Laura Lee

Managing Editor

Laura Lee is the managing editor of The State of Things. Born and raised in Monroe, North Carolina, Laura returned to the Old North state in 2013 after several years in Washington, DC. She received her B.A. in political science and international studies from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2002 and her J.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law in 2007.

Laura briefly strayed from her Tarheel allegiance in 2011 to obtain a masters degree in journalism from the University of Maryland where she was an Eleanor Merrill Fellow.  Prior to WUNC, Laura worked for NPR on the Washington desk, All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation. She was previously WUNC's assistant news director for talk programming. 

Ways to Connect

Ron Rash

Ron Rash is a critically acclaimed novelist who has won many accolades for his five novels, including Serena and World Made Straight.

When Rash penned his most recent work, he began with a single image: dead trout in a stream. From there, he knew he wanted to craft a narrative about hope and he used the relationship between a sheriff and a park ranger to do just that.

Pho Nomenal Dumpling Truck with (L-R) Becca Plumlee, Sophia Woo and Sunny Lin
Jeremiah Alley / Food Network

When Sophia Woo worked as an accountant, she spent many of her free nights and weekends making food. Her friends loved her culinary treats, especially the dumplings. She left her day job and joined a high school friend in building a food truck.

Their success caught the attention of Food Network producers and now they are competing in the sixth season of “The Great Food Truck Race,” a competition between seven trucks across Route 66.

Doctor payoffs
Mike Licht / Flickr Creative Commons

Physicians earn their livings from patient care, but for many, fees are not their only source of income.

New data released under the Affordable Care Act shows how much individual doctors receive from pharmaceutical and medical device companies. Several physicians in the Triangle receive thousands of dollars.

Host Frank Stasio talks with Triangle Business Journal reporter Jason deBruyn about the fees and access to the data.

multiple choice test
Alberto G. / Flickr Creative Commons

School is back in session for the new year but assessment of last year's grades is ongoing. The report card for statewide performance in the 2014-2015 school year is out.

The Department of Public Instruction released their findings yesterday: graduation rates are up but fewer schools are hitting their targets.

  Guest host Phoebe Judge talks with WUNC education reporter Reema Khrais about the test results.

Charmaine McKissick-Melton at a ceremony for Sigma Tau Delta, an English honor society.
Chi Brown / NCCU Office of University Relations

In 1963, the Durham School Board extended the desegregation of schools to elementary school students. Third-grader Charmaine McKissick-Melton and her brother, Floyd Jr., were two of the first African-Americans to integrate North Durham Elementary School.

NC General Assembly
Jorge Valencia

Republican leaders in the state house and senate have finally reached an agreement on at least part of the state budget.

They have made a deal that sets the budget at $21.735 billion. They still need to iron out agreements on state employee raises and funding for teaching assistants.

  Host Frank Stasio talks with WUNC Capitol bureau chief Jeff Tiberii about the latest.

Jason deBruyn, Triangle Business Journal
Triangle Business Journal

The FDA approved the first-ever drug for female sexual dysfunction. The Raleigh-based company, Sprout, is behind the libido pill.

  This morning, Valeant Pharmaceuticals announced it is buying Sprout for $1 billion. Some hail the FDA approval as a victory for gender equality but critics say the many risky side effects outweigh the benefits.

Blue Cross Blue Shield pen
frankieleon / Flickr Creative Commons

The Affordable Care Act was designed to give more access to healthcare at lower costs. But the state’s largest health insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, has requested a rate increase of more than 34% for patients enrolled in the ACA plans.

The company says it needs the additional revenue to offset increasing costs. The request, along with increase requests from other insurers, will be considered by the North Carolina Insurance commissioner.

Image of Ken Rudin, the Political Junkie

Seventeen GOP presidential contenders took the stage last night in a two-tiered appearance on Fox. Did the event help or hurt poll leaders Donald Trump and Jeb Bush?

Plus, the debate over Planned Parenthood funding continues on the Hill.

And Jon Stewart ends his 16-year run on The Daily Show.  

A Polished Soul

Aug 5, 2015
Image of Michael Rae Anderson
Michael Rae Anderson

Michael Rae Anderson grew up in poverty and in an abusive household. As an adolescent, he saw his peers with new cars and plenty of money earned by selling drugs.

Anderson began selling drugs and guns as a teen. A fight over drugs ended with a shooting and Anderson was charged with first-degree murder. He took a plea and served 17 years on a life sentence.

Gavel / Flickr Creative Commons

The trial of a former Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer in the shooting of 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell is underway this week.

Wes Randall Kerrick is charged with fatally wounding Ferrell, who had been involved in a car accident and knocked on a door for help. The resident of the home told officers she believed Ferrell was a burglar. Kerrick shot Ferrell 12 times.

Image of Nnenna Freelon, who stars in 'The Clothesline Muse'
Chris Charles

Clotheslines were once a part of everyday life for most American families. Women would often gather at community clotheslines, and neighbors in high rise buildings chatted over shared clotheslines hanging between their apartments. 

The new multimedia theatrical production “The Clothesline Muse” explores the history and culture of the clothesline, and looks at what it can tell us about changing community structure and relationships.

