Portfolio

This is a portfolio of my work — research papers, printed stories, photos, audio, video — that demonstrate my range of ability.

Click to jump to a section, or simply scroll down. Scholarship | International Journalism | Domestic Journalism

I received a master’s degree American University’s School of International Service. My interests center primarily on Indian environmental issues. I am a mixed-methods researcher; my graduate thesis examined marine fisher poverty and politics in India. After completing my MA, I moved to India for a Fulbright-Nehru fellowship to study social capital among fishers in Karnataka. I ultimatedly worked for most of a year for a central government institute to design a survey methodology and instrument for a large sample of coastal households across multiple sites.

Since finishing my stint within the government, I’ve worked for a variety of NGOs pursuing research, advocacy and some development practice. More detail can be found on in my CV.

Prior to returning to graduate school, I spent four years at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as a reporter covering everything from local government to courts to state/national politics to poverty. I left the paper in 2009 and spent two years working overseas as a journalism instructor, occasional freelancer and volunteer.

SCHOLARSHIP

The best place find my range of scholarship is now my Academia.edu profile.

I also occasionally blog links to or PDFs of work. Most work posted Academia.edu is downloadable. If you have a question or comment on something there (or something you see on my CV) feel free to contact me (info on the right).


INTERNATIONAL JOURNALISM

A bitter Darjeeling boils over

Longings for another new Indian state bubble up after a community leader is murdered in the tea region of West Bengal

The Caravan: A journal of politics and culture (New Delhi, India) | July 2010

From the Raman border checkpoint, once you enter West Bengal from Sikkim, it’s easy to tell how much spine-rattling road is left before Darjeeling. The closer the jeep gets to the romanticised hill station, the more you’ll see the green and white and yellow paintings on guard rails, embankments, sign posts, shop doors, homes and everything in between.

All the paint requests, demands, cries out for one thing: a new Indian state, Gorkhaland.

The colour scheme belongs to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, the ruling political party and latest spearhead of demands of statehood for the Gorkha community of Nepali-speaking Indians mostly in the Darjeeling area.

For more than two years, the GJM, as many know it, has ruled the hills, controlling the Gorkha Hill Council, the mostly autonomous body formed more than two decades ago to govern the Darjeeling region.

The GJM has also been leading the ‘agitation’ of regional strikes and political tirades to force the issue. It’s the Darjeeling area’s voice in ongoing talks, progressing slowly, with the West Bengal and central governments about a permanent solution.

But on a Friday in May, a flash of anger burned white hot through Darjeeling; locals erupted at the GJM, shaking fists, tearing posters and excoriating the GJM’s president, Bimal Gurung.

[...]

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Mining giant believes it can save Madagascar forest

Multinational Rio Tinto opens nurseries to conserve in exchange for rights to mine

GlobalPost.com | May 31, 2010

TOLAGNARO, Madagascar — At first glance, the nursery here in the Mandena forest seems ordinary: Seedlings bask in a sunny clearing, where they are watered and studied.

Grey sand dampens the sound of footsteps and birds chirp furiously as Johny Rabenantoandro points out species that exist nowhere else in the world. The nursery sits inside more than 500 acres of reserve that protects some of Madagascar’s last remaining coastal ecosystem.

But Rabenantoandro is no crusading environmental activist. He’s a company biologist for multinational mining giant Rio Tinto. The nursery is part of the company’s ambitious — some say impossible — environmental agenda promised in exchange for permission to mine thousands of acres for titanium.

[...]

Click for PDF | full text | photos | hyperlink


The Maasai Show

As drought destroys a pastoral culture in Kenya, voyeur-tourism fills the gap

The Caravan: A journal of politics and culture (New Delhi, India) | April 2010

The troop of maasai men in red are clearly impressive as they shout and jump in time with a throaty tune, played on an instrument fashioned from the horn of a kudu, a local variety of antelope. This traditional dance has been performed for generations at weddings or during the passage into manhood.

But today, these ceremonies are mostly for the benefit of safari-bound tourists who part with precious dollars for a peek at Maasai traditions: dances, village tours, bushwalks and handicrafts. And in these days of drought and massive cattle die-offs, the nomadic pastoralists will most certainly take what they can get.

