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A Look At Our Favorite Stories Of 2019

The Titan Arum, or Corpse Flower, has bloomed in NC State's Marye Anne Fox Science Laboratory.
Adhiti Bandlamudi
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WUNC

As the year draws to a close, we take a look at some of the stories and interviews of 2019. 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.

The Infamous Corpse Flower Blooms At NC State

"While there wasn’t a lot of sound-mixing, I love the voices I got in the field- the excited little kids, the perturbed parents and the straightforward scientist. The piece was so much fun to do and I created my first animated GIF for it! I had fun with the scripting too- I got to include some jokes in the script (some at my expense) and every time I hear the story again, I laugh."  - Adhiti Bandlamudi

Come Hear NC On Songs We Love: Elizabeth Cotten

An image of Elizabeth Cotten
Credit Mike Seeger
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An image of Elizabeth Cotten

"This was produced as a part of our Come Hear NC Series on the Songs We Love Podcast. We asked people in the local music community to pick a song they love that says something about our home state. Eric Hodge is the regular host, but was off that week, so I used it as an excuse to call up one of my local music heroes Alice Gerrard. She came in with the song 'Freight Train' by Elizabeth Cotten. There’s a back story to the song, which is fascinating. But there’s also a hauntingly beautiful song that I’d never heard that Alice wrote about in memory of her friend Libba Cotten." - David Brower

Thousands With Special Needs In NC Not Getting Help

Roan Fields-Moffitt, left, walks with his mother, Desiree Moffitt, second from left, and father, Jacob Fields, right, as he pushes the family's baby twin daughters through a wooded area adjacent to Murdoch Developmental Center in Butner
Credit Ben McKeown / For WUNC
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For WUNC
Roan Fields-Moffitt, left, walks with his mother, Desiree Moffitt, second from left, and father, Jacob Fields, right, as he pushes the family's baby twin daughters through a wooded area adjacent to Murdoch Developmental Center in Butner.

"Some stories really make you count your blessings, and this is one of them. The family of Roan Fields-Moffitt was so kind to open up their lives to me and share the struggles they face in raising a young boy with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities. They did this not in a dramatic way, but in a way that highlights the difficulty they face every day. A difficulty they and thousands of families face alone or with only limited state help because a DHHS program is underfunded." - Jason deBruyn

Outreach Or Campaigning? State Superintendent's Messages Draw Some Parents' Ire

A poster sent by State Superintendent Mark Johnson to schools last year.
A poster sent by State Superintendent Mark Johnson to schools last year.

"One of my favorite stories to report this year started with a question: Why is the state school superintendent sending emails to every parent and teacher? While finding the answer, I also learned that Superintendent Mark Johnson had sent bookmarks and posters to schools with his face and name on them – something many parents felt was thinly veiled campaigning. And, while we finally got an answer to why Superintendent Johnson sends those emails, he hasn’t stopped." - Cole del Charco

Damaged Homes, Piles Of Debris. How Are Ocracoke Residents Recovering After Hurricane Dorian?

Philip Howard sits in his house which was built in 1865 and which he renovated to historic standards in 2005.
Credit Madeline Gray / For WUNC
/
For WUNC
Philip Howard sits in his house which was built in 1865 and which he renovated to historic standards in 2005.

"It’s simple: the photographs. Madeline Gray’s pictures added so much to this story. As an old-school radio person, I like to think I can take listeners to places with the power of my words and well-mixed ambient sound. But this story truly needed “art” to show readers who may have previously visited Ocracoke just how much damage was done. And Maddie really delivered; the photos are well-crafted and character-driven in a way that elevated the entire story, from the barefoot County Commissioner to Mt Trashmore (the debris pile north of town) - they were images people needed to see, not just hear." - Dave DeWitt

Sending A Child With Sickle Cell Disease Off To College

Sickle Cell Disease, Public Health
Credit Leoneda Inge / WUNC
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WUNC
Teemer Barry is a freshman at The University of Maryland - Eastern Shore.

"This is my favorite 2019 story because it personally touched my heart and that of many others.  Plus it was so hard interviewing my son, a source who did not want to be interviewed! But the outpouring of support was heartfelt, hearing from other parents with children suffering from Sickle Cell Disease, and other chronic diseases.  In the end, all parents want is for their children to be healthy and happy – but when you know from birth, your child has a rocky, “healthy” road ahead, college may not be an option.  Going away to college has always been a dream of my son’s, Teemer Barry.  His health would have gotten in the way of his happiness if he could not attend.  I wanted my story to serve as a wake-up call to parents and children, encouraging them to do whatever it takes to succeed and to not let illness and pain dictate their future." - Leoneda Inge

Ann Patchett’s New Novel Examines The Reliability Of Childhood Memory

Headshot of Ann Patchett in a book store.
Credit Harper Collins
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Author Ann Patchett

"I loved producing our conversation with Ann Patchett because she's one of my favorite authors, and because this segment birthed a mini book club - several coworkers passed around the book. We all talked about it leading up to and after the interview. And Anita did a great job of talking about some of the larger themes in Patchett's work. The interview gave me insight into one of the greats." - Amanda Magnus

Meet The People Fighting To Save Endangered Languages In North Carolina

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.

