First...The News
11:31 am
Wed March 5, 2014

Upon My Return

Coming back to JPR after nearly nine years has been a happy challenge for me.  In some ways, it’s been déjà vu all over again...

Last time I was in the JPR newsroom, I worked in the same studio and sat at the same desk as I do now. I’m working with a lot of the same people, too. And when I was moving back in, deep in one drawer I even found some old business cards of mine, from when I was JPR’s News Director in 2002–2005.

But there are big differences, too.

For one thing, I’ve put on a lot of miles (and a few pounds) in the intervening years. I divided most of that time between reporting on the environment for Seattle-based NPR station KPLU and covering Europe from my home in France. While at KPLU, I received several fellowships to cover European issues, especially the environment, and traveled a number of times to the continent to see what the European Union was doing about climate change, recycling, transportation, toxic chemicals and more.

But when JPR Executive Director Paul Westhelle asked me if I’d come back to southern Oregon to help re-establish JPR’s regional news coverage, I jumped at the chance. And that’s the biggest difference for me this time- the chance to help transform JPR’s reporting of the issues and events that most impact JPR listeners.

When I was here last, my main task was to produce The Jefferson Daily. Many of you may remember The Daily; it was a half-hour regional news magazine that aired every weekday afternoon next to All Things Considered on NPR. Aided by a stalwart and often-shifting crew of students and community volunteers, I put The Daily on the air each weekday afternoon, bringing news from around the region to JPR listeners.

In 2008, The Daily was canceled. Since then, there’s been no one at JPR designated to produce regional news.

Since my return in mid-October, I’ve been reconnecting to the region; getting the pulse of what’s happening now and what’s most important and interesting to JPR’s diverse and far-flung listeners.

These days, my particular piece of the JPR news puzzle is to make sure there’s quality local and regional news reports in what we call the “C segment” of Morning Edition. That’s the three-and-a-half to five-and-a-half-minute slot immediately following the NPR network newscast at 7:30 a.m. Since the end of our fall pledge drive in late October, JPR listeners have been hearing produced news features on issues and events from not only the State of Jefferson, but around the Pacific Northwest as well.

Just a few examples: I’ve reported on the problematic Cover Oregon health care insurance program; I’ve put an announced Northwest climate action plan into historical perspective; I’ve looked at how this dry winter is affecting the regional ski and outdoor recreation industry; I’ve examined how the continued decline of the spotted owl has led wildlife managers to shoot a competing owl species.

But I’ve also focused closer to home. I took listeners along with volunteers as they picked up donated groceries for the Ashland Food Project. I’ve looked at the social and political trends that after 50 years have the League of Women Voters chapter in Klamath Fall on the brink of closure.  I’ve examined local efforts to rein in the environmental damage being done by unregulated marijuana cultivation in northern California’s Green Triangle.

I’ve even covered kitchen table issues such as the spiraling cost of child care and the potential dangers lurking in your anti-bacterial hand soap.

When I’m not working on my own reports, I scan the output of public radio stations across the Northwest, bringing you features by talented reporters from around the region. By the same token, stations in Oregon, Washington and Idaho have picked up much of my work and shared it with their listeners.

Right now, for a variety of technical reasons, we’re airing these reports only in the 7:33 Morning Edition slot on JPR’s Rhythm and News service. As we build our collaborative relationships with the region’s other NPR stations (and work out some of those technical challenges), we’ll move toward expanding into other time slots in Morning Edition, and perhaps All Things Considered, as well (of course, you can always find all our reports online at ijpr.org).

In the meanwhile, we hope you’ve been enjoying JPR’s newly-expanded regional news coverage. If you haven’t had a chance to hear it yet, tune in to Morning Edition and check it out. I’d love to hear what you think and I’d be open to any suggestions for subjects to cover.

You can reach me at moriartyl@sou.edu.

Happy listening. It’s great to be back!