A Story That Must Be Told

I sat alone at the back of the pews, the sweet sound of music echoing throughout the elegant ceiling of the church, soothing my broken heart. The music stopped and a woman passed the brown casket draped in a white sheet.

“Ernie Rizzo was a great man,” she started. “He’s affected many lives.” I looked around at the unknown faces, wondering how he had touched them. I hadn’t even met his family until the night before. Her reflection speech went on, many of the words jumbled in my head, but when she came to “he’s inspired a high school girl to continue with her dreams of being a journalist” I realized that I would never be able to pick up the phone again and dial his number to see what case he had been working on currently.

Rewind. It had been a chilly bright morning when my mother dropped me off at “Papa G’s”. My stomach was doing flips and my knees shook, I had been so nervous and exited to interview this famous private eye from my hometown. He had done cases for OJ Simpson, Michael Jordan, Elian Gonzalez, Michael Jackson, Hugh Hefner, Riley Fox, and many other known celebrities. My eyes glanced around watching for a familiar face that I had seen in many magazines. Finally they landed on the big burly man, I backed away wondering why I had gotten myself into this. I was only a high school reporter for my school newspaper. I was always looking for exciting stories such as a student who had spent a week in the county jail or the police chief going through a drug bust that had gone wrong, but this was beyond that. I couldn’t go back now; it was an opportunity that I had to have.

Hours passed as Mr. Rizzo and I sat that the restaurant table.

“What is a typical day like?” I asked him.

“It’s like being God,” he told me. No longer was his curly hair, baggy pants, and stocky figure intimidating to me, his smile greeted me like I had been his friend forever. We talked about life and all the experiences we had. He shared with me secrets he had never told anyone and I told him how writing about others made me forget about my home life. He shared with me the love for his job and family. His brown eyes glowed with passion for everything he loved in life.

After the article was written Mr. Rizzo and I stayed in touch. Even though Mr. Rizzo only had a few hours of sleep a night, he always had time to pick up the phone to ask me how my life was going. Mr. Rizzo and I had a connection that it seemed like no one else understood. He showed me that no matter how small you are, you still matter. He taught me to catch every opportunity that comes by, no matter how afraid you are. His numerous calls before the article was published, asking when it was coming out because he was so excited for it, just reinforced the idea that to him, I was someone. The day it was published he showed up to school, disheveled from working on a case and no sleep the night before, asking for the article.

I asked him to sign the paper, knowing that it would be something I would value for the rest of my life. I wish I had asked to get a picture with him because I know he would have never said no. But we were friends, I didn’t want a picture to be an end-all. This was the last time I would see him.

“Tara, have you heard?” My newspaper advisor stood in front of me a year after I had written the article. I shook my head quizzically wondering what he was talking about. “That private eye you wrote an article on last year passed away Sunday.” My heart dropped hoping he was joking, but sure enough he had the article to prove it. I couldn’t help but start to cry, the man who taught me that dreams do come true, the man who we all thought was invincible was gone.

Susan Orlean, one of my favorite journalists, once wrote: “Inevitably, though, I lose track of many of the people I’ve written about. It’s one of the part of the job—this “Fun! Interesting! Active! Exciting!” job—that makes me melancholy, I know it’s unrealistic and impractical to think I could stay close to everyone I’ve profiled, and even if I could, we would never be as close as we were when I was writing about them; still, it’s hard not to feel attached to people once you’ve been allowed into their lives. So what I have of them, and always will have, is just that moment we spent together—now preserved on paper, bound between covers, cast out into the world--- and they will never get any older, their faces will never fade, their dreams will still be within reach, and I will forever still be listening as hard as I can.”

Fast forward. After the funeral, after the precession and into the luncheon. I grabbed my coat ready to leave the luncheon, the funeral had been a beautiful one and I had met so many people, still wouldn’t have been possible without Mr. Rizzo. I thanked his daughter who I had grown close to since the night before. After giving her a hug she looked at me and said “You know what, I finally figured out why my father liked you so much. He had this intuition in seeing people that are going to be successful someday and he saw that you are truly going to make it big. He could always see things that other people couldn’t.” I walked out of the door, my head was swelling with emotions. They always said that even when the world was against him 97% of the time he was right. I swung open the door of the restaurant and felt the cold air hitting my face. Though my idol was not here with me now he had taught me how to brave the world alone. I was ready.

Mr. Rizzo was one of kind and I see him as a large reason why I am still in journalism. Every time I speak with someone, it surprises me how much people are willing to share their story with me. I know that I would never be able to talk to someone who was going to share my story with the rest of the world, but I guess as my boyfriend tells me, getting to know my life story, “it’s like pulling teeth out of you.”

In the end though, the combination of my life story, the people around me who influence me, and those who are willing to share their story with me, is what makes me a journalist.

It is those people like Mr. Rizzo who I speak to that keep me going. Everyone has a story to tell and each one unique, one no more than the rest.

So to me, I’d like to thank everyone who has ever told me their story and everyone who will tell me their story.