"I had the honor of meeting Marty Richardson, a member of the Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe, who’s put his heart and soul and an awful lot of time into reviving his people’s ancestral language: Tutelo-Saponi. His journey to bring back that language started when he was just teen and today he’s one of only a handful of nearly-fluent Tutelo-Saponi speakers in the world. I paired Marty with endangered language expert Anna Luisa Daigneault for a conversation on The State of Things back in February, 2019. Next thing I know, the two have teamed up to record and save the language using a new smartphone app developed by Anna’s organization, the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages. I love that our on-air conversation helped these two self-declared language nerds come together, and I’m super excited to hear how the language is doing 5, 10, or even 20 years down the road. Marty is in this fight for the long haul." - Laura Pellicer

State Project Aims To Document All NC Sites Listed In The Green Book

Listed in "The Green Book", the Magnolia House Motel, built in 1889 as a private resident, was converted to serve as a motel for African Americans traveling in the segregated 50s and 60s in Greensboro, N.C.
Credit Lynn Hey / For WUNC
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For WUNC
Listed in "The Green Book", the Magnolia House Motel, built in 1889 as a private resident, was converted to serve as a motel for African Americans traveling in the segregated 50s and 60s in Greensboro, N.C.

"I really liked this story because it was a lively and sound-rich story. The movie 'Green Book' had nothing to do with this feature or the state project, but it obviously played a role in people knowing a bit more about it. As a black traveler, I’d always known about the Green Book, but I didn’t know how much of an affect it had on the black community during the 1930s to 1960s. It was incredible learning about the history of the Green Book in Greensboro and visiting one of the sites that is still standing in Greensboro: The Magnolia House. It’s now an event space that hosts brunches and live jazz and private events, but in its heyday, it hosted everyone from Ray Charles to Jackie Robinson. I’m very proud of this piece and that I was able to shine a light on Greensboro’s history to the state and the rest of the nation." - Naomi Prioleau

Embodied Series

Illustrated word Embodied

"My favorite segment(s) of 2019 are all part of a new series we launched at The State of Things called Embodied. I've been with the show now for five years, and as I transitioned into hosting more regularly, I wanted to create a space for conversations about topics that we do not often talk about on the show, or on public radio in general. This series focuses on sex, relationships and health and encourages producers to produce sound-rich, layered conversations that are rooted in interesting science, compelling guests and strong personal narratives. We've covered a lot of really wonderful topics in our first year, including shows about the science of sex, burnout, sleep, fertility, forgiveness and diet culture. Some of my favorite moments include a conversation in the science of sex show with Emily Nagoski, the author of "Come As You Are," who picked apart why we know (and don't know) certain things about women's anatomy and sexuality, and how she's shifting the paradigm through her research. Another highlight was hosting an hour-long program all about the gut. My dad is a gastroenterologist, and I grew up in a household where poop was a common topic of conversation, so it was fun to fold in that personal experience with some incredible guests and fascinating research!" - Anita Rao

Theseus and The Minotaur (The Black, Queer Version)

Kayla Beckett with her mother, Karin Beckett.
Credit Allison Swaim
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Kayla Beckett with her mother, Karin Beckett.

"I picked this story because Kayla went on a journey to tell this story. She was not afraid to ask people close to her tough questions, or to ask herself tough questions. She took listeners with her on that journey and she arrived somewhere different/new at the end of the piece/summer. I also think her piece has great sound." - Allison Swaim

Embodied: Deconstructing Diet Culture And The Science Behind It
 

Valerio running a trail in the mountains.
Credit Courtesy of Mirna Valerio
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Courtesy of Mirna Valerio
Mirna Valerio is an ultrarunner.

"What we accomplished with the diet culture Embodied show is everything I hope to do in my newly beginning journalism career. We presented our listeners with a new point of view on the weight loss industry, sparking conversations about our health and our relationships with food. I’ve seen people struggle with weight stigma and diets my entire life, and I hope our show moved the audience closer to finding peace with their bodies and prompted medical professionals to reevaluate how they treat larger-bodied patients." - Josie Taris

Intimacy Through The Ages: How Getting Older Shifts Dating And Relationships

Aging and intimacy are not incompatible. Relationships evolve with time just as bodies do
Credit Pxphere
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Aging and intimacy are not incompatible. Relationships evolve with time just as bodies do.

"With all the academics in RTP, finding an expert on the sex lives of seniors was virtually impossible. But believe it or not, many seniors are dating and remaining sexually active in later years. Anita Rao talked to people in their 50s, 60s and 70s, married and single about aging and intimacy." - Dana Terry

North Carolina Congressman Walter Jones Dies

WUNC Capitol Bureau Chief Jeff Tiberii interviews North Carolina's ranking member of Congress, Rep. Walter Jones.
File photo of WUNC Capitol Bureau Chief Jeff Tiberii interviewing North Carolina Congressman Rep. Walter Jones, who died in February 2019.

"We had heard Walter Jones was in failing health and that the end may be near. I had interviewed the Congressman a few times over the years and he was always engaging, ripe with stories, and never seemed to be in much of a hurry. About a week prior to his passing, I visited with a longtime friend of the Congressman, Joe Mavretic, in Raleigh. Now understand that Mavretic is a former Marine and even at 85-years-old, still has a presence about him. We had tea on a rainy afternoon, and I watched Mavretic fight back tears talking about a 'fellow tobacco kid'. 'He's one of a kind,' Mavretic said." - Jeff Tiberii

 

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