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Politics
8:49 pm
Tue February 8, 2011

Changes to state parole board may save money

Paroling more prisoners over the past few years has resulted in savings
Simone Ramella flickr

It is too early to tell if Governor Rick Snyder’s executive order to move the job of paroling prisoners from Governor’s appointees back to the Department of Corrections will save money. The order also reduces the number of Parole Board members from 15 down to 10. All prisoners who want to be released before their sentence is up needs a decision from the parole board.

The move will save the state some money on some salaries, but the real savings will only happen if the new Board can continue to parole prisoners as fast or even faster than the old board. 

Matthew Grabowski is with the Michigan State Senate Fiscal Agency.

Michigan spends a little over $35,000 a year to house your typical inmate. It’s usually less expensive to supervise an individual in the community, whether it’s through traditional parole or whether we use some kind of electronic monitoring like a GPS tether. Those ranges are from maybe, say as little as $2,000 a year, up to around $10,000.

Grabowski also said more details are needed before it's known if the executive order may signal more changes to the Parole Board.  

It’s quite possible the parole board could change the way it approaches the parole process entirely. So it’s difficult to forecast sort of what the fiscal impact will be until the Governor and Director of the Department of Corrections sort of lay out a process for how the new parole board will operate. 

Parole approval rates for every class of criminal offender have gone up since 2008.

Agriculture
12:12 pm
Tue February 8, 2011

Michigan Farmers to learn about labor laws

Migrant farmworkers live and work on Michgan farms during the harvest
Craig Camp flickr

Sarah Alvarez-Michigan Radio Newsroom

The Michigan Farm Bureau is starting a six month series to educate farmers about laws that apply to migrant workers and youth labor. Michigan’s agriculture industry is dependent on migrant labor. The industry is still dealing with the effect of a harsh report on worker conditions by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.

Hannah Stevens is with Michigan State University Extension, one of the sponsors of the series.

In agriculture it’s complicated because there immigration issues there’s housing issue, you know, so many regulatory agencies that look closely at management of labor.  I think particularly it’s a sensitive topic.

Stevens says that pressure to comply with labor laws is also coming from retailers.

The retail stores, Meijer’s and Walmart’s and all these, are beginning to demand that there’s certain responsibility that growers have in terms of managing their workforce. They may reject Michigan produce if they don’t feel that’s being handled correctly. That may put growers in a very awkward position.

The farm bureau expects only about 25% of growers in the state will attend their seminars. The seminars will run from February to July.

What's Working
2:41 pm
Mon February 7, 2011

Connecting Detroit's homeless with supportive services and housing

James Marvin Phelps Flickr

Each Monday, our Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley speaks with a Michigan resident about a project or program that is working to improve life in Michigan. The interviews are part of our year-long series, What’s Working.

Today, Christina sits down with Beverley Ebersold, the Senior Program Manager at the Michigan Office for the Corporation for Supportive Housing.

Read more
Arts/Culture
4:24 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

Baby, it's cold outside...

Jeremy Hiebert Flickr

Members of the Cleveland Orchestra (TCO), trapped in Ann Arbor because of the recent snowfall, ended up putting on an impromptu performance on Wednesday with members of Classical Revolution Ann Arbor (CRAA), a local chamber music collective.

Because of the snowstorm, TCO was unable to leave Ann Arbor in time for a concert Wednesday at Chicago's Orchestra Hall. The musicians chose to pass the time playing with University of Michigan students and amateur musicians at Sylvio's Organic Pizza in Ann Arbor, where CRAA meets every Wednesday for jam sessions.

The first quartet of the evening consisted of Bill Preucil, TCO's concertmaster, TCO violist Joanna Patterson, cellist Ed Baskerville, and University of Michigan student violinist Dan Winnick. Other TCO musicians showed up to play throughout the evening, including principal oboe Frank Rosenwein and principal flutist Joshua Smith.

Read and watch more over at University Musical Society's page.

Brian Short - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment
4:24 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

Invasive brown marmorated stink bugs found in Michigan

The Brown marmorated stink bug. Spook it and it might put its stink on you, but the real worry is what it could do to crops in the state.
David Lance USDA APHIS

The Michigan Department of Agriculture has confirmed the presence of invasive brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB) in two Michigan counties. The bugs were discovered by students from Michigan State University.

Jennifer Holton is with the Michigan Department of Agriculture. She says the bugs can do damage to the types of fruits and vegetables grown in Michigan. The damage makes them difficult to sell. 

And what is does is... a little bit of character distortion on the fruit, what they refer to as cat facing, and that makes the fruit, or the vegetable, if there may be one, unmarketable for the fresh market.