It’s an odd place for the Maasai to be, considering they’re more often at odds with Kenya’s safari industry, which jealously guards its pristine game lands against the incursions of hungry cattle. But as drought ravages the country, herders here say they have no choice but to risk fines, arrest and the occasional beating as they drive their cows to the best remaining grazing area: the protected wildlife reserve.

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Little-known islands are scuba paradise

Remote area in the Andaman Sea has pristine reefs and beaches, but facilities can be rustic

St. Louis Post-Dispatch | April 18, 2010 | Travel

NEAR HAVELOCK ISLAND, INDIA — Our rickety skiff takes on an alarming amount of water in the roiling Andaman Sea.

After an hour and a half, two other scuba divers and I arrive nearly seasick and absolutely soaked at our dive site, Johnny’s Gorge. The divemaster scrambles to tie the boat to a buoy, which is nothing more than a cluster of plastic bottles bobbing in the wide-open ocean and anchored to a rock some 90 feet below.

The sea is angry and we all look a bit hesitant. The divemaster hops in to check the current and immediately and rapidly washes away.

This one isn’t going to be easy.

We’re the only dive boat to brave these waters today, but we shrug and gear up. We’re paying good money to dive in India’s Andaman Islands, a tourist destination so remote that even some veteran divers will never dip a fin in these waters. It’d be a waste not to try.

[...]

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Kenyan males lineup for circumcision

African men are getting circumcised as a protection against HIV/AIDS

GlobalPost.com | November 30, 2009

KATITO, Kenya — The men snickered awkwardly as they discussed their sex lives.

At first, they dutifully recited talking points — “I want to be protected from HIV” — like school children trying to say exactly what the teacher wanted to hear.

But as they loosened up, their questions became more pointed: How much will it hurt? Will I become impotent? Will I become better at sex? Will I be more sensitive? Will girls like me more?

It was male circumcision day in this village in southwestern Kenya.

The weekly clinic of medical professionals is part of an internationally funded fight against HIV and AIDS. Research in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa has shown that circumcision can reduce a man’s chances of infection by as much as 60 percent during heterosexual sex.

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Harley gunning for growing Market in India

Company faces hurdles including tariffs and low incomes, but the ‘consuming class’ is growing

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | November 29, 2009 | Sunday Business

MUMBAI — Metallica’s rendition of “Turn the Page” blared from 6-foot-high speakers. Then the riders revved their engines: one, two, three, and soon more than a dozen thundering motorcycles were ready for the convoy.

Any motorcycle rally would be unusual in India, where bikes are basic transport used to whip around crowded, chaotic, potholed streets. Even more striking was that this group of leather- and denim-clad bikers was riding Harley-Davidsons, the American icon that’s working to make inroads in India.

The presence of the Harleys in Mumbai shows the different economic fortunes of the United States and India. While the recession in the U.S. has led to a slump in domestic sales for the Milwaukee-based company, India has weathered the global financial storm better, and its growing middle and upper classes are hungry for American goods and status symbols.

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U.S., Cuba seem headed toward thaw

Obama wants to open Cuba up; tourists, Midwest usiness eager to go

St. Louis Post-Dispatch | April 12, 2009 | A1

HAVANA — Juan, a 30-something Cuban artist, makes less than $20 a month from a state-fixed salary drawing graphic novels for children; he readily pulls a sample comic from his briefcase to show off his work.

But more precious than those comics is another piece of paper he pulls from his black leather bag: a form to enter the government’s annual sorteo – a raffle – for a passport and permission to emigrate to the United States.

“I want to go. I want to make a change for myself. There is no opportunity here for me,” said Juan, who like most other Cubans fears being identified by his full name because of possible government retribution for talking to foreign journalists. “We have no future.”

For 50 years, Cuba’s 11 million people have endured poverty under the communist regime of Fidel Castro and, more recently, his brother Raul Castro. For nearly all of that time, the U.S. has also maintained a tight economic embargo and barred nearly all of its own citizens from traveling to Cuba.

Yet the movement in Washington to ease some of those prohibitions is perhaps stronger than ever. President Barack Obama has said he intends to re-evaluate U.S.-Cuban relations and is expected this week to lift restrictions on Cuban-Americans visiting and sending money to family on the island.

