was beautiful, and I don’t feel bad about saying that, because no one was hurt – the buildings were abandoned, no one was inside, and all of the firefighters also escaped injury.

It took them a long, long time to send someone out to talk to the media. Some of the other stations left, drove their trucks out of the neighborhood where I was standing and waiting. Next time, I’ll bring better clothing. In my rush out the door I’d only grabbed a jacket and a scarf, and I was shivering watching the steam float off the water from the hydrants and the soaked grass start to crunch, frozen underfoot.

But I waited, and finally they sent someone, and I got all the answers standing there with my notebook pressed into my side to keep my hands still enough to write legibly. I called all the information into the newsroom ahead of me, knowing we were perilously close to 11 o’clock, but when I finished, they had me come in anyway – they were waiting for the story.

By the time I left, it was midnight, I smelled like ashes and smoke, and I was still shivering of cold and adrenaline. It was a different evening than I’d planned for myself, but way more interesting!

Missourian Clip #12 – Lighting Demo Problems

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Problems arise with downtown parking garage lighting filters

COLUMBIA — The show is over for the lighting demonstration at the Fifth and Walnut parking garage.

After the city received complaints from residents about the garage’s bright lights, the Environment and Energy Commission approved a demonstration of photo-corrective films by independent lighting consultant Eric Sax.

(Click title above to read the whole clip)


I’m actually glad I’ve had this garage lighting story sequence. It’s given me the opportunity to follow a longer-term story through different stages, learn how to cover public meetings, work with officials, explain more technical details in laymen’s terms, etc. This is the third installment, and I keep feeling more and more comfortable with the whole process.


Missourian Clip #11 – Bank Robbery

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Police seek suspect in Landmark Bank robbery

COLUMBIA — A man entered Landmark Bank on Tuesday afternoon and gave the teller a note demanding money, according to a Columbia Police Department press release.

(Click title above to read the whole clip)


Oh, the joys of news releases. I tried calling the bank to get a little bit more information, but not only would they say nothing, they were more hostile than I had really anticipated.

On the bright side, my ACE told me that my stories were getting really easy to edit, that I was pretty much good with all the basic stylistic things and procedures.

Missourian Clip #10 – Accident on I-70

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Three injured in accident on I-70

COLUMBIA — A driver and two passengers were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries after their vehicle crashed into the embankment on Interstate 70 near North Sorrels Overpass Drive Tuesday evening.

(Click title above to read the whole clip.)


In the end, it was a very short story.

Still, it was a very interesting one for me as a first-time breaking news reporter.

We heard about the accident on the scanner, and they gave me a reflective vest, an accident check list, the name of an intersection, and the advice, “try to avoid the highway. apparently it’s really backed up.”

I took the backroads, following the congestion all the way to the flashing lights and sirens. I pulled over next to some little who-knows-what workshop, looked both ways before I crossed the outer road, hopped over a guard rail, and made my way down the hillside towards the flipped over car.

I had no real idea what I was doing, and I was terrified that people would yell at me and tell me to go home. Actually, though, things went very well, almost better than I could have hoped for.

I talked to a policeman at the scene. He was as nice as was appropriate, told me everything he knew, and it was good news. No one had died there, everyone had been taken to the hospital but they weren’t supposed to be critical. The car had hit the embankment and flipped. And so on.

As I made my way back towards the car, I ran into some people who had been watching the scene. I asked if anyone had seen the accident take place. None of them had, but they all wanted to know from me what was going on. I told them the police told me the car hit the side of the road and no one had died, and then I drove home and wrote the story.

Altogether pretty painless, but it was the kind of thing I’d never done before. I felt like a real reporter, in a silly way, walking in a place I never imagined walking and having conversations I never thought I’d have. I felt like I was in some strange movie role, in some-one else’s life, trapped between reality and make believe.

I’m glad everyone was okay. Still, it was weird.


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