You can find more information about identifying BMSB at the Michigan Department of Agriculture website.

Holton also suggested never moving firewood and to contact your local Michigan State University extension office if you think you found a brown marmorated stink bug.

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Science/Medicine
2:59 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

New obstacles for medical marijuana plant-growers

Joe Gratz Flickr

Michigan Radio's Laura Weber reports that the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled against growing medical marijuana plants in partially-exposed outdoor enclosures, setting a new precedent in Michigan’s medical marijuana debate. From the news spot:

A lower court had dismissed charges against an Owasso resident and medical marijuana card holder. But the Court of Appeals overturned that dismissal, and two of the three judges say the enclosure did not meet the standards set in the new law.

The medical marijuana law was approved by voters in 2008. Many lawmakers have said the law is too unrestricted and needs further clarification.

Clarification--and clarity--is an ongoing problem for medical marijuana advocates and critics in Michigan. John McKenna Rosevear wrote an article in November for arborweb.com which looks at some of the uncertainties surrounding medical marijuana. He describes Ann Arbor as a "Wild West" of in-plain-sight dispencaries and access:

The new frontier opened when voters passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act in 2008 (earlier laws enshrined the alternative spelling). The act protects people with "debilitating medical conditions" from prosecution for possessing or using marijuana, and sets what looked like tight controls on its production and distribution: "patients" can raise up to twelve hemp plants for their own use, or delegate the growing to a designated "caregiver."

The law says nothing about buying or selling. Yet by the time the Ann Arbor City Council hastily enacted a moratorium in August, eight businesses dispensing marijuana had already opened in the city. Anyone with a physician's recommendation can now walk in, join a "club," and walk out with up to 2.5 ounces of Blueberry Haze or White Widow--or "medibles" like marijuana brownies and rainbow-colored lollipops dosed with marijuana extract.

Roseyear's article goes on to describe how medical marijuana works--what the rules are, what kind of people are buying and who (he gets pretty specific) is selling--in Ann Arbor.

How is it affecting the rest of Michigan? What do these issues look like where you live?

-Brian Short

Michigan History
4:52 pm
Thu February 3, 2011

It's not the first time Michigan has faced budget challenges

The Capitol in Lansing
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Michigan lawmakers face the challenge of balancing a budget with a hole of around $1.8 billion in it.

Governor Snyder plans to submit a plan to the legislature this month, and it promises to leave very few departments untouched.

Budget issues are not new to Michigan.

Today, we explored some other difficult times in budget years past with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry.

Michigan Radio's Jenn White asked what led to the deficit we are facing in this year's budget.

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Arts/Culture
9:29 am
Thu February 3, 2011

The Day the Music Died

C. Awreetus

Fifty-two years ago today, a plane crashed in a cornfield outside Mason city, Iowa, killing three musicians, including Buddy Holly.

An article from WLFI in Lafayette, Indiana, sets up the story:

Three up and coming musicians were on what was called “The Winter Dance Party” tour through the Midwest. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were all about fed up with the tour bus that kept breaking down, the cold weather that had already sent Holly’s drummer to the hospital with frostbite and the long distances between shows.

Holly's frustration with the tour led him to charter a plane to carry the three musicians to the next stop. The plane crashed, killing the musicians as well as the pilot, Roger Peterson.

Gibson.com has this analysis of the legacy of the three rockers, in particular Holly:

Valens and The Big Bopper would be immortalized by the tragedy, while Buddy Holly is still revered as one of the greatest-ever talents in popular music. As Paul McCartney, someone who knows a thing or two about a good tune, once remarked: “At least the first 40 [Beatles] songs we wrote were Buddy Holly-influenced.”

Holly's enduring influence is even more amazing considering his real success lasted less than two years, but with hits like “Peggy Sue” and “Everyday,” it's not hard to see—or hear—why.

Check out this short but sweet clip of Holly performing in Grand Rapids in 1958:

 

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Egypt
5:10 pm
Wed February 2, 2011

Michigan university students return from Egypt

A protest in Shoubra, Cairo, Jan. 1, 2011
Mahmoud Saber Flickr

Students from Michigan universities are returning to the United States from Egypt after unrest in that country.

Zenit Chughtai attends Michigan State University and was studying in Alexandria through The Language Flagship program. She says she noticed a difference in the way Egyptians treated foreigners after the protests began:

“I was with a bunch of American students when we encountered a group and, they didn’t – we didn’t get the normal reaction the usually got, a reaction like, "Oh you’re some tourist," they were like – "Come, run with us, join us, protest with us."”

Universities across the state have canceled their study abroad programs in Egypt and have been coordinating with the State department to bring students back to the U.S.