At the same time, analysts say Raul Castro, who replaced his ailing brother last year as the communist nation’s president, may be open to more economic freedoms.

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“We are Hezbollah. They are us.”

In Lebanon, the militant group turned political party is more popular than ever

St. Louis Post-Dispatch | December 10, 2006 | Newswatch

MALIKEYA, Lebanon — Every now and then, Mustafa Rida hears a boom echo across the lemon, orange and olive orchards that surround his tiny village some 10 miles from the border with Israel.

It’s the sound of troops detonating an unexploded bomb, left over from the Israel’s offensive last summer against the militant group Hezbollah. Rida, a 72-year-old farmer, still has an Israeli leaflet dropped from the sky that warned him to leave his home as Israel pursued the guerrilla fighters.

Last month, Rida stared at the village mosque as he leaned against the plaster gateway to his home. When asked about the havoc wreaked after Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers from near the border in July, he smiled.

“Israel attacked us to stop Hezbollah,” he told a Post-Dispatch reporter. “But we are Hezbollah. They are us.”

Public support for Hezbollah in Lebanon was as much a fallout of the summer conflict as the left-behind bombs. It’s that popularity that in part has pushed Hezbollah to seek more power and recognition, pushing the country to the edge of political collapse.

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Click for PDF | full text | audio slideshow


Peru mining town learns of perils and progress of globalization

U.S.-owned lead smelter is both economic lifeline and source of much pollution in La Oroya

WILL Public Radio, Urbana | July 2, 2005

LA OROYA, Peru — High in the Andean mountains this small town, indeed the entire region, is both supported and yet choked by a U.S. lead company.

The smelter here provides work and much needed income to the poor area in Peru’s highlands. But the resulting pollution has left thousands of people with levels of lead in their blood that would be considered poisonous in the U.S.

The tenuous tether between the the town’s survival and collapse and the mining company is an example of the problems the developing world faces as it looks to the U.S. and elsewhere for foreign investment.

[Part of a larger team documentary on culture, economics and politics in Peru]

Click for audio | hyperlink to full documentary (bottom of page)


DOMESTIC JOURNALISM

St. Louis homeless men get team of their own

Roadies play for stability, personal goals, sense of belonging

St. Louis Post-Dispatch | July 26, 2009 | B1

If you’d taken a stroll past Soulard Park on a recent Friday evening, you’d probably have seen what looked at first glance like little more than a friendly pick-up soccer game.

A bunch of men playing four per side on a short field, laughing, sweating and jawing the way guys do when it’s just the guys.

But there’s one crucial detail that makes this weekly event far more meaningful than your average park scrimmage: These men, organized and coached by volunteers, don’t play for a work or school team.

They play on this team because they’re homeless.

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Giving cash doesn’t solve problems for most beggars

Panhandling becomes routine, strategic and a grinding habit

St. Louis Post-Dispatch | June 28, 2009 | A1

ST. LOUIS – Arthur Martin on many sunny afternoons can be found holding a tattered cardboard sign and begging for dollars on the traffic islands near the Edward Jones Dome.

If you knew him, you probably wouldn’t give him money. He’s usually drunk and will probably just spend it on booze.

“We’re alcoholics,” Martin said one recent afternoon while holding a piece of an old shoebox that read, “Homeless. Anything Helps. God Bless.”

He glanced over at his unofficial “wife,” Leona Urbanek, who was drinking Milwaukee’s Best Ice with another friend in the shade of the Interstate 70 overpass. Given his existence, Martin was strangely jovial and quick to brag to a reporter about his success in his chosen vocation: panhandling.

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City crews put damper on hydrant parties in hot weather

Officials say cracking open hydrants drains pressure, causes danger

St. Louis Post-Dispatch | June 25, 2009 | A1

ST. LOUIS – Dennis Tullock has been something of a killjoy lately, prowling the streets in his white Ford Ranger.

Tullock is a foreman with the St. Louis Water Division, and when fire hydrants are cracked open for a little relief from the searing weather, it’s Tullock or his crew who usually turn up to turn off the spray.

In polite terms, Tullock is like the Grinch Who Stole Summer Fun.

[...]

