Recently, KSL paid for me to attend the 2022 Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in Denver.

The conference was held at the Gaylord Rocky Convention Center Hotel, essentially a giant corporate version of the Great Northern Hotel from Twin Peaks.

IRE has a lot of workshops on data journalism, beat-specific seminars, and career advice, but I chose mainly to primarily attend lectures on finding government records through FOIA and its state law equivalents.

Working in true crime podcasts, public police records and court documents are crucial to researching a story, and archival audio can really bring a story to life, but I really think these tips and tricks are useful to anyone doing investigative journalism.

Does it exist in open records?

Some states or agencies, automatically collect certain records and publish them online. For example, here are the open records from Utah’s department of public safety.

Do you know what you’re looking for and who has it?

If so, make a public records request. It can be helpful to look up the particular public records act for the place you’re requesting from and try to find a template specific to their statutes:

To continue reading this post, go to my new podcast and journalism-specific blog at

As I lay on my couch, shirtless and cold but sweating from my first Covid booster shot, I got a push notification about a Wired article: New Covid Drugs Are Here — and They Could Change the Pandemic

The article highlights the benefits these drugs could bring to the third world, where the logistics of delivering fussy mRNA vaccines that have to be kept frozen has been difficult. But what does these drugs mean, for countries like the US. Where the risk of breakthrough infections, have even the vaccinated feeling hesitant to return fully to normal.

Continue reading ‘Will new antivirals bring us into a new phase of covid risk-mitigation and effectively end the pandemic?’

On Tuesday I launched a new podcast, Algorithm!

Algorithm is about a journalist who created an algorithm to use homicide data to try to identify serial killers. His algorithm flagged a suspicious number of unsolved strangulations in Gary, IN and he reached out to them to warn them they might have a serial killer on their hands. But they ignored him, until four years they arrested a serial killer who confessed to a string of nearly identical crimes.

It’s a wild and twisting story and one that I think really combines my skillset as researcher from working in science and working as a reporter, with the skillset I’ve learned as a true crime producer of doling out a story with cliffhangers and surprises.

Two episodes are out now, with new episodes released each Tuesday. You can click this link to go to the podcast, then click on Episode 1 “Afrikka Didn’t Need to Die.” And hit the follow/subscribe button. If there’s another podcatcher you prefer to use, here’s the link to the RSS.

It’s the first podcast like this that I’ve ever fully written and hosted, and I’m also the lead producer. Not sure who still follows this blog, but would love for you to listen and would love to know what you think!

I’m momentarily fascinated by the notion of copyrights and the public domain. The freedom of information and availabilty of it.

A quick google search brought me to The Robesonian from October 29th, 1920. It’s a small, sparse paper from Lumberton, North Carolina. Just four pages, the only images are in the ads.

1920 was an election year, and many of the headlines reflect this: Wilson Makes Appeal for League, Do The People Want a Change?, Vote for Income Tax ammendment.

But the lead story is a local tragedy:

Shot in Head with Air Rifle.

Thomas Johnson, Jr., Accidentally Shot himself Yesterday When He and Other Small Boys Were Playing–town Board Proposes to Prohibit Children Under 15 Shooting Air Rifles in Town

Thomas Jr., 9-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. T. L. Johnson, accidentally shot himself in the top of the head with an air rifle late yesterday afternoon. The shot–a large buckshot–entered the top of his head and lodged in his skull. The Johnson boy and a number of other boys about the same age were playing with air rifles near the fair ground when the rifle was discharged. Dr. H. M. Baker rendered medical attention and it is not thought the wound will prove serious.

As a result of the accident the town commissioners are planning to pass an ordinance prohibiting children under 15 years old from shooting air rifles in the town of Lumberton.

I was hoping to follow up and see if there was a later article written about such an ordinance being written, but even this article failed to show up in my search using the terms: robensonian and rifle.

Time travel has it’s limits.

This post is a follow-up to the post Gimlet’s unofficial reading list for making good podcasts

Just got finished Make Noise by Eric Nuzum, the podcast developer who helped guide shows like Invisibilia and Where Should We Begin. Make Noise was a super-quick read. I tore through it in two days.


81pP1VTSa7L (1)

The book advises creatives on how to think about a show and make it a hit. It delves into the actual craft of producing an audio story, but also advising on how to pitch a story, market a show and build an audience. And it gives advice that will apply to seasoned audio-makers and novices, those working for large networks and independents. There’s a lot of history of public radio and podcasting thrown in as well.

Anyways it was a good and quick read — definitely some stuff to think about and a new perspectives compared to the podcasting books I’d previously read and written about.

The book also had a “recommended reading” section, some of which piqued my interest, so I’ll include here. It’s a combination of books on making podcast/radio stories and once more broadly about storytelling and story structure.