Chugtai returned to the United States only a few days after the protests but she said many other students in her program flew back yesterday. They are currently in Washington D.C., waiting to learn more about how they'll continue their studies.

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
3:18 pm
Wed February 2, 2011

Catholic Church weighs in on state Earned Income Tax Credit battle

User VanZandt Flickr

State lawmakers trying to eliminate the Earned Income Tax Credit are hearing from the Catholic Church.

The Michigan Catholic Conference says keeping the credit for the working poor is its top policy goal for this year.

The Conference is the official lobbying arm of the Michigan’s Catholic Dioceses and represents 2.25 million people.

Dave Maluchnik is a spokesperson with the Michigan Catholic Conference.

We have urged members of the House to reconsider their proposal to eliminate the earned income tax credit. There are numerous other groups out there in the state who are very concerned. In fact, there are many protestant organizations, Jewish organizations, that are very interested in protecting this policy.

Lobbying on all sorts of issues will heat up in the coming weeks when Governor Rick Snyder announces his budget priorities for the next fiscal year on February 17th.

Sarah Alvarez - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Weather
8:59 am
Wed February 2, 2011

Spring prediction: Michigan's Woody vs. Punxsutawney Phil

Punxsutawney Phil in 2009
Scottobear Flickr

While many in the Midwest chose to stay buried under the covers this morning amidst the snow storm that blanketed the region, Punxsutawney Phil, the famed weather prognosticator, ventured out to let us know whether or not we should expect an early spring. Upon being presented to the crowd at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Phil failed to see his shadow, thereby predicting an early spring for everyone.

Today marks the 125th annual Groundhog Day ceremony featuring the meteorological predictions of the large marmot. Since Phil’s first prediction in 1887, he has failed to see his shadow only 15 times. Most meteorologists suggest that Phil’s predictions lack scientific justification. But, as many struggle to dig their way out of over a foot of snow in temperatures near zero, it remains unclear whether Phil is an optimist attempting to lift our spirits or just a sarcastic rodent.

Meanwhile, at the Howell Conference and Nature Center in Livingston County, Woody the Woodchuck made her own prognostication regarding the arrival of spring for Michigan. Upon being presented to the crowd in Howell, Woody promptly saw her shadow, predicting another six weeks of winter, and perhaps inadvertently starting a meteorological feud between the two prophetic marmots. Only time will tell who has true powers of prophesy, but, after last night’s winter storm, odds are currently in Woody’s favor.

Weather
8:41 am
Wed February 2, 2011

Winter storm brings more than a foot of snow in parts of Michigan

The big winter storm has brought more than a foot of snow in some parts of the state
Sami Flickr

Update 8:33 a.m.:

The National Weather Service has canceled blizzard warnings for much of the west and middle regions of the state. A Winter Weather Advisory remains in effect for West and Mid Michigan until 12p.m. Blizzard warnings remain in effect until 12 p.m. today for cities in the eastern part of the state including Midland, Bay City, Bad Axe, Saginaw, and Caro.

6:35 a.m.:

Most of Lower Michigan is digging out of last night’s winter storm, and it’s not over yet. A blizzard warning remains in effect until 7 P.M. for the western side of the state, as well as areas as far east as Lansing. In areas around Flint, a blizzard warning is scheduled to expire at noon. In the Detroit and Ann Arbor areas, a winter storm warning will last until noon. The counties along the state’s southern border are under a winter weather advisory until 1 P.M., with the exception of Berrien County, whose winter weather advisory is set to expire at 10 A.M. As for the Toledo area, a winter storm warning will remain in effect until 7 o’clock this evening.

Earlier this morning,  the southwestern part of the state reported having 10 to 15 inches of snow already on the ground. Cities in the southeast, including Ann Arbor and Flint, received between four and six inches.

The storm has made roads hazardous, with snow drifts of up to five feet being reported. AAA Michigan reportedly helped more than 3,600 drivers stuck on the roads Tuesday night. Those who can avoid driving are urged to do so.

Today, numerous school districts, as well as many colleges and universities, are closed. School districts closed for Wednesday include Detroit, Kalamazoo, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Toledo, and Jackson. In addition, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, the University of Michigan-Dearborn, Western Michigan University, and Grand Valley State University have canceled classes for today.

Weather
7:58 am
Wed February 2, 2011

Storm leaves 'relatively few' without power

Energy companies across the state say the winter storm left 'relatively few' powerless
LisaW123 Flickr

While the snow has been heavy across the state over the past 12 hours, the freezing rain that was forecasted missed much of the state.

That’s good news for DTE Energy and Consumer’s Energy, who are reporting relatively few power outages, according to the Associated Press.

