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Mizzou at a Crossroads: Murrows 2017


(Note: the audio above is the entry for this category. It is a shortened version of the original three-part series. Edit points are denoted by beeps. Part one and two of the series were each co-reported by two reporters, which was more clear in the original airing than it will be in this abbreviated entry).

The events on the University of Missouri campus on November 9, 2015 made news worldwide, as UM System President Tim Wolfe resigned amidst protests by black students calling for his resignation. By the end of the day, MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin would also resign amidst pressure from faculty and students.

As the NPR member station in Columbia, Missouri, KBIA-FM covered the breaking news thoroughly, later winning a national Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists and a first place award from the Public Radio News Directors, Inc for that coverage. Judges in the PRNDI contest said KBIA put on, “a Breaking News clinic by reacting to the story with professionalism, insight and context.”

But, as often happens in these situations, the national narrative of what happened at the University of Missouri made a complex situation look simple. While national reporters and bloggers focused on things like whether or not small incidents that triggered the outcry actually happened, journalists were depriving an audience that wanted to understand this story the context about the systemic, long-term issues that brought this all to head in Columbia.

While KBIA continued its day-to-day coverage of the aftermath in late 2015 and early 2016, the entire staff also began work on a long-form report that would seek to provide that much-needed context. The result was “Mizzou at a Crossroads.”

“Mizzou at a Crossroads” is an in-depth analysis on the history of race relations at MU, the efforts to start conversations about race on campus, the process behind hiring former University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe, and an overview of what might be in store for the future of UM leadership. The analysis of the “ghosts” of the University’s past, present and future explored issues rarely touched by other media after the events of November 2015, and never to this layer of depth.

KBIA also sought to convey this story digitally in a meaningful, impactful way. When creating online experiences for our special projects, KBIA’s Digital Content Director Nathan Lawrence was struck by the lack of flexibility available in tools like Atavist, Divi and Layers. Though they did a great job of making things look nice, they got in the way when writers and editors were looking to focus on content and frequently stymied creative decisions for presentation. So, Lawrence decided to build his own tool for this project.

As a result, he created our unique Jekyll-based interactive layout for Mizzou at a Crossroads. It contains audio reports, photographs and text for an immersive informational experience, all intended to serve as a source of information on university funding and policies, state politics and student demands.

In addition to this digital product, KBIA distributed the story as both an hour-long documentary and a three parts series. This provided more flexibility for the stories to be aired at KBIA and other members stations and to be distributed as a serialized podcast (search for “Mizzou at a Crossroads” in the iTunes store and you will find the series).

You can find the special build out of the project here:


Each of the individual stories are contained in the buildout above, but you can also find links to the individual stories here: http://kbia.org/term/mizzou-crossroads#stream/0

The station’s commitment to this reporting and to this project in the last year was substantial. KBIA has only 6 full time newsroom staff, who all contributed to this reporting consistently. The in-depth project essentially took all of the reporters and editors off of their usual beats to focus on this comprehensive project. Additional contributors included students working at the station as part of their coursework at the Missouri School of Journalism, under the guidance of the KBIA professional staff.