To be clear, I haven’t read these, so I’m going on faith from Nuzum’s recommendation, but I just ordered all of them so ‾\_(ツ)_/‾

(Also, did you guys know that shrugging guys face is the character for “Tsu” in the Japanese katakana alphabet?)
51hjqqgteqL._SX340_BO1,204,203,200_ Radio Diaries: DIY Handbook (2017)

By Joel Richman (of Radiodiaries fame) and Jay Allison (the Moth, Transom)
They say, “The Radio Diaries DIY Handbook is a storytelling guide to making great radio with chapters on interviewing, editing, technical advice, and journalistic principles.”

51F3TA5hhDL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ The Writer’s Journey (2007)

by Christopher Vogler (USC film school, worked on the Lion King?)
Looks like a lighter, modernized take on Campbell’s concept of The Hero’s Journey aimed at filmmakers. Nuzum says, “Should be used by more audio makers as a source of inspiration.”

51Z6EjgF96L Making Waves (2008)

By Mark Ramsey (Inside Jaws)
They say, “This book can help any broadcaster navigate a digital wonderland of infinite choice and endless competition. Dive in. The water’s fine. Let’s make some waves.”

Nuzum says, “Ramsey has been a provocative thinker about radio and podcasting for many years.”

My question: Do you think Ramsey drew the cover art himself?

41WFCsNwpmL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ Story Craft (2011)

By Jack Hart (The Oregonian newspaper)
Nuzm says, “I find myself applying the lessons in this book to almost every audio project I create.”

51PGXH7dDtL._SX377_BO1,204,203,200_ You Can Write a Novel Kit (2008)

By James V. Smith Jr.
Made for fiction, but Nuzum says, “useful to writers of any medium.”
Not just a book, but a kit with five guided notepads designed to help you with: Scene Development, Major Character Development, Minor Character Development, Revision, Progress Monitoring. 

41w3u+MqhRL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_ Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need (2006)

By Blake Snyder
Another screenwriting book Nuzum recommends for podcasters, evidently the last one you’ll ever need, and the last on this list.
This book has come up on This American Life, in a discussion of making Sleepwalk with Me. Have always been curious to read it and think now I will!

Also, apologies for not posting for a year and a half! think I was inspired by the book and the history of how podcasting emerged from blogging. These days I’m working on a true crime documentary show Monster: DC Sniper I’m really into the puzzle of figuring out how to structure a long multi-part series, so if you have any recommendations on story-structure kind of stuff, please let me know!


As I’m now working at an NPR station, but I was never formally trained in journalism, I decided to look up what I missed out on. Here are the introductory textbook’s used by 5 of America’s top journalism programs:

Textbook / Book

Program New Used
  Who, What, When, Where, Why by James Glen Stovall Emmerson College $121


Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel UT Austin $12 $8 ( Free audiobook with audible trial )
Inside Reporting by Tim Harrower  Northwestern $100 $71
Writing and Reporting the News by Carole Rich NYU $130 $60
The News Media: What Everyone Needs to Know by C.W. Anderson, Leonard Downie Jr., Michael Schudson.


$13 $6.64

Other texts that showed up in syllabi: The Associated Press Stylebook and America’s Best Newspaper Writing by Roy Peter Clark

Anyways, if you’re interested in teaching yourself journalism, this might be a place to start. This probably also doubles as a list of books to give as a gift to a journalism major or a young aspiring journalist.

Also of interest, might be the unofficial recommended reading list from Gimlet Media, which pertains specifically to making narrative audio documentaries and NPR-style pieces.

And if there’s a good book for young journalists that you want to recommend that wasn’t on this list, please mention it in a comment!

JAMA podcasts

The Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA, is launching a podcast app designed to help doctors to listen to educational content and take quizzes on what they learn.

By listening to these podcasts and taking the accompanying quizzes, medical professionals could earn Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits, which are needed for licensing requirements.

JAMA is advertising podcasts as a way for busy people to earn these credits: “Morning time. Commute time. Lunchtime. Workout time. Your time.”

Potentially this app will work on one of podcasting’s biggest strengths as an educational tool, allowing listeners to multitask and learn on the go. And, by incorporating quizzes the app may compensate for one of its weaknesses — the ease with which one can space out and miss important details from a piece of audio.

Likely the popularity of this tool will depend on the quality of the podcasts produced. I’ve heard a fair share of medical podcasts where people just read out articles and listing facts in monotone voices. However, the most widely shared and popular learning tool when I was a medical student was Dr. Goljan’s audio lecture series. (I’d wager Goljan has had more impact on medical education than any other doctor in his generation.)

A successful podcast, that can hold a tired person’s attention as they work out or commute will require an effective host like Goljan that can use some humour and flair to regain listener’s attention before key points and transitions and make points stick in their mind.