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Billions in late payments strain Illinois’ safety net

Nonprofits, social services may dwindle or close because state is behind

St. Louis Post-Dispatch | March 4, 2009 | A1

The angry phone calls pour into the office of Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes all day long. He’s the guy who manages the state’s checkbook, and a lot of people want their money.

Bill Kreeb, head of the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House in East St. Louis, has been on the phone a good deal lately. The state owes $850,000 to his organization for all sorts of anti-poverty programs. Kreeb said Tuesday that he’s not sure he can make payroll in two weeks for his staff of 230 people.

John Foppe, executive director of Community Link in Breese, has been calling, too. The state owes some $1.2 million to his agency, which provides group homes and a sheltered workshop for more than 400 developmentally disabled.

Those are just two voices in a growing chorus of social service providers with overdue state contracts. They say unless the state pays up soon, and figures out a long-term solution to its budget crunch, agencies could shut down services for tens of thousands of people ranging from after-school care to youth counseling to long-term residential programs.

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Homeless opt to stay outside despite bitter cold

Social services expand, nonprofits offer help, but some people just go it alone

St. Louis Post-Dispatch | January 16, 2009 | A1

The drafty cracks beneath the doors of downtown buildings would be little more than a heating inefficiency if it weren’t for the bitter, bitter cold that descended this week.

With the temperature approaching zero last night and the night before, the air escaping from buildings turns entryways into premium real estate for those who know of and need it. Those vents just inside the vestibules mean the difference between a night wrapped in multiple blankets, albeit uncomfortably, and frostbite, hypothermia or even death.

Darryl and Lisa Spinks have a favorite door on the east side of the public library. Wednesday night, they took refuge there from a windchill in negative double digits, putting down cardboard and building a makeshift igloo of blankets to capture the warm air.

“This is what we do to survive,” Darryl Spinks said.

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Anheuser-Busch is a kingdom under siege

Amid worries of a hostile corporate takeover, only local brew can soothe

St. Louis Post-Dispatch | June 13, 2008 | A1

The tiny Silverleaf Lounge has a few tables, about a dozen bar stools and enough Budweiser signs to light up a frat house. By midafternoon Thursday, most of the seats around the rail were filled by guys with plenty of stories to tell: retired military men, firefighters, cops.

But they weren’t trading war stories. No, talk of Anheuser-Busch and a possible foreign takeover was the topic du jour – or perhaps du beer.

“If I had a vote, I’d say, ‘No. Hell, no!’ ” proclaimed bar owner Ronald Damery, 65, after some thought and a few tugs on his Bud Light. “Course, I don’t have a vote.”

“What you think doesn’t mean a dang thing,” shot back Ron Wood, 61, a salty ex-Marine clutching a Budweiser.

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YouTube puts you in the democratic process

Video sharing portal lets anyone into political debate – but can be heavy on spin, bias.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch | February 24, 2008| A1

Hot bursts of light flashed across the Edward Jones Dome as Sen. Barack Obama walked the stage. Hundreds snapped pictures; others shot video from cell phones.

At least one man turned his back to Obama and delivered his own brief speech into a video camera in support of the Illinois Democrat. Miles Bateman, a retired Air Force master sergeant and Baptist minister from Trenton, in Clinton County, was about to become a political commentator by posting his video on the YouTube website.

Since its founding only three years ago, YouTube has prompted thousands of people such as Bateman to insert themselves into the democratic process.

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First days as treasurer are whirlwind for novice politician

At 30, Giannoulias the state’s new banker has never held office

St. Louis Post-Dispatch | January 14, 2007 | C1

On his first day as state treasurer, Alexi Giannoulias has been mostly on display – at the swearing-in, in his office, and at a reception. He’s going to spend the next couple hours doing more of the same at the state’s inaugural ball.

It’s 9:22 p.m. Monday, and in just half an hour he needs to be in place for the first dance of statewide officials. But his mind is on his stomach.

“Hey, guys, if there’s a McDonald’s anywhere nearby, I could kill for some food,” he says.

His driver is listening and finds one, over the objections of Giannoulias’ mother and girlfriend, both clad in evening gowns. Minutes later Giannoulias, D-Chicago, wearing a classic, double-breasted black tuxedo with black cummerbund and bow tie is racing into the fast food restaurant.

“Hi, I’m Alexi Giannoulias, the new state treasurer.”

[...]

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