Hello!

I’m a multimedia journalist, editor, and digital-media pro. I’m a big fan of data-driven journalism, artful storytelling, photography, refinishing furniture and ice cream. You’ll find a little bit of all those things at my blog!

6 Nuggets Of Multimedia-Reporting Wisdom…And What Comes Next

IMG_0454It’s my last day at Boise State Public Radio, and my last day (for now) working in public media. I’ve grown and learned so much over the last decade in public radio. And I know for sure the future is bright for public radio stations across the country.

Thanks, Idaho, for listening, for your support, and for helping me grow!

Here are six little pieces of wisdom I left my Boise State Public Radio newsroom colleagues. These are tailored to digital journalism, but really, these nuggets can apply to so many other worlds.

  1. Never publish your first headline. Headlines are mini works-of-art; take your time, write a bunch, riff with someone. Your headline is the window to your story. Sell it!
  2. Plan out the best way to visualize your post. Every story is different. Is it a visual story? Should you rely on photos/video? Should you use sub-heads? What about charts or maps? Let the contents of the story direct how you’ll present it. It won’t be the same each time.
  3. Pretend like you’re a copy editor. Go through each post with a fine-toothed comb to make sure you don’t have silly spelling errors or grammar mistakes. If what’s written doesn’t really make sense to you, the editor, it won’t make sense to someone else.
  4. Sell your content. Don’t assume people will just stumble upon your brilliant post on their own. Use Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc. — whatever tool works best — to drive eyes to your content. Remember that old saying, “if a tree falls in the forest…..”
  5. Pay attention to details. Double check how your story is categorized, tagged, add external links, and related content.
  6. Experiment. You won’t break the Internet. Digital journalism is changing rapidly. Don’t be afraid to try new tools. See what works. Learn from mistakes. Make it better the next time. Have fun!
As for what’s next, starting later this month I’ll be the Communications Director for Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Denise Juneau.

Extension Of ‘Secure Rural Schools’ Means Rural Counties Can Breathe Easy…For Now

This story aired May 7, 2015 on NPR’s All Things Considered

President Barack Obama has signed a $200 billion Medicare bill that reforms payments to physicians. Tucked inside that massive Medicare bill was a two-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools Act, a federal program that pays rural counties and school districts with a lot of non-taxable forest land.

Secure Rural Schools was first approved by Congress in 2000. Since then, it’s been paying counties that have a lot of federal timber land because local governments can’t make money on that land. It’s not taxable. You can’t develop much of it.

Geographer Performs Live At Boise State Public Radio

Geographer frontman Michael Deni. (Photo: Alex Crick, KEXP)

Geographer frontman Michael Deni. (Photo: Alex Crick, KEXP)

Boise’s growing music festival brought 430 bands to town this week for the forth-annual Treefort Music Fest.

One band in the lineup, San Fransisco-based Geographer, stopped by Boise State Public Radio for an exclusive performance.

Three members of the group performed a stripped-down set in front of a small crowd outside the station’s newsroom.

They were fantastic.

Here’s the video I edited and produced for Boise State Public Radio.

Map: Montana’s Uninsured Rates By County

Montana UninsuredMontana’s share of uninsured people declined by 1.6 percent, from 21.6 percent in 2012 to 20 percent in 2013. Even with the decline, Montana was among the top 10 U.S. states with the highest rate of uninsured people.

The U.S. Census Bureau released this week its Small Area Health Insurance Estimates for 2013. The data doesn’t yet reflect an anticipated decline to the uninsured rate because of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchange subsidies that became available in 2014.

The Census data show 40 of Montana’s 56 counties still have an uninsured rate that is higher than the state average. In 18 counties, more than a quarter of Montanans under the age of 64 were uninsured.

Garfield County had the largest share of people without health insurance, Lewis and Clark County had the smallest.

Click around the map to see how your county stacks up.

Data: U.S. Census Bureau | Map: Emilie Ritter Saunders

Highest uninsured rates by Montana county:

  1. Garfield County, 32
  2. McCone County, 31.4
  3. Golden Valley County, 30.8
  4. Sanders County, 30
  5. Glacier County, 29.8
  6. Carter County, 29.2
  7. Blaine County, 29.1
  8. Lake County, 28.6
  9. Big Horn County, 28.5
  10. Wheatland County, 27.9

A recent Gallup poll finds Montana’s uninsured rate has dropped more than most since the Affordable Care Act was fully implemented.

More than 48,000 Montanans have signed up for coverage through the federal health insurance exchange.

Montana, like Idaho, hasn’t expanded Medicaid to provide health insurance coverage to more low-income adults.

See how Idaho compares, here.

Loss Of Federal Timber Payments Mean Tough Choices For Rural Schools

Warren Barnes teaches music at Basin Elementary and Idaho City High School. Barnes works with this preschool class during his prep period. (Credit: Emilie Ritter Saunders)

Warren Barnes teaches music at Basin Elementary and Idaho City High School. Barnes works with this preschool class during his prep period. (Credit: Emilie Ritter Saunders)

This story aired on NPR’s All Things Considered March 12, 2015.

The Basin School District in Idaho City has something most districts in the state don’t, preschool.

On Wednesdays, 12 preschoolers leave their small house-turned-school and walk across the playground to the high school’s music room. The children sit cross-legged in a circle and the music teacher hands out two brightly-colored sticks to each student. Music class for these preschoolers is all about rhythm, following directions, and giggling.