I strongly believe that the university system and medical education are sorely outdated. At hundreds of schools across the nation, similar lectures are given year after year, often by professors only lecturing out of an obligation to their department. The majority of schools now record these lectures, and at many schools, the majority of students, don’t attend class, they just watch the lectures so they can pause, repeat, slow down or speed up the content.

It’s time we decide these subjects are important enough that we devote the resources to make high-quality courses that can be shared between schools and across the world. Courses that not only incorporate the experience of top medical lecturers but also storytellers and documentarians. They should be founded in psychological theory, and variants could be tested using A-B testing and quizzing to optimize medical education. They should be accompanied by a comment section where the top questions and resources could be posted, voted upon, discussed.

Unfortunately, medical education, especially pre-clinical education, is often an after-thought — an obligation, not a priority. Schools are unlikely to take on a project like this, but perhaps a new generation of supplementary educational materials, like Goljan’s lectures, or the Pathoma video series could emerge — if they did, whoever made them would do the world a lot of good and make a lot of money off of the tens of thousands of allied health students looking for any advantage on their high-stakes exams.


A little over two months ago, I drove all the way from Northern Virginia to Garden City Kansas to start a job as a reporter at High Plains Public Radio.

Today, I’m psyched to have finished my first four-minute radio feature: ‘What Are We Gonna Do With Them?’ Livestock Hauling Industry Concerned About New Federal Rules. If you have a second give it a listen!

I got to hang out with truckers and cowboys and saw an old-school cattle auction while making it!


I made a podcasts about podcasts, but it’s not like those other podcasts about podcasts.

Selects, is a show for people looking to listen to something new that actually want to hear the podcast not an interview with the host. I asked independent and up-and-coming producers to “show me what you got.” Hosts cut down trailers or picked the best 10 minute segments that best represent their own shows, and Selects is a collection of the favorite submissions I received.

Listen now and then vote on which pieces you liked the most!


Paul Lassard Adrian Sanchez

(AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

On Saturday, Nats batter Adrian Sanchez turned in towards a pitch as he attempted to bunt. But the 96-mph pitch headed straight for him, and the baseball struck him in the chest. He clutched his chest and collapsed to the ground where he remained for several minutes. An athletic trainer ran over, probably terrified of commotio cordis — a deadly injury caused by an unlucky strike to the chest in front of the heart.

Commotio cordis, Latin for “agitation of the heart,” is a bizarre condition where when a physical blow to the chest hits the heart during a particularly vulnerable moment in the heartbeat, it can cause a sudden heart attack.


Maron and Estes, 2010

The heart attack isn’t due to physical damage; in fact, the blow usually doesn’t even damage the bones overlying the heart. Instead, scientist’s think that the mechanical energy generated from the strike affects proteins such as ion channels in the heart, causing them to function aberrantly, which ultimately leads to ventricular fibrillations.

Normally, heart cells in the ventricle normally are electrically synchronized so they contract together, and this unified contraction collapses the heart chambers and pumps blood. But in commotio cordis, the impact to the chest disrupts that synchronization. Different heart cells start contracting at different times from one another, and the heart can’t fully contract and efficiently pump blood. Instead, it fibrillates, with different regions making small ineffectual contractions. Defibrillators, those pads first-responders attach to the chest to “jump-start” the heart, work by sending an electrical signal over the heart which is strong-enough to re-synchronize the heart cells, so they again contract together and pump blood.

Sanchez, the Nats batter who was stuck by the pitch Saturday, recovered, and played out part of the rest of the game, even getting a base hit, before they sent him off to the hospital for monitoring, but not everyone is so lucky.

The very same day a 20-year-old Milwaukee Brewers minor-leaguer Julio Mendez was also struck by a pitch. An eye-witness report given on reddit said his breathing stopped, and trainers performed CPR as they waited for paramedics to arrive. The paramedics defibrillated the heart and took him to the hospital, where the Washington post reported today that he was in in a “critical but stable condition.”

Commotio cordis is a rare condition, but these two incidents are representative as younger players seem to be more vulnerable. According to the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), “it occurs primarily in children, adolescents, and young adults, most often during participation in certain recreational or competitive sports.” And of recreational and competitive sports, baseball is by far the most common cause of commotio cordis.


These deaths in young athletes may be preventable, according to that same NEJM article, “A direct relation between the hardness of the ball and the likelihood of ventricular fibrillation has been demonstrated in the laboratory, and lethal arrhythmias occur less frequently when the balls used have been manufactured for reduced hardness.” However, even softer baseballs made out of rubber as opposed to twine and cork have still caused commotio cordis.

In addition to recommending softer balls, the NEJM article suggests training young players to turn away from pitches coming at them, and also making defibrillators more available because quickly restarting the heart increases the chance of survival from any heart attack, including one induced by commotio cordis.

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