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A Look At Our Favorite Stories of 2018

2018 Youth Reporting Institute.
Jay Price
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WUNC

As the year draws to a close, we take a look at some of the stories and interviews of 2018. Throughout the year, WUNC reporters, producers, editors and hosts worked on hundreds of these stories for both broadcast and digital publication.Some of these help us understand the big and small moments that happened around North Carolina, make us feel something, and introduce us to interesting people and places across the state.

We hope you enjoy a selection of our favorite stories from the past year.

- Elizabeth Baier, Digital News Editor

2018 Youth Reporting Institute

"Guns were a huge issue for youth in America this past year. It’s no surprise that the subject came up during WUNC’s Summer Youth Reporting Institute. Two of our high school reporters tackled the complicated issue from very different angles... Of course, I love all of the stories our Youth Reporters filed this summer. Our reporters also explored race, sexual identity, art and language. Whenever I need a boost, I go back and listen to their work. Their intellect, spirit and drive inspire me and make me optimistic about the future."  - David Brower

How Wealth Inequality Hurts First-Time Homebuyers

The Small family, Jennifer, Braeden, and Warren, in front of their house.
Credit Ben McKeown / For WUNC
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For WUNC
The Small family, Jennifer, Braeden, and Warren, in front of their house.

"In my reporting, I'm trying to highlight the impacts of income and wealth inequality, and I think this story shows those impacts as well as anything I did this year. Buying a home is the single best way to build wealth for those in the low and middle income brackets, but institutional inequality keeps many deserving people out of the housing market. Furthermore, the disparity is only growing, particularly in housing markets like the Triangle." -Jason deBruyn

St. Augustine's University Fights For Its Future

St. Augustine's University, HBCU, Higher Education
Credit Leoneda Inge / WUNC
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WUNC
St. Augustine's University SGA President Alston Devega.

"I don’t know a story that is more 'Race and Southern Culture' than this one. This story tore at the core of what it means to be an African American in America. It doesn’t let us forget how the university was founded, two years after the end of slavery and how it has worked for 150 years to educate black people, to help raise them from the fields to hopefully a prosperous life. But it also shows that yes, 150 plus years after slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement, educating black children remains a challenge. Money to educate the 'young, gifted and black' is still sparse and universities built to educate them continue to struggle. This story was especially important to me because after reporting 'rumors' of its demise, it was recently announced the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools voted to remove it from probation, allowing it to retain its accreditation." -Leoneda Inge

Why You Should Let A Copperhead Live In Your Yard: Debunking Snake Myths

A copperhead, a venomous snake that can be found in all 100 of North Carolina's counties.
Credit Jeff Beane
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A copperhead, a venomous snake that can be found in all 100 of North Carolina's counties.

"I have never lived in a place with venomous snakes before, and I was nervous about seeing one out in the wild during a run or hike. Producing this segment put me at ease - knowledge is power! The guest was really well-informed and answered every single one of my many questions about snakes. Now I just watch where I'm walking and I feel confident when I'm out in the wild." -Amanda Magnus
 
The End Of DOMA Opened A Path To Citizenship For Winston-Salem Speaker

Anton Moussaev, center, stands with family and friends after his naturalization ceremony in 2017.
Credit Courtey of Anton Moussaev
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Anton Moussaev, center, stands with family and friends after his naturalization ceremony in 2017.

"This was such a heartening interview experience. Anton was so genuine and enthusiastic about his American journey that it was clear to me why he'd been invited to speak at a citizenship ceremony. But it wasn't until after our first conversation that I realized he was one of the first immigrants whose same-sex marriage was recognized as a factor for citizenship after the overturn of DOMA. I called him back right away to learn more. That fact truly elevated the story, further elucidating for me the intersections of domestic and foreign policies on people's lives." -Rebecca Martinez

No Longer 'Unknowns': The Military Is Exhuming and Identifying Bodies of Korean War Victims

 A VA cemetery crew lifts one of the steel caskets from the ground, more than six decades after it was buried.
Credit Jay Price / WUNC
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WUNC
A VA cemetery crew lifts one of the steel caskets from the ground, more than six decades after it was buried.

"The story about the unknowns I think is my favorite this year. No other media has reported this, and in many ways the particular project I looked at essentially means the end of the so-called 'unknowns,' a concept that has kind of spiritually loomed large for Americans for more than a century, and is the subject of a much venerated monument at Arlington National Cemetery. It also lent itself to a much splashier online package than is the norm." -Jay Price

The Cost Of Summer: With Camps Out Of Reach,  A Raleigh Family Gets Creative

Kaiden gives her sister Karisma a ride on her bike as they play at home during summer break in Raleigh. While their mom Ayeisha Owens is at work, they stay at home with their great grandmother. They make up games and dance routines and read books, but the
Credit Madeline Gray / For WUNC
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For WUNC
Kaiden gives her sister Karisma a ride on her bike as they play at home during summer break in Raleigh. While their mom Ayeisha Owens is at work, they stay at home with their great grandmother. They make up games and dance routines and read books, but their mom still worries about them being bored.

