Kristofor Husted | KBIA

Kristofor Husted

Senior Reporter

Kristofor Husted is a senior reporter at KBIA in Columbia, Mo. Previously Husted reported for NPR’s Science Desk in Washington and Harvest Public Media. Husted was a 2013 fellow with the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources and a 2015 fellow for the Institute for Journalism and Justice. He’s won regional and national Edward R. Murrow, PRNDI and Sigma Delta Chi awards. Husted also is an instructor at the Missouri School of Journalism. He received a B.S. in cell biology from UC Davis and an M.S. in journalism from Northwestern University.

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Frank Vess Portell family. The woman with the guitar is Nellie Hopkins Portell. She is wearing button shoes, and has the Gibson Girl hairstyle. The man with the fiddle is Francis "Brazz" Politte. His descendants are known as the Brazz Polittes.
Courtesy of Kent Bone.

French settlers colonized southeast Missouri over 200 years ago. And with them came the French language and culture.

They mined the lead belt region and created an insular community in Old Mines revolving around house parties, music and church.

Over time they developed their very own dialect called “Paw Paw” French that was used well into the 20th century. But then it started to disappear.

Phylloxerated vineyard in Yountville, California. Fall 1907.
Special Collections, USDA National Agricultural Library.

About 150 years ago in the vineyards of southern France, winemakers start to notice their vineyards aren’t looking healthy. They rack their brains but can’t figure out what is devouring the crops. Samples are taken, scientific investigations mounted and letters for help are sent out across the globe.

Missourians and Texans tell this story the same way up until that point. But here’s where the versions diverge.

Courtesy of Sandy Davidson

In 1969, graduate student Barbara Papish hands out an underground newspaper on the University of Missouri Columbia campus. The Free Press Underground issue features a cartoon on the cover depicting police officers raping the Statue of Liberty and Lady Justice. The words “With Liberty and Justice For All” encircle the image.

Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services

Missouri is opening up COVID-19 vaccines to public safety workers and more health care workers. Missouri on Thursday activated its next stage of the vaccine rollout.

The latest phase includes police, firefighters and other law enforcement officials. It also includes administrators and other health care staffers who weren't previously eligible to be vaccinated.

One of the few photos showing William Preston Hall (left) with Ed. L. Brannan and Bert McCain behind the big barn in about 1915.
Courtesy of the Schuyler County Historical Society

On some days in the early 1900s, you could walk out to the railroad tracks near the Iowa border and watch rail cars full of horses moving in and out of Missouri. Occasionally, also in those cars are elephants, lions and monkeys. 

Missouri businessman William Preston Hall is trading in horses for wars and exotic animals for circuses. He hires his neighbors in Lancaster to care for the animals, supply the feed and more. It’s not uncommon to see an elephant wander by your kitchen window.

Courtesy of the State Historical Society of Missouri (photo by Aviva Okeson-Haberman)

Helen Stephens starts high school in Fulton in 1931. She’s a gangly, gravelly-voiced farm girl dressed in homemade clothes. Her classmates tease her with the unfortunate moniker “Popeye.” Helen takes it in stride with humor, attempting to own her identity - a feat for any teenager.

Jesse Hall on a cloudy day.
Nathan Lawrence / KBIA

The University of Missouri is requiring certain students to take a COVID-19 test ahead of the 2021 spring semester.

Testing will be mandatory for approximately 6,300 undergraduate students living in university sponsored or owned housing.

Spokesperson Christian Basi says the goal is to prevent the spread of the disease but also to glean information that could inform safety protocols.

Paul Okrassa, St. Louis Globe-Democrat / From the collections of the St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri St. Louis

When the St. Louis Arch was being built in 1964, no Black workers had been hired for the construction crew.

That didn’t sit well with Black activist Percy Green, who wanted to let the world know that a federally funded national monument was guilty of racial discrimination. To protest, he climbed the halfway-constructed arch.


Since we began the Check-In, we’ve gone from crisis to crisis - a global pandemic sparked off an economic crisis and merged into a movement calling for an end to police violence and for reconciliation and racial justice.


It’s been about 11 weeks since Boone County issued its initial stay at home orders and many businesses, schools, individuals and families went into isolation and lockdown mode.

Now, businesses are re-opening, clinics and hospitals are resuming routine health care, and in the midst of a social-justice movement and demonstrations, people are taking to the streets. 


If you know just a little bit about journalism, you’ve heard the word “objective” thrown around. 

Journalists should show up, witness, observe and then go back and report the truth. But while the facts are king in our world, the mandate for being fair and objective makes us very cautious. Do our goals of objectivity - a thing which might not even exist - prevent us from telling it like it is? 


As hundreds of citizens show up in town squares and streets to call for justice in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, many people are asking: How can this happen? How can police violence and the deaths of black citizens at the hands of police happen over and over again in our American democracy?

And before this, we were already in a pandemic that was disproportionately impacting black and Latinx communities, many of whom work as essential workers.

For answers, many are looking at how our systems work in the U.S. and calling for systemic change, from our policing and justice systems to health care and education.


The world is coming off of a weekend of protests, rallies and gatherings calling for justice after the killing of George Floyd. They're also calling for attention to police violence against unarmed black citizens and continuing to call for action. 

Indeed, more than a thousand people gathered in Columbia Sunday at the Boone County Courthouse for a Black Lives Matter rally and march that included speeches, singing and music.


In this episode, we're checking in with people who have been and currently are on the frontlines of the civil rights movements of today and years ago.


