Missouri River Relief Works To Clean Up Pollutants

The calming sensation waves splashing up against the shore brings, the rippling streams winding through the woods, the sweet musical sound birds sing flowing through the air ... I love it all.

It’s no secret that I have a fondness for bodies of water and nature in general. I have found Missouri to be one of the most beautiful places to walk along rivers and trails next to streams (may I suggest the MKT trail near Rocheport or Grindstone Nature Trail in Columbia?). But a closer look at the river isn’t such a pretty picture. From 2001 to 2008 the Missouri River Relief organization removed almost 500 tons of trash from the Missouri River. Without a doubt the river has changed over the years. Looking back in time when the members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition traveled it, it was described as dangerous. Now it can be better noted as tires washed up along the shore, car bodies found at the bottom of the river, and a large variety of pollutants carried into the estuaries by runoffs.

For this story I spoke with the Lower Reach Manager and the Director of Missouri River Relief along with two volunteers at the cleanup. Apparently it was National Pirate Day because one interviewee decided to wear an eye patch and talk in a pirate voice the entire time, exclaiming they were going to find “booty” and “treasure” along the river. Of course I couldn’t use the interview, but nonetheless it was amusing.

This week, instead of a reader, I wrote a wrap which I found to be much more fun to write! Click here to hear the story or read the text below.


More than 200 people showed up in Jefferson City Saturday ready to get dirty and lend a helping hand in cleaning up the Missouri River. Since 2001, Missouri River Relief has organized clean ups all over the state. This is the second time it’s worked to clear out trash from Jefferson City’s part of the Missouri River. KBIA’s Tara Grimes reports.

Dressed in lifejackets, work boots, and work clothes, volunteers boarded boats and traveled to parts of the river that collects the most trash. Kids, adults and a variety of service groups from colleges and high schools showed up to take part in the action. River Relief volunteers find everything from tires to refrigerators, but most of the trash is plastic bottles. Manager Steve Schnarr says volunteers are out for two to three hours. Afterwards, trash is either recycled or taken to the landfill.

“People get to see in a way they never would be able to otherwise; the impact that all of these communities along the river have on the river,” Schnarr said. “The visual impact of the trash that ends up getting deposited here. That’s not to mention the invisible impacts that we can’t see.”

At big cleanups volunteers sometimes collect as much as ten tons of trash. Director Jeff Barrow says most volunteers go out on the river as strangers, but they come back as friends.

“The really remarkable thing is they’ll go out looking like they’re soldiers at D-Day. They’re scared, they’re nervous, they’re adrenalinized and when they come back they’re laughing, they’ve got little adventure stories, things that they’ve found, things that they’ve seen along the river and it’s just a really remarkable transition,” Barrow said.

He says most people forget their drinking water comes from the Missouri River.

“It’s just a really important part of our lives here and I think it’s forgotten or invisible thing to a lot of people,” Barrow said.

About 19 cleanups are done a year. The next cleanup is in Kansas City in October.


After this story, I have been inspired to partake in the next river cleanup (close to Columbia). I can always rely on journalism to introduce me to new experiences and find something new for me to do in the future.


MoDOT Looks To Increase Safety On I-70 By Adding Truck-Only Lane

According to the Missouri Department of Transportation, trucks are involved in 28 percent of accidents and 48 percent of fatalities on Interstate 70.

Last week, I spoke with MoDOT project manager Bob Brendel and Federal Highway Administration public affairs spokeswoman Nancy Singer about a new project that would help to reduce these accidents and causalities. Read the story I wrote for KBIA below.


MoDOT is moving forward with its plans to create a truck only lane on Interstate 70.

The Federal Highway Administration gave its approval this week on the project that would create a median in the highway to separate trucks from cars. MoDOT project manager Bob Brendel says it would make the highway safer for drivers.

“It enhances safety, reduces congestion and provides for future efficiency in freight flows that allow mid-west companies and farmers to compete better in a global economy,” Brendel says.

Brendel says money is the biggest hurdle. The project is not funded at this time, but the price tag is estimated at $4 billion. MoDOT says they’re applying for $200 million in federal stimulus money to create a test lane. The test lane would cover a 30-mile stretch in Cooper and Saline counties Brendel says. If completed, the truck lane would be the first of its kind in the country.


Brendel pointed out that as cars become more fuel efficient and smaller, and as trucks become bigger, the causalities of accidents are on an increase. After conducting a 2006 environmental study and checking out other options, MoDOT opted that rebuilding the highway would be their best alternative.

As I spoke to Brendel, I also wondered how trucks would be entering their lane safety. He did say they have to cross car traffic to get into their lane, but the slip ramps would be lengthened to provide them with easier movement around other vehicles.

MoDOT measured the amount of truck traffic getting off and on different interchanges along I-70. They found US 65, US 63, and US 54 have heavy truck movement and decided that separate interchanges would be needed for trucks only.

Brendel said they are keeping an eye out on four other interchanges to see if truck traffic goes up and if so, they would consider adding separate interchanges at these locations as well.

