Storytelling

What It Means To Be ‘Fiercely Independent’ In Idaho, A State Surrounded By Government

The Baker family's three ranches are in the East Fork valley. That's the snow-capped top of Castle Peak in the background. [Credit: Emilie Ritter Saunders]

The Baker family’s three ranches are in the East Fork valley. That’s the snow-capped top of Castle Peak in the background. [Credit: Emilie Ritter Saunders]

This story aired on Boise State Public Radio’s KBSX 91.5 FM May 15, 2014.

If Hollywood needed a setting for one of its westerns, this spot along the East Fork of the Salmon River just might be it. In fact, one of Clint Eastwood’s famous westerns, Pale Rider, was shot not too far from here.

For the dwindling number of ranchers who still earn their livings on this land, this valley is nothing like a romanticized western – it’s gritty, year-round work.

The Baker family has lived, and ranched here for more than 125 years.

“This is the house right here,” Sarah Baker says as she pulls off the narrow road and points the small, weathered cabin her grandfather was born in 92 years ago. It was built around 1916 and isn’t far from where Sarah’s great-great grandparents settled when they moved west from Georgia in 1888.

What Do Idaho Voters Want? Without Recent Public Opinion Polls, It’s Hard To Tell

Election day might be the most consequential poll, but routine public opinion polling can also impact policy. [Credit: Emilie Ritter Saunders]

Election day might be the most consequential poll, but routine public opinion polling can also impact policy. [Credit: Emilie Ritter Saunders]

This story aired on Boise State Public Radio April 17, 2014. It was published in the Idaho Statesman April 23, 2014.

Idaho voters will soon be inundated with campaign ads and sound bites from political candidates who proclaim to know exactly what Idahoans want. But it’s unclear how voters are feeling heading into the May 20 primary election, thanks to a lack of public opinion polling. Without such polling, it’s tough to tell if politicians’ rhetoric matches the electorate’s viewpoint.

U.S. Senate candidate Nels Mitchell, a Democrat, said at his campaign announcement that voters “tell me  they don’t want their government shutdown, they want their government to work. They want a government that is efficient, and is responsive.”

Using Tumblr To Document The Construction Of Boise State Public Radio’s Broadcast Center

Seven months ago (almost to the day) I launched a Tumblr blog to document the demolition and construction of Boise State Public Radio’s new broadcast center. To date, I’ve posted 141 images, beginning on July 25, 2013…and I’m not quite finished.

Now, along with my colleagues in the news department and peers in production and engineering, we are within weeks of moving from a windowless maze of cubicles into a bright, modern public radio station.

This is big.

Why It’s Tough To Track What Lobbyists Give To Idaho Lawmakers

Tim Hurst is Idaho's Chief Deputy Secretary of State. Part of his job is to ensure lobbyist disclosure reports are above board.

Tim Hurst is Idaho’s Chief Deputy Secretary of State. Part of his job is to ensure lobbyist disclosure reports are above board.” credit=”Emilie Ritter Saunders

Late last year, St. Louis Public Radio and NPR launched an interactive data project that lets Missouri voters see just how much money their state representative has accepted from lobbyists. It’s an easy-to-navigate visual that gives people a sense of the kinds of relationships that have developed under their Capitol dome. A similar one-stop-shop of lobbying disclosure info wouldn’t be possible in Idaho.

We know that registered lobbyists in Idaho have spent more than a $1 million over the last two years advocating for their clients’ policy desires at the state Legislature. Disclosure information shows that out of 422 lobbyists, the average spent in 2012 was $1,500. More than half of Idaho’s registered lobbyists didn’t spend anything that year. But it’s not clear who is on the receiving end of those lobbying gifts.

One Boise Startup Joins The Crowded Subscription Box Market

Rachael and Joe Bunt mailed their first Crafters Crate in March 2013. They have nearly 200 monthly subscribers.

Rachael and Joe Bunt mailed their first Crafters Crate in March 2013. They have nearly 200 monthly subscribers.

This story aired on KBSX 91.5 fm on Sept. 12, 2013. It appeared in the Idaho Statesman on Oct. 29, 2013.

At a mostly empty, metal-sided warehouse near the Boise Airport, Rachael and Joe Bunt are organizing hand-made craft kits into a small assembly line. They’re putting together September’s Crafters Crate that will be mailed to subscribers this week.