Idaho doesn’t have public preschool, and schools that want to offer it, have to find creative ways to pay for the program. State money isn’t an option.

Over the last 15 years, the Basin School District has paid for their unique preschool program with a grant, a voter-approved levy, some tuition, fundraisers, and federal Secure Rural Schools act money.

“I don’t know how the program could be reduced any more than it already is,” says teacher Mary Allen. “It’s already only two days a week.”

Basin’s entire budget is about $3 million. It’s taking a double hit because its levy funds runs out next year and it’ll lose Secure Rural Schools Act money.

Congress has allowed the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act to expire. Rural counties across the country now have $250 million less to work with.

6 Tips For Making A Multimedia, Dual-Newsroom Series Succeed

Audrey Dutton contributed to this post. This post first appeared in the Idaho Press Club newsletter.

In October, Boise State Public Radio and the Idaho Statesman launched a collaborative, multimedia series exploring Idaho’s fragmented mental health system. The collaboration was the first of its kind for our two organizations. Instead of simply sharing content, the series was a true cross-platform collaboration where both of us crafted stories specifically for three platforms: Print, radio, and online.

The idea of the collaboration started – as many of these things do – when we were having drinks back in June. We both were eager to take on a big project, but felt with our regular workload that adding a multimedia series and diving into Idaho’s mental health care system was too big a job for one person. We settled on mental health care because it’s a subject that is under-reported and is in the midst of systemic change in Idaho.

Being A Public Radio Host Is Harder Than It Sounds…

Fellow Boise State Public Radio colleague Jodie Martinson came up with the brilliant idea to sit random people in the master control studio chair, hand them copy they’d never seen before, open the mic, and turn on the camera.

During the station’s September grand-opening event, Martinson captured some one-of-a-kind candor with willing would-be radio hosts. She pulled some of the best stuff and edited it together.

I added some post-production effects to give it that old-timey feel, added some music, and voila — it really IS harder than it sounds to be a radio host!

In Crisis: Idaho Police, Social Workers On The Front Lines Of Mental Health

Philip Mazeikas, mobile crisis, mental health Philip Mazeikas has schizophrenia and was aided two years ago by a Mobile Crisis Unit. His parents had called police, seriously concerned about their son. The crisis unit's visit was the first step in getting Mazeikas the help and medication he needed. [Credit Joe Jaszewski / Idaho Statesman]

Philip Mazeikas, mobile crisis, mental health
Philip Mazeikas has schizophrenia and was aided two years ago by a Mobile Crisis Unit. His parents had called police, seriously concerned about their son. The crisis unit’s visit was the first step in getting Mazeikas the help and medication he needed.
[Credit Joe Jaszewski / Idaho Statesman]

This story published in the Idaho Statesman and was broadcast on Boise State Public Radio’s KBSX 91.5 FM Oct. 28, 2014. See the entire series, here.

Two years ago, Philip Mazeikas answered the front door of his family home. The course of his life changed when he opened it.

At 24-years-old, Mazeikas found himself in the middle of his first psychotic episode. He thought he’d been contacted by aliens who were using him in a scheme to control the world. He wasn’t eating well. He was drinking his own urine.

“I was storming around the house, really angry, when I heard a knock at the door,” Mazeikas recalls. “I remember thinking to myself, stay cool, act normal, whatever you do, don’t say anything about aliens, because they’ll think you’re crazy.”

In Crisis: Idaho Medicaid In Flux Causes A Big Shift In Care

Kendra sits with her community based rehabilitation worker Jennifer Beason working on her feelings journal during her last CBRS appointment. [Katherine Jones | Idaho Statesman]

Kendra sits with her community based rehabilitation worker Jennifer Beason working on her feelings journal during her last CBRS appointment. [Katherine Jones | Idaho Statesman]


This story was published in the Idaho Statesman and broadcast on Boise State Public Radio KBSX 91.5 FM Oct. 30, 2014. See the entire series, here.

Nine-year-old Kendra sits in one of the private rooms on the second floor of Boise’s Downtown public library with her community-based rehabilitation services worker, Jennifer Beason.

Beason slides a workbook to Kendra. It is what she calls her feelings journal. “Do you know what relieved is?” she asked.

Without missing a beat, Kendra rattles off examples of feeling relieved.

“Like you forgot to bring home a paper, a really, really important paper, and then you brought it home, but you left it in your backpack and you thought you left it at school,” she said. “And then you’re relieved you still have it.”

For a year and a half, Kendra and Beason have spent about four hours each week developing social and personal skills Kendra falls short on because of a tumultuous start to her life.

By the time she was 3, Kendra was in a foster home, removed from her biological parents because of severe abuse and neglect.

“No child should go through what she went through,” said Kendra’s adoptive mother, Ginger Kreiter. “Because of what she went through, it put her in severe trauma. She had no coping skills with your ordinary life.”

“Video: Your City Made a Top 10 List. Now What?”

See how to turn those top 10 lists and government data sets into an interesting story. My personal favorite: debunking!


Do you live in the coolest city in the country? The most expensive? The least expensive? Or somewhere in-between? Rankings, Top 10 lists, surveys, state-by-state data — there’s a lot of information out there about where your town stacks up.

In a webinar on Thursday, September 18, we discussed how to cover lists and rankings in a meaningful way. Boise State Public Radio’s Emilie Ritter Saunders and KERA’s Eric Aasen joined us to explain their own methods for covering these types of stories and shared some of their favorite examples.

Read more at: digitalservices.npr.org