We are in the midst of turbulent, and for many, dangerous times. And having the current crises played and re-played in the media and in real life for us day after day can take a toll -- especially for our black families and kids.

So how do we talk about the grief and loss that is part of life at center stage? What can we do for our kids who are feeling loss and even trauma from these events in their own lives as well as prominently in the media?


It’s impossible to talk about the events unfolding today with this double crisis we’re in - the virus and the widespread public outcry against racism within American law enforcement - without wondering how we got here and whether history can help us understand it.


Citizens in Columbia and across the country have spilled on to the streets to call for justice for George Floyd.

After the recent killings of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, and after a decade of killings of unarmed black citizens often at the hands of police, many people are saying: Enough is enough.


Theater is the idea of gathering with a group of people to see a live story unfold before our eyes in a way that transforms or challenges our vision of the world. And it all might seem like a distant dream right now.

This crisis has hit the theater world hard. Even on Broadway and well beyond, actors, writers, directors and dramatists have found themselves out of work and disconnected from their audiences and their art.


Health experts have asked us to continue social and physical distancing during this covid crisis, also to wear masks in many public places and to get tested if symptoms pop up. But this isn’t the first time Missourians have been asked to practice precaution during a viral outbreak.

More than a hundred years ago, the 1918 flu, often called the Spanish flu, overtook the United States and hit parts of Missouri especially hard. Even then, schools and churches closed and people were told to stay home to protect themselves and each other from what the CDC calls the most severe pandemic in recent history. Between 1918-1919, an estimated 675,000 Americans died from the H1N1 flu virus and an estimated 50 million people worldwide.

Sarah Dresser

Some of us are planners. We plan everything to the last detail and we like to be prepared. And that has complicated life events like childbirth during this time of pandemic uncertainty.

An expectant mother's “birth plan” and the decisions leading up to the birth are a big deal right now with constantly evolving standards set by hospitals, including limitations on visitors, recommended early inductions and covid tests before the big day.


As businesses in mid-Missouri begin to re-open, we’re all moving cautiously and optimistically toward a way forward into the new normal. Some of the first places many of us want to return to are our vibrant small-businesses -- the independent stores, restaurants and bookshops -- that breathe life into our college town here in Columbia and also in towns like Fulton, Moberly and Mexico. But as we all know, this covid crisis has wreaked havoc on small businesses and our public health is still at risk along with our economic health.


On Fridays, we look for inspiration even as we continue to endure a crisis and make our way to a new-normal. In this episode, we look at classical music.

We talk with members and directors of the Missouri Symphony Society about musical performance and the classical music world these days, how it is weathering the crisis, going virtual and giving music lessons.


Sometimes on these episodes we look at the things that are getting us through - the books, the music, the coping strategies and structures that are helping us get by in a crisis. A big answer to this question for many of us is our faith.

But one challenging aspect of this crisis has been that it comes with public health orders and advice to shut down and isolate, in order to stay safe, just when you need those you love around you and you need your faith community.


Rural Missouri has faced some challenging disasters in the past: tornadoes, floods and droughts to name a few in only the past couple of years. And while, yes, the covid crisis has had a large impact on urban areas with more concentrated populations, rural communities are also feeling the reach of the virus on many day to day aspects of life.

The Check-In: Political Discourse

May 19, 2020

The coronavirus crisis is already impacting the way we live our daily lives, it might be shifting the way we see our society and the world, but will it change the way we vote next this year? With local elections creeping up on June 2nd here in mid-Misosuri and with all that’s going on in the world, voting might be not the first thing on your mind right now, but this is a great time to observe how crises can reshape political systems and the way we all think about politics.


In our pre-pandemic world, the election year was on the forefront of many minds rife with issues of disinformation, partisan political messaging and divided discourse. Now, a global crisis has emerged and we’re still facing the same challenges of fragmented information sources, political divisiveness and partisan discourse. Today, even something as non-political as wearing a CDC-recommended face-mask in this climate can carry with it a political connotation.


In this episode, we talk about how music can help us through crisis and also some of our favorite music that itself arose out of crisis.

Helping us with this topic is professor and musicologist Stephanie Shonekan. Professor Shonekan is a familiar name to us here in mid-Missouri as she spent seven years as a faculty member in MU’s Black Studies Dept as well as the School of Music. Her latest book is Black Lives Matter & Music from Indiana University Press. Professor Shonekan is now Chair of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. But she happens to be in town right now during this crisis and so we thought we’d take advantage of the opportunity to get Professor Shonekan’s expertise on music, history, crisis and inspiration.

Sarah Dresser

Around the state of Missouri, the rise of coronavirus cases has pushed hospitals to allow access for essential procedures only. Visitors are drastically limited, temperatures are taken at the door and routine health checks have been delayed or halted. 

Kristofor Husted / KBIA

We at KBIA have found strength in our community during the COVID-19 crisis. In our series “Where You’re At,” we’re calling our neighbors to see how they’re coping during the pandemic.

If you want to share your story, email KBIA at

Here is DC Benincasa’s call with Will Nulty, a college student and server at a national chain restaurant in Columbia:


This weekend was supposed to be graduation at MU. Typically, the month of May throughout Mid-Missouri is full of families celebrating -- students in caps and gowns and photo shoots at the columns. The coronavirus pandemic has halted all of that. These days, many students are packed up and living off campus awaiting plans for the fall, all while MU’s administration is tasked with deciding what’s next during this uncertain time.