Popular to contrary belief, not all journalists are cold hearted. I care about everyone I interview. I do not and will never do something to intentionally hurt someone.

On Mr. Rizzo’s gravestone it reads “vini, vidi, vici”. I came, I saw, I conquered. I truly believe he did that and now his inspiration will live on in my life forever.


Overseas Soldiers Receive Some Love From Home For The Holidays

When my brother joined the Marines over three years ago it was pretty obvious he would be going into war.

Sure enough he was deployed to Iraq last year. In the spring, after a year there, my brother came back to the states. After talking with him about his time over there, one thing that stuck out to me was how he stressed how important care packages are to soldiers. It reminded me of when he came back from bootcamp and talked about how important letters are to keep them going.

Although it is important to send care packages year long, the holidays can be especially tough on soldiers. Even though my family has never been big on holidays, I could tell that being overseas last year during Christmas had a large impact on my brother. My mom asked my brothers and I this year if we just wanted to skip giving each other presents and my brother responded with, "I was in Iraq last year, can we please just have Christmas?" For those families who are especially big on holidays, I'm sure it can be really tough.

But my story did not stem from those moments, rather from a clip of an event I saw going on in Auxvasse where the Auxvasse Creative Arts Program was holding a night where kids could make cards for the soldiers overseas. Despite the story idea not stemming from my own background, I do feel that my experiences helped to push the story in the right direction and provided me a little extra insight into how these families felt.

I plan on doing an extended version of this story next week. I have five extra interviews - three from soldiers serving now, one from a veteran and another from the Auxvasse Creative Arts Program founder that I would like to include. Once I have that done, I will definitely post it! For now... B1 package two:


As thousands of troops prepare to leave home for the holidays, some families are already missing loved ones. In this season marked by family gatherings, many are finding ways to bring a big of home to soldiers. Watch to see what one family is doing and how a community is showing their support.


On a lighter note, my website is now up and running! I had a few problems, but everything seems to be fixed. I've got a year and half until I graduate, so there will be lots of time to improve and lots of time to gather more work!

Check it out by clicking on the picture below!


Consuming Online News

This semester I decided to take a research class dealing with finding solutions to practical problems by using secondary research, in-depth interviews, focus groups and surveying.

The class was divided into groups and given a specific topic to cover. My group decided to look into how readers like their online news. We looked at different multimedia tools such as video, discussion boards and pictures. We also looked how news sites are laid out, as well as how people use social media networking sites to consume their news. After all our research our final project was to put a video together.

Due to the limited time, the editing of the video is not the best, but the information is pretty interesting.


Ashland Alternative School Gives Students A Second Shot

Originally the story I’m about to show you began as a news story. I pitched the idea at the beginning of the semester as “a new alternative school opened up in Ashland and I would like to see how it’s doing. The population rate has doubled in Ashland and the dropout rate is increasing...ect.”

The assistant news director was really hoping for a feature on it, so I jumped at the idea.

Over the course of this story, I really enjoyed getting to know the people in the story. I had the opportunity to speak with the principle who started it all, the passionate teacher who keeps it going, and the student who’s not giving up.

Although it’s your typical kind of feature, I felt it was one worth telling. I’m used to writing features on well…not so ordinary things, so it was nice to do a story like this for a change.

My only regret was the amount of time I didn’t have to actually write it. I felt the interviews went great, but by the time I got to write the story, I was in a crunch. Nevertheless it got done!

Click here to listen to the story.


For students who decide to drop out of high school, getting back in is almost impossible. But for dropouts in the Ashland-area, administrators in the Southern Boone County School District are making sure they get the opportunity to go back. The Ashland Alternative School opened its doors to twenty high school students in August. Already there is a waiting list. KBIA’s Tara Grimes shows how this school is giving students a second shot at their education.

Just beyond the side doors of the Southern Boone Middle School is a classroom. And in the small quiet classroom filled with computers sits 18-year-old Kaylee Silvers clicking away. For three hours a day Silvers patiently works on a lesson plan. Outside of the classroom Silvers holds a part time job working at a tanning salon. Past the bright blonde hair and bubbly personality is someone who hasn’t had the easiest time in life.

“My best friend died two days before my sixteenth birthday and that’s where I dropped out of school because it was really rough,” Silvers said.

Shortly after that her other best friend moved to Colorado.

“It was going to be my sophomore year that year, and that’s when I said I would try to go back that first quarter, but without them both being there I just couldn’t do it,” Silvers said. “There was no way I could sit in a classroom all day and then try and walk the halls and them not be there.”

Silvers lived on her own for a year and a half. She worked full time and paid all of her bills. But a letter from Southern Boone Middle School’s Principle Bob Simpson inviting her to apply to the school changed the course of her life. It’s a letter that changed the lives of twenty students. Simpson says they looked for certain students.

“They need to be in grades 9 though 12, they need to be credit deficit,” Simpson said. “We prioritize those applicants, obviously juniors and seniors, if they’re on the list are going to priority over freshman or sophomore. And then we just take those in the greatest need on a first priority basis.”

