Our Gift To You: 'Not To Be Missed' Stories

Dec 24, 2014

It's impossible to listen to the radio every minute 24 hours a day. Even the biggest WUNC fan is bound to miss something. So here, in no particular order, are some of our favorite stories from 2014 that you might have missed.

Joseph Sledge, photographed at Pamlico Correctional Institution in Bayboro, N.C. Thursday, February 28, 2013.
Credit ETHAN HYMAN — ehyman@newsobserver.com

Closer to Freedom (December 8, 2014)

Joseph Sledge, 68, has been in prison for half of his life for the 1976 Bladen County murders of a mother and daughter.  News & Observer Investigative Reporter Mandy Locke has followed the story closely. She tells Frank Stasio about the work of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission to bring Sledge's case to a three judge panel for possible exoneration.

The Year of the Teacher (August 7, 2014)

High-school graduation rates are at an all-time high in North Carolina, and National Association of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores are higher than the national average. Why then, do teachers feel under attack?

Coal Ash Coverage

A broken storm pipe caused 33,000 tons of coal ash to spill into the Dan River in February. Immediately, reporter Jeff Tiberii began filing regular reports on the issue. His  reporting, augmented by stories from Jorge Valencia and Dave DeWitt, made national environmental, economic and political news.

Why Some NC Sterilization Victims Won't Get Share Of $10 Million Fund (October 6, 2014) 

In 2013, North Carolina lawmakers set up a $10 million compensation fund for victims of state-sponsored eugenics. More than 780 people applied, claiming they had been forcibly or coercively sterilized by the state. After an initial review, the state decided only about 200 of those claims are valid, while more than 500 have come up short. This is the story of one victim, Debra Blackmon.

Debra Blackmon, 56, is requesting compensation for a sterilization performed on her in 1972.
Credit Eric Mennel / WUNC

Meet North Carolina Budget Director Art Pope (June 9, 2014)

Art Pope has a long history in North Carolina politics and government. He has become an increasingly influential and controversial figure in the state, and he rarely does interviews. He sat down with Frank Stasio for an hour.

What's The Best Way To Euthanize A Whale? (June 11, 2014)

Sometimes it's possible to save a stranded whale. Sometimes they'll save themselves once high-tide rolls in. But in most cases, if a whale washes ashore, there's already something wrong with it. To force a whale back into the ocean would just turn it into shark bait, as opposed to food for gulls. And so euthanasia becomes the most palatable option.

Craig Harms is one of the world's foremost experts on whale euthanasia. He, along with a handful of other scientists around the world, have been trying to find the most humane, ecologically sound way to kill a whale that has no chance of living.

Talkin' Tar Heel (May 8, 2014)

For more than 20 years, researchers at North Carolina State University have collected interviews exploring the rich diversity of dialects in North Carolina.

From Navy Fighter Pilot to Drone Advocate, Meet Missy Cummings (Nov. 3, 2014)

Although the word drone may at first evoke an image of a stealth killing machine, the work of Mary 'Missy' Cummings proves drones are much more than that initial thought.  Cummings directs the Humans and Autonomy Lab at Duke University, where she builds interfaces for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and studies the social and ethical implications of technological advancement.

The Lone Bellow (November 14, 2014)

The Lone Bellow is a band is born from tragedy. Their songs are have heart, simplicity and harmony.

Examining Sexual Assault On Campus: Policy, Prevention And Culture (September 30, 2014)

One-in-five women and one- in-16 men is sexually assaulted on campus according to the National Institute of Justice.  And a White House report shows that no one in America is more at risk of being raped or assaulted than college women. Addressing campus sexual assault requires more than policy changes. A student-led revolution calls for a larger public discussion about issues of gender-based discrimination and the systems of oppression that perpetuate violence.

The Big Walk: The Story Of The First Woman To Hike The Appalachian Trail (May 5, 2014)

In 1955, 67-year-old Emma Gatewood became the first woman to walk the entirety of the more than 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail.  She made the trek from Georgia to Maine, crossing over 300 mountains, alone, with $200  in her pocket.   Ben Montgomery grew up hearing stories about Gatewood, who was his mother’s great aunt.

“Bedtime stories," Montgomery said. "Fantastical stories about this eccentric woman finding her way along the Appalachian Trail at the age of 67.” 

Those stories led Montgomery to search deeper into Emma Gatewood’s life. Turns out, Gatewood’s family had no idea she was hiking the trail.  Gatewood told them she was going on a walk and then disappeared.

“They didn’t hear from her until she reached Roanoke, Virginia," Montogomery said,  "which is 800 miles from the southern terminus of the trail in Northern Georgia.  She dropped a postcard in the mail back to them in Ohio.”

Leoneda Inge takes a selfie at the start of the slave cabin project.
Credit Leoneda Inge

Rebuilding A Slave Cabin (February, 2014)

Reporter Leoneda Inge spent a week in February working with a team to reconstruct a slave cabin that dates back to the early 1800s.

The cabin is on the grounds at James Madison’s Montpelier estate in the Piedmont region of Virginia.

The remains of the original slave cabin was discovered and excavated in 2010.  Leoneda and the team helped rebuild the slave quarter at the actual site where it stood generations ago.

"Producing the story and multimedia project was a first for me and for the station," says Inge, noting that never before at WUNC has a reporter spent a single week on such an "immersion" story. 

"The story was personally meaningful. I was born in the South and am a descendant of slaves and I am a believer of the importance of 'authentic' history.  This project was developed to create an authentic history at Montpelier - the home of President James Madison," Inge added.

Follow the project blog here.

Did Durham Police Follow Protocol When Arresting 17-Year-Old Jesus Huerta? (January 15, 2014)

Jesus Huerta died from a gunshot wound while in police custody in November of 2013.  Important details began to emerge in the early months of 2014. This conversation seems especially poignant considering the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Heroin in NC: Scoring Methadone At Bible Study (October 8, 2014)

The number of overdose deaths in the state has quadrupled in just a few years. Meet recovering addicts,  as well as some who are battling the problem.

Listen: How a Refrigerator Gets Into A Manhole And Other Raleigh Sewer Secrets (November 14, 2014)

Scott Huler explores city infrastructure for his new book, On the Grid. Sound boring? Listen to the stories of what's been found in Raleigh's sewers.

'Breathtaking' Images Discovered Of A 1950s Shoeshine Competition In North Carolina (September 11, 2014)

Newly discovered, never-published photos of a curious local tradition: a Wilson, North Carolina shoeshine competition in the 1950s.

Competitor Curtis Phillips tries to wow the judges, Shoeshine Competition, 1952
Credit John G. Zimmerman / John G. Zimmerman Archive