Image of Sydney Scherr, who is a jeweler and professor now working with victims of sex trafficking.
Sydney Scherr

For many victims of sex trafficking, the struggle continues after escaping the industry. Without skills to earn a livelihood, they may turn to prostitution.

Jeweler and professor Sydney Scherr started a project to teach sustainable jewelry design to victims of sex trafficking. She leads groups of students to instruct and create designs through simple techniques so that they can earn a living. 

Host Frank Stasio talks with Scherr and two students involved in the project: Ezatul Mazwe Muhammad Arif and Hanson Foong.

Wind Energy In NC

Jul 16, 2015
Wind turbines
Martin Pettitt / Flickr Creative Commons

A stretch of land that was once called “The Desert” by locals is now the site of a potential new economy in North Carolina: wind energy.

And the market for the energy produced by the wind farms already has a buyer: Amazon. Meanwhile, the legislature continues to debate environmental deregulation measures.

Image of Tommy Sowers
Duke University

Tommy Sowers served two tours in Iraq as a green beret. The Duke graduate earned a Ph.D. at the London School of Economics, and he taught at West Point and at Duke.

Sowers ran as the Democratic Party's nominee for Missouri’s 8th Congressional District in 2010 and later became an assistant secretary for the Veterans Affairs. He worked to help veterans gain access to benefits.

Image of sticky notes with one titled find job / Flickr Creative Commons

New economic numbers out this month show workers in the Triangle are finding fewer jobs, and those who do have employment are making less money. 

The latest unemployment figures are the highest the Triangle has seen since August of last year. 

Host Frank Stasio talks with Triangle Business Journal reporter Jason deBruyn about the latest figures. 

Sydney Scherr

Raleigh metalsmith and enameller Sydney Scherr traveled to Malaysia in 2009 to build the jewelry design program at Raffles College of Higher Education. Through a chance meeting with a fellow metalsmith, Scherr began to document the building of a 22-foot tall Hindu temple chariot. 

The work consists of 1,760 pounds of silver and many embellishments. The temple travels throughout communities. Scherr is the first female ever permitted to participate in the construction of such a temple.

Photo: The North Carolina seal in front of the state legislative building
Jorge Valencia

Lawmakers take up the state's budget with a month-end deadline looming. Senate leaders passed their plan this morning. It increases pay for new teachers but cuts back on teaching assistants. 

The $21 billion plan also puts Medicaid under the control of an outside agency. But the Senate plan differs greatly from the House proposal and the Governor's plan. Lawmakers need to reconcile the differences before June 30 or pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded.

Image of John Heinemeier
York Wilson for Faith & Leadership

The Rev. John Heinemeier says ministers should be agitators. In fact, he calls Jesus an agitator.

Rev. Heinemeier spent more than five decades stirring things up and serving congregants in inner-city New York, Boston and Baltimore. He helped integrate churches in the 60s and 70s, bringing together Latino and African-American congregations. He also worked to develop the Nehemiah strategy for housing. He now serves as an Episcopal Minister in Oxford, N.C. 

Image of Ken Rudin, the Political Junkie

The North Carolina legislature voted to override a veto by Governor McCrory. The move puts a measure into law that allows magistrates who disagree with same-sex marriage to opt out of performing marriages.

And Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton speaks out against voting restrictions like the one’s passed by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2013. Republican leaders push back, saying voting regulation is a state issue. 

Solar Panels
Strata Solar

The North Carolina General Assembly is considering legislation to limit the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards. Proponents say tax incentives and government mandates for renewable energy are crucial to continued growth in revenue and jobs. 

  Several large companies like Google and Facebook have urged the legislature not to roll back the measures. Opponents say solar businesses costs the state more than they generates and taxpayers end up footing the bill. 

Image of "Soon," the latest collection of short stories written by Pam Durban, a creative writing professor at UNC.
University of South Carolina Press

The characters of Pam Durban’s short stories face a variety of challenges on different fronts - grief, identity, interpersonal relationships.

But the common thread that binds them all is storytelling. Durban’s latest collection of short stories is Soon (University of South Carolina Press/2015).  

Host Frank Stasio talks with Durban, professor of creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Image of the North Carolina Legislative Building in Raleigh, North Carolina

The legislature considers controversial measures on gun regulations and magistrates performing same-sex marriages.

And Governor Pat McCrory says he will sign a bill that increases the waiting period for an abortion, a move that contradicts his campaign promise. 

Image of Ken Rudin, the Political Junkie

The North Carolina General Assembly gets a veto from Governor McCrory on their measure to exempt some magistrates from performing marriages. And the Patriot Act is set to expire this weekend.

Image of Shana Tucker, who created the musical genre Chamber Soul to reflect a mix of classical and jazz training with influences from 80s and 90s pop and world music.
Lei Rivera Photography

For many jazz or classical performers, the workplace is one of formality. But for cellist and singer Shana Tucker, the workplace last year was a zany mix of painted and costumed characters. Tucker literally joined the circus. The self-described “ChamberSoul” musician performs nightly with Cirque de Soleil’s '