The application for the $200 million stimulus money is due this fall and MoDOT is expected to hear from USDOT in January 2010. Brendel said he feels the test strip will demonstrate the benefits and create momentum to get funding for the rest of the project to be built. If they are granted the money, Brendel said they will work hard and fast to get the test strip done. Designers constructed I-70 50 years ago and it has since outlived its design.

I felt covering this story was important because of course people care about where our stimulus money is going and also because drivers have complained about the stop and go traffic on I-70 along with feeling uncomfortable maneuvering around large trucks. For this story, I would have loved to talk to truck drivers to see how they felt about this project, but didn't have the time. The fact that this would be the first time in our country that a highway has constructed a truck only lane fascinated me.

If this story has sparked your interest, MoDOT is conducing an online public meeting through Sept. 26, where you can raise your voice and speak out.


My Version of a Great Feature Package

As I was getting ready to leave my shift last night one of the producers turned to one of our reporters and told him great job on his package. The reporter had found out about a couple who decided to have a “Harley-Davidson wedding”. Their ceremony was held in the Mid America Harley Davidson showcase room…and my guess is they rode off into the sunset with their motorcycle too.

I very much enjoyed the package so I decided to throw my two cents in.

How did I know it was a great (feature, we're talking about features here) package? As a web editor, the best way I can sum it up is… a good package is hard to edit for the web. Like I actually have to do some work (shock!) to make the story comprehensible to our readers. It’s my job to piece together the sentences and make them readable on the computer screen. You'd be surprised how many packages I've edited that haven't been hard hit news stories that were so simple to edit because the reporter basically told the watcher everything and just laid video over it.

We’ve been taught in broadcast to make sentences short and simple, breaking up facts so listeners and watchers can take in the information piece by piece.

In print or web, pieces are much more extensive. More than just one fact is compiled and put into a sentence. You don’t really need to break up sentences for the reader because if they are confused they can just go back. Commas are frequently used, as well as things like participles.

So what do I mean it’s hard for a web person to edit it?

Sentences aren’t complete because the video is doing the story telling. Soundbites or SOTS rather may not be a complete sentence either because it’s advancing the story or just adding to the story. A SOT might make sense in a broadcast story, but on the web the quote is confusing for readers.

This is why I love broadcast journalism. The ability that we have to evoke emotion with video is powerful.

A good story written down on paper describes facial expressions, describes an environment, it draws emotion from the reader. But broadcast journalists must use video to do this. Tears, smiles, anger. It’s all there for us to capture. (As you might guess, I’m a huge fan of natural sound/ambient sound as well.)

I guess I can finally deem myself a web nerd when I start relating everything to the web. Oh sigh.

The other way we know it was a great package? CNN called to put it on pathfire and then aired it. Zing!

Be sure to check out Kevin’s story: Click on me and then watch the video on the right!


Back in the Newsroom: Like Cold Water on a Blistering Hot Day

It’s like an icy cold glass of water on a sweltering summer day, the soothing feeling that washes over you as you gulp down the liquid, your dry scratchy throat instantly assuaged.

That’s how it feels to back at KOMU, with the exception of a dry scratchy throat beforehand (and I suppose ironic now that summer is over too). Walking back into the newsroom on Saturday after a summer full of invaluable journalistic experiences, I encountered a cool wave of relief and happiness. I felt like I was finally home again.*

One year ago began my quest at KOMU working assignment desk, a job now combined with web. I remember stepping into the newsroom weeks before I started there, the excitement bubbling inside. But as soon as I entered the station for my first shift, a rush of nervousness quickly displaced the excitement. How do you use iNews? What's Avid? Where do I transfer calls to? Are the police ever going to tell me anything on the beat calls? What equipment do I need to make sure is in the camera cases? I had no clue what I was doing. Luckily I ran into another desk worker who understood first day jitters and who went over the basics of what needed to be done.

This was probably the first thing I ever learned about journalism in the newsroom. If you don’t understand something you just have to get out there and learn yourself. Or ask someone else for help. You’re going to make mistakes, but you learn from them and don’t make them again. And in the end success is entirely dependent on the initiative you’re willing to take… with just a little bit of luck.

It’s crazy to think how far I’ve come in one year and I can only imagine what this year will bring. I’m finally starting classes in the journalism school and will hopefully be reporting for KOMU by next semester.

So I’m taking in. I’m not going to take a single moment for granted. I’m going to appreciate the long hours, the feisty people I come across, the fight with failing technology, and take advantage of every opportunity possible. I’m going to look past the feelings of doubt that I presume every journalist faces at one time or another. The feelings of not being good enough or that the job isn’t quite right for them.

And after going through that, who knows where I’ll be in another year. Only time can tell.

In the end my only hope is the feeling of a cold glass of water on a blazing hot summer day sticks with me. That every time I walk into the newsroom I feel relief, happiness and the sense that I’m at home once again.

…Bring it on junior year!

*This is not to say I never felt at home with my internships this summer, in fact both of them I felt treated me like I was on staff, but it’s just a different feeling walking into a place like KOMU where you have a specific job you need to get done and you’re not constantly asking questions about how to do it.

Copyright © Tara Grimes
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