Consumer’s Energy reports roughly 3,700 customers without power, with most of the outages occurring in Gratiot County.

Meanwhile, DTE Energy is reporting only 1,000 residential outages, which the company says is in line with the average number of outages during a typical day.

Economy
3:32 pm
Mon January 31, 2011

4 Michigan cities get some marketing help

Clare, Michigan is one of four communities chosen to receive downtown rebranding
Michigan Main Street Center

Four Michigan communities are changing their downtown identity with help from the Michigan Main Street Center.

The Center hopes to help each city market their unique characteristics to residents and future visitors.

Laura Krizov manages the program for the Michigan Main Street Center. She says the four cities to receive rebranding services - Boyne City, Clare, Grand Haven, and Niles -  have a downtown presence, but wanted to cultivate one that was more readily identifiable with their community.

Six communities applied for the program, but Krizov said the four were chosen because they demonstrated the need and the ability to benefit from the program:

"We feel that they will be able to pull this off and in the end, we’ll be able to give them a great brand, telling the community who they are and what they want to do."

Each community will get a logo and website that is meant to help them build a cohesive brand.

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Arts/Culture
1:33 pm
Mon January 31, 2011

The Green Hornet airs 75 years ago today on WXYZ-Detroit

The Green Hornet was a Detroit creation but was eventually syndicated across the country.
ssoosay flickr

If you had tuned your radio to WXYZ-Detroit on this day in 1936, you would have heard the inaugural broadcast of the masked hero,The Green Hornet.

Each week brought audiences the latest adventures of Britt Reid, a newspaper publisher by day and masked crusader by night, and his trusty side-kick, Kato.

You can listen to a sampling of the original programs at Archive.org.

Alexander Russo is an American media scholar at the Catholic University of America. He says The Green Hornet had a special appeal to listeners during the Great Depression who may have been frustrated with the lagging success of New Deal policies:

“In all of these characters, you have individuals who step outside the socially sanctioned ways of achieving social change and enacting it themselves.”

Today, The Green Hornet is a movie for the second time and has also been a television show.

The Green Hornet was created by George Trendle and Frank Striker.  Their previous radio productions included another masked hero - The Lone Ranger

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Law
4:30 pm
Wed January 26, 2011

State Bar Association says Michigan needs court reform

The 58th District Court in Ottawa County. The State Bar says the courts in Michigan need reform.
Rich Evenhouse Flickr

The Michigan State Bar wants to change the way the state's courts work.

A task force of judges and lawyers are recommending changes they say will save the state money.

The Judicial Crossroads Task Force suggests:

  • consolidating trial courts
  • giving business cases higher priority
  • and letting existing judges retire without replacing them

Michigan has 246 separate courts and 586 judges.

Read more
Science/Medicine
2:34 pm
Wed January 26, 2011

Black infant mortality rate on the rise in Washtenaw County

Rearchers have found a wide disparity between infant mortality rates in Washtenaw County
Sono Tamaki flickr

Washtenaw County's data shows African-American babies are at least three times more likely to die before their first birthday than white babies. That's according to data from the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Washtenaw County’s rate for African-American infant deaths is among the highest in the state, and it also has one of the widest statewide gaps between white and black infant mortality rates.

The rate for white infant deaths is among the lowest in the state and going down.

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Education
1:47 pm
Wed January 26, 2011

Michigan State University plans to send students to Cuba

Students from Michigan State University may soon be able to study in Cuba
DarkRoomIllusion flickr

President Obama said earlier this month that he would lift many of the restrictions currently prohibiting many students from studying in Cuba.

The restrictions were established by the Bush administration in 2004. As a result, Michigan State University relocated programs based in Cuba to the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean countries.

Jeffery Riedinger is the Dean of International Programs at MSU. He says he looks forward to rebuilding the University’s programs in Cuba, but will need further guidelines from the Obama administration before moving forward.

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Lansing faces budget problem
4:07 pm
Mon December 20, 2010

City of Lansing facing $15 million budget deficit in FY12

The seal of the city of Lansing, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The City of Lansing is facing a potential $15 million budget deficit.   City Finance Director Jerry Ambrose says there is a growing chasm between Lansing’s projected spending needs fiscal year 2012 and the city’s projected revenue. FY2012 begins June 30th, 2011.  Ambrose says the city expects to spend $118 million next year delivering city services, but city revenues are only expected to reach $103 million. Ambrose says in a written statement:

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Politics
3:28 pm
Fri April 18, 2008

Testimony Mixed at Jean Klock Park Hearing

Dozens of people testified in Benton Harbor last night (TH) at a packed city hearing on the future of the nearly 100-year old Jean Klock Park.

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