Once accepted into Southern Boone Alternative School, students must come to school three hours each weekday. They must also either do volunteer service work or hold a part time job. Students work at their own pace and with help from counselors choose a course of study specific to their needed graduation requirements. Simpson, along with other administrators, started the program.

“A lot of the decisions we make here are based on our data, and our data was telling us that our dropout statistics were increasing,” Simpson said.

Misty Brawner is the school’s afternoon teacher. She sees the benefit this program brings to those who must work to help out their families or those who just can’t learn in a traditional school environment.

“It’s not a dumping ground, it’s kids that just need to learn in a different environment and there’s people involved with this, teachers and administrators, that really want it to work,” Brawner said. “And they’re working to get that done and have it be a positive thing for the community.”

By next December, four students are expected to graduate. Students won’t receive a regular high school diploma, but they will be handed a diploma a step above the GED. Silvers says there’s one thing that keeps her going.

“I just really want to walk across the stage in a gown,” Silvers said.

And it’s not only the students who are excited about graduating. Brawner says she has already hung up yearbook graduation pictures.

“It’s just a good feeling because these kids are going to graduate; they are going to get their diploma. And that’s the best feeling seeing that,” Brawner said.

Brawner says she feels sometimes education is taken for granted.

“I just think education, once you have it, is something nobody can take from you and then these kids will have that for the rest of their life,” Brawner said. “For some people high school diploma it’s just the beginning, but for some people that’s the pinnacle. They got their high school diploma and maybe they were the first in their entire family even, but they did it. And that for me is the most meaningful part of being in this program.”

As for Simpson, he hopes to expand the program.

“It’s going to take time and we’re going to need to show that the program working proves our efficacy, but I’m confident the way things are going that we’ll be able to do that,” Simpson said.

But with time, hopefully the Ashland Alternative Education Program can continue giving students a second shot at their education. For now, at least one student, Silvers, will continue calling herself a future 2010 graduate. What about after that? She says she hopes college is also in her future. Tara Grimes, KBIA News.



Mandatory Trash and Recycling Service Debate Continues

It's been a month since the Jefferson City council meeting when citizens stood up and made an outcry about the mandatory trash and recycling service, but the debate is still ongoing.


Mandatory curbside trash and recycling pickup may have begun weeks ago in Jefferson City, but some residents are still fuming at the idea. Those against the service have now come together to form a citizen action committee group. They say they aren’t stopping until they see results. The City though, is standing behind its decision. KBIA’s Tara Grimes reports.

Big blue 65-gallon bins line the streets throughout Jefferson City. Although some are stuffed with recycling and trash, others are empty and have been that way for weeks. For twenty-seven year resident John Ross, an empty bin outside his house is no exception.

He’s just one of a group of residents who is refusing to use the service and says the new mandatory service is too costly for those who produce such a small amount of trash.

“The problem I have is I’m a single individual so I don’t generate that much. In fact there are times when I don’t use those whole ten bags in a quarter and most of my job I’m traveling so I’m not here most of the time so I don’t really generate that much trash,” Ross said.

The debate began heating up when Allied Waste began distributing the bins to each single-family home. Citizens are required to pay $15.34 every month for both trash and recycling. The new system is only forty-six cents more than the old system, but resident Howard Taggart says the fact that the fee is now mandatory is a problem for low-income families.

“A lot of these people can’t afford groceries or milk for their kids and they have to pay this?” Taggart said.

Taggart and Ross are two of about thirty residents who have come together to form a citizen action committee group. The group hopes to create a referendum to advocate an amendment of the ordinance.

City officials say they are looking for solutions, but still believe the system is best for the city. Although residents are no longer allowed to use bags, city councilmember Carrie Carroll says making the program mandatory and not letting residents share bins with their neighbors helps to leverage out the cost among all the citizens.

“In the big picture the way that really worked is people with cart service were essentially subsidizing the bags because the cost of the service was still there, but bag users were simply paying for the bags. They weren’t paying for, really in the big picture, the cost of the service,” Carroll said.

Councilmember Carroll says the new program is, on average, three dollars cheaper than other cities nationwide. Residents in Columbia though, only pay $14.42 a month. But when searching for the best option, Carroll says the council looked at the studies and pilot programs that were done on the system. She says they found it to be the best option in extending the life of the landfill.

“Looking at the landfill and the future, we have about 16 years of life left in it. We’re going to have some big decisions in the future. What we do now is really going to affect that,” Carroll said.

But despite the city’s ongoing efforts to calm the dispute, Ross, like many residents, says he won’t be paying the bill.

“Oh I still have it sitting on my kitchen counter,” Ross said. “We haven’t paid it yet. We’re looking for other avenues in order to circumvent what we have at this point so we’re not barred into this system yet.”

The city council directed people to an online application for low-income assistance. This would lower the monthly bills to thirteen dollars and fifty cents. Tara Grimes, KBIA News.


Copyright © Tara Grimes
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