On March 30, a Bornean orangutan was born at Zoo Atlanta. I wrote a small brief about the new arrival for an endangered species, then updated it a few days later when zoo officials said he’d been removed from his mother for hand-rearing. When I asked a few weeks later how the little fellow was doing, I heard these words: “The nurses from Children’s Healthcare are so great…” The…what?
Really: nurses from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta had stepped in to hold the infant orangutan, just as his mother would.
Read the story: Zoo Atlanta orangutan survives with human care
See the photos by AJC photographer Vino Wong: Baby orangutan born at Zoo Atlanta
Just back from a night of deliveries, we saw the sun rise over Camp Victory in 2007.
The shortest piece on this week’s “This American Life” episode is the one I can’t get out of my head.
It’s an interview with Oregon National Guard Specialist Lindsay Freeland. She part of a convoy unit, one that drives around Iraq late at night to make deliveries to forward operating bases.
I embedded with a convoy National Guard unit a while back, riding along in the passenger seat of a gun truck. I took Tom Lasseter‘s advice seriously: “Don’t be the dead weight.” So I took photos and notes, turned the lights on and off, did what I was asked and asked about what I was doing. We ate breakfast after returning from missions, slept during the day, showered in the afternoons — the weird schedule all but guaranteed hot water! — and prepped for work at dusk.
It was hard for American journalists to travel in Iraq at the time, so I felt lucky to have embedded into one of the best (and only) options available to experience the country. It was always dark, always a designated route and fueled with baggies of candy and energy drinks, but I got a closer view than my hotel room offerec. Driving seems like the ultimate in easy tasks, but it was harrowing, and made riskier by its tendency to feel familiar. The unit was still reeling from a few recent deaths on the road, and a policy shift that required them to travel in Iraqi traffic instead of taking over the road. With that one memo, everything they knew about how to stay safe on the road was obsolete.
Of course, that was two years ago. Within weeks of leaving Iraq, I was out of date. News happens quickly and dramatically there, and the political, military and social situations roll along with it. Freeland’s interview sticks with me because even now, the Iraq she sees now is exactly what I remember.
For decades, the William Weinman Mineral Museum in Cartersville, Ga., seemed more like a sign on the highway than a place to stop and learn. Field trips were the main clientele at the 9,000-square foot museum. But a private donation and months of construction recreated it as Tellus: Northwest Georgia Science Museum, a 120,000-square foot, hands-on educational center — one that opened just in time to greet the worst of the recession. My profile of the museum and its first year ran on Page One of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Sept. 12, 2009.
Read the story: New Tellus science museum now a Smithsonian Affiliate
See more photos from the museum: What’s on display at Tellus
With about an hour to report a Valentine’s story, and maybe another to write it, I was lucky to find a perfect match: 15-minutes weddings at one of Atlanta’s historic homes, known as “The Castle on Peachtree,” Rhodes Hall. This story ran in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Feb. 15, 2009.
Read the story: Castle plays cupid to couples
On a beautiful October night, Atlanta’s Castleberry Hill neighborhood transformed into a living art project. There were installations on sidewalks, choreographed dances in the street, works projected on walls, impromptu parades, performances staged on the beds of trucks. On my blog, Inside Access, I’m not an art critic, but I am a judge of experiences. ‘Le Flash’ was like none I’d had before.
See the blog post and photos: 5 things to love about ‘Le Flash’ in Castleberry Hill
In the days before Thanksgiving in 2008, I’d read stories about how to raise a heritage turkey or cook a heritage turkey, but nothing that explained why or who does it. Liz and Tim Young answered my questions with 76 acres in Elberton, Ga., birds that cost $4.75 per pound and a waiting list they cut off at 100. It was their business, but also their passion. They were happy to raise the birds, and to kill them, because they felt they were doing it the humane way. My story and photos ran on Page One of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Nov. 26, 2008.
Read the story: A slice of heritage for Thanksgiving
See the photos: Elberton’s heritage turkey farm
As recent transplants to Atlanta, my then-editor and I commiserated about the oddities of our new city, including the sudden awareness that our ZIP codes meant more than just getting the mail. With that in mind, we worked together with designers to create an unusual format to match a story that explored where ZIP codes come from and what they mean to Atlantans.
This story ran in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on April 27, 2008.
Read the story: Cracking the ZIP code of Atlanta
See the design: Cracking the ZIP code of Atlanta (PDF)
On my first day at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, my editor asked: “How would you feel about diving into a vat of grits?” It’s an annual competition at the National Grits Festival, in Warwick, Ga., the state’s Grits Capital. Maybe he should have asked if I’d dive into a vat of grits, shoot it, write it and appear in a video about it, but the answer would have been stayed the same. I wrote the story, edited the photos and transmitted them on the (damp, grainy) ride home. The story published in print on April 12, 2008 and the video just after.
Read the story: “How to jump in the grit pit”
See the video: “Reporter gets owned, beat up by grits“
It was the type of story handed to me at the last moment, with all kinds of legal restrictions about names, photos and, as always, newspaper-ish restrictions on time. But spending time with Playmaking for Girls participants — teens who’ve been in and out of detention centers and foster care — I was reminded how much can change in a few hours. This story was published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on June 17, 2009.
Read the story: Survivors on Stage
I embedded with the Carlisle, Ky.-based National Guard B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery in late 2007 to report, photograph and blog about their experiences in Iraq. They were based at Camp Taji, about 20 miles north of Baghdad, but as a convoy unit, they were on the road most of the time. A policy change contradicted everything they’d learned about how to stay safe while traveling, and how to interact with Iraqis. This story, published by the McClatchy Baghdad bureau on Dec. 21, 2007, explained the policy change and how it affected military members.
Read the full story and see photos here: U.S. Convoys Struggle to Adjust to Policy Change
Read another story from the embed: Holidays bring avalanche of mail for troops