"This story was my favorite to report this year... because I got to spend a whole summer getting to know the family at the center of it. That’s not a possibility for many of the stories I do, so I appreciated all the time that allowed for Ayeisha and her grandmother and two daughters to get comfortable and lower their guard around me. That led to so many cozy, intimate moments on tape, some that made it into the story and some that didn’t. One that didn’t that still brings a smile to my face was when the girls and their great grandmother huddled around a window to observe their favorite non-pet, Moochie the groundhog, eating weeds in their backyard. All three were so excited to tell me about Moochie and 'his girlfriend'." - Lisa Philip

Bringing An Ancient Dance To A Modern Diaspora: Meet Asha Bala

Asha Bala, founder of the Leela School of Dance in Cary, trains young women in dances that are new to them and yet centuries old.
Credit Asha Bala / North Carolina Arts Council
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Asha Bala, founder of the Leela School of Dance in Cary, trains young women in dances that are new to them and yet centuries old.

"My favorite segment of 2018 was a conversation I had on-air while filling in as host for The State of Things in July. I interviewed Asha Bala, a performer and instructor of the South Indian classical dance tradition Bharatanatyam. Bala is the director and instructor at Leela School of Dance in Cary. I grew up in a mixed-race, mixed-culture household, and my sister and I both learned Bharatanatyam. Yet, this interview taught me so much about the deeper history of the art form. I loved reflecting on how dance and art can introduce "third-culture kids" like me to aspects of religious and spiritual traditions that we would not have known otherwise. I was very moved by Asha’s passion and diligence for finding connection points for her students to understand a centuries-old tradition. Asha won a 2018 North Carolina Heritage Award for her efforts to bring the dance tradition into the 21st century, and I was fascinated by the parallels she drew between ancient Hindu mythology and things like the #MeToo movement or contemporary environmental movement." - Anita Rao

North Carolina Cherokee Say The Race To Save Their Language Is A Marathon

Kindergarten students TT Askew, Alicia Garcia Elvira, Haylen Lovelace and Mercy Nelms are students in Jakeli Swimmer's Cherokee language and culture class at Robbinsville Elementary.
Credit Liz Schlemmer / WUNC
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WUNC
Kindergarten students TT Askew, Alicia Garcia Elvira, Haylen Lovelace and Mercy Nelms are students in Jakeli Swimmer's Cherokee language and culture class at Robbinsville Elementary.

"Imagine you want to learn your grandmother's native language. Right, lots of people have experienced that, including me. Now imagine your grandma is one of only 226 people in the world who speaks her language, and there's no DuoLingo for it, nowhere to visit to be immersed, practically no dictionaries and it's on you to learn her language and pass it on. I knew that a lot of Native Americans were struggling to save their languages, but getting to know the Swimmer family humanized that for me -- they said their struggle was about family and identity, and quite frankly, lifelong dedication. It's a story that I felt anyone who's had the experience of being a exposed to a heritage language, or of trying to learn a language as an adult, could connect with." -Liz Schlemmer

Is America Getting Angrier?: How Anger Affects Our Politics, Psyche And Culture

Angry black woman, fiery Latina and the sad Asian stereotype, author and activist Soraya Chemaly shares her research on the myths and realities of women and anger.
Credit Creative Commons
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Angry black woman, fiery Latina and the sad Asian stereotype, author and activist Soraya Chemaly shares her research on the myths and realities of women and anger.

"My favorite story this year was my special on anger. All you have to do is turn on the news to see how angry people are. This show addressed where some of the anger stems from, addresses the link between today’s rhetoric and our anger and looks at the #MeToo movement’s role in giving women’s anger a voice. I’ve started journaling since producing this show. Our guest Soraya Chemaly author of "Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger" told me that journaling is a constructive way for women to express their anger and frustration. The biggest thing is that we have to use it as fuel to propel us. Oh, and people will love the link between porn and anger in men." -Dana Terry

Some Areas Of NC Remain Underwater, As Other Begin Recovery

Emergency workers inspect a power line that was damaged by a tree uprooted by Hurricane Florence in Mount Olive, N.C., Sunday, Sep. 16, 2018.
Credit Ben McKeown / For WUNC
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For WUNC
Emergency workers inspect a power line that was damaged by a tree uprooted by Hurricane Florence in Mount Olive, N.C., Sunday, Sep. 16, 2018.

"Florence joined a short, ominous, list around these parts last September. She is forever among Floyd, Fran, Hazel and Matthew, as the most destructive storms to ever assault North Carolina. Interstates 40 and 95, the state's central transportation arteries, temporarily gone. Hundreds of thousands of people with out power. Dozens of people died.

The strangest moment, for me, came at a washed out state road, in Wayne County. I got out of an SUV on that Sunday after the storm. I was working with freelance photographer Ben McKewon. About a hundred yards behind us was a bridge running over the Neuse River. The nearby transportation crew told us it would be a couple of hours before the river swept over it. In front of us the dotted yellow line disappeared, submerged. There were thousand of earthworms all over the ground, trying to get away from the rising flood in the road. And I was struck by a familiar smell. A good one. It seemed out of place and I dismissed it at first. Then I noticed it again, and it hit me. Salt. When Ben walked back from snapping some photos I asked him if he smelled anything. He made a face and said, 'yea smells like ocean water'. We were 70 miles upstream from where the Neuse River dumps into the Pamlico Sound. As one witness told me a few minutes later, 'I stood on a bridge Saturday and watched the river stop. I've lived here my whole life and have never seen that. Then, she started flowing the other way.'

The force of Florence's storm surge had sent the river, which almost always flows from west to east, in reverse. We were nowhere near the Atlantic ocean, but both of us could smell the beach." - Jeff Tiberii

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