“This is like Pinterest in real life,” Joe Bunt says. “I’m always wanting to create something new.”

Joe and his wife Rachael started Crafters Crate in March. It’s a subscription-based business; no brick-and-mortar storefront is required. That’s partly what drew the couple to jumping on the subscription-box trend.

Why A Headline Is Key To Making Serious Digital Content Shareable

lego computer cooleydude flickr

” credit=”Coleydude / Flickr Creative Commons

Every local digital content producer is clamoring to get your attention. Traditional media organizations are fighting trendy sites (that often don’t provide much useful info) for your clicks, shares, likes and comments. Lets face it, it’s hard.

But there’s a continued and increased number of organizations that are training old-school journalists to think more like those trendy sites to get their content in front of a larger, more diverse audience. It’s all about making stories — serious and fun — shareable.

My smarty-pants peers at NPR Digital Services reached out to public radio member station digital editors to prove serious journalism can be just as shareable as a listicle about adorable animals.

They looked at 809 stories that have gone through NPR’s Local Stories Project (of which my station, Boise State Public Radio, is part of). Here’s part of what they found:

Why More Idaho Moms Breastfeed Than Anywhere In The U.S.

Rachel Gootchey nurses her 10-month-old son Jasper. She also breast-fed her first child without complications.

Rachel Gootchey nurses her 10-month-old son Jasper. She also breast-fed her first child without complications.” credit=”Emilie Ritter Saunders

A report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month shows more Idaho moms breastfeed their babies than anywhere else in the country.

We wanted to know why. It turns out Idaho’s cultural and racial makeup are two of the largest contributing factors to the increasing number of breastfeeding moms.

Rachel Gootchey nurses her 10-month-old son Jasper, and she also nursed her first child. Gootchey was raised by a mom who breastfed, so it seemed like the most natural thing for her to do with her own children.

“And honestly, one of the biggest deciding factors was it’s just cheaper. It’s free,” Gootchey says with a laugh. “I’m a cheapskate, so I breastfeed.”

Turning A One-Sentence Factoid Into A 14-Part Multimedia Series

Idaho has the largest percentage of minimum wage workers in the United States. It also has more minimum wage workers, in raw numbers, than 18 other states. That’s remarkable given Idaho has just 1.5 million residents.

These statistics were the jumping off point for a 14-part multimedia series I created with my colleague for StateImpact Idaho. We dubbed it ‘Bottom Rung’. The more we asked “why”, the more we realized there was a ton of unreported information that deserved exploring. The series includes five radio features, background explainers, interactive data visuals and an infographic.

Here’s a great behind-the-scenes look at how we pulled the whole thing together.

Bottom Rung: Why An Influx Of Retirees To Idaho Is Creating More Low-Wage Jobs

Jordyn Skinner is a freshman at Boise State University. She also works part-time at Franco's Pizzeria.

Jordyn Skinner is a freshman at Boise State University. She also works part-time at Franco’s Pizzeria.

Jordyn Skinner is a freshman at Boise State University. She also works part-time at Franco’s Pizzeria.

There’s a brand new pizza joint in southeast Boise. It’s nestled in a mini-strip mall with a gas station, dry cleaner and hair salon.

On a recent Friday evening, Franco’s Pizzeria was just starting to pick up. It’s a tiny place. The cash register is only a few steps away from the industrial pizza ovens. There are a handful of tables and stools inside for someone who just wants a quick slice.

With $140,000 On The Line, Idaho Girl Scouts Try Their Hand At Lobbying

This story originally appeared at StateImpact Idaho and aired on Boise State Public Radio Feb. 19, 2013.

Famous for its potatoes, trout fishing, and blue AstroTurf, Idaho might not have much in common with Hawaii. But here’s one thing: Idaho and Hawaii are the only two states in the country to tax Girl Scout Cookies. Now, some local Scouts are beefing up their sales pitches and learning to lobby.

Girl Scouts across the country are getting amped up to sell as many boxes of their famed Samoas, Thin Mints, and Tag-a-longs as they possibly can. They have about a month to close the deal with neighbors, friends and grandmothers.

At a recent cookie event near Boise — think Girl Scout-style pep rally — more than 100 kids, some as young as kindergarteners, donned their badged-sashes and met at a middle-school cafeteria.