by Christopher J. Spurlock
Tag Archives: Journalism
This week has been one of the longest of my (rather short) reporting career. I spent almost as many hours reporting as I spent sleeping, and when I turned in my story this week, I felt more relieved it was finished than proud of the result.
The story my team worked on was about mobile homes, or more specifically, a new bill in the legislature that will change how the homes are classified. We thought the story sounded interesting and multi-dimensional, but it turned out to be more confusing than anything else.
I’ll spare you the details here because a) I’m exhausted and b) you’ll find them in the text story and TV package below.
Lenders wary of issuing loans to mobile home owners
BY EVA DOU and CHRIS SPURLOCK
When mobile homes are attached to a permanent foundation on a piece of land, they’re virtually identical to stick-built houses in form and function. But they are still different in the eyes of a lender.
“Mobile home owners pretty much have to have better credit than regular home owners to get a loan,” said Bryan Crump, owner of the manufactured home dealership Cedar Creek Homes in Columbia.
This difference arises from the fact that most mobile homes are classified as personal property, similar to motor vehicles. When they’re attached to a permanent foundation, they become real estate, but there is not an established process for homeowners to register the change with the county assessor.
A bill in the Missouri senate sponsored by Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, would establish a procedure for the conversion, but until then, lenders are wary of issuing mortgages for homes that could be put on wheels and hauled away at any time.
“Companies who make loans, they want to make certain they have good collateral,” said Harry Gallagher, president of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Missouri. “Personal property tends to depreciate rather quickly, while improved real estate appreciates. It’s relatively safe to make a 20-year loan that’s considered real estate, less safe if it’s personal property.”
According to a study from the Journal of Business, few banks provide mobile home loans to consumers on a direct basis. Instead, homeowners must make arrangements with mobile home dealers to get financing.
“We’ve had a lot of individuals that have not been able to obtain a title for a home,” said Tom Hagar, executive director of the Missouri Manufactured Housing Association. “This went all the way to Washington…and has been something we’ve worked on for a long time.”
There are about 200,000 mobile homes in Missouri, about 10 percent of the homes in the state, according to the MU Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis. Kenney Hubble, manager of RE/MAX Boone Realty, said he sees about a customer a month who has trouble buying or selling a mobile home because of its classification. He said it shouldn’t matter whether a home started out mobile if it is now attached to a permanent foundation on a piece of property.
“Someone’s not going to spend $10,000 to attach their mobile home to the ground and not want that to be permanent,” Hubble said.
Cunningham’s bill passed both houses last year, but Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed it because an unpopular amendment was attached. Proponents of the bill said they’re hoping to keep the bill “clean” this year and get it into law, as most other states already have a similar measure.
When I thought about all the things I could give up for Lent…well, nothing much came to mind (perhaps because I didn’t really think about it too hard). Maybe that makes me a bad Catholic, or maybe I’m just lazy. Regardless, I chose not to give up anything. However, I did decided to make a smaller sacrifice: I decided to give up Twitter. For a week.
Since I first joined Twitter on Feb. 26, 2009, I’ve sent over 2,000 tweets and read thousands (maybe millions) more. It is a huge part of my social existence, and plays a key role in my journalism life as well.
But, I wanted to take a break to reevaluate the way I use Twitter. So, I decided to take a week off to test myself and learn more about my Twitter habits.
It’s only been four days so far, and honestly it’s been incredibly difficult. Monday, the first day, was especially tough. I felt myself wanting to clink the little Twitter icon at the top of my bookmark bar out of habit alone. I needed to be connected, to be ‘plugged in’ to my social sphere. And when important news broke, my first impulse was also to go right to Twitter. But I couldn’t. I didn’t want to give in.
So far I’ve learned a few important things from this experiment:
1. I don’t need to tweet everything I think. During these four days, there have been things I’ve wanted to tweet, and probably would have had I been able to access Twitter in the immediate way I typically can (I’m rarely without my laptop or iPhone). Instead, I was forced to ask myself, “Is that really important? Will that really contribute anything? Is it necessary, relevant, etc?” About half of the time, the answer was no.
2. I’m more productive and more engaged without Twitter. My girlfriend is always
nagging me lovingly teasing me about being on Twitter all the time, and she has a point. Since I have an iPhone, I’m able to quickly access and update Twitter at any time, and I do. I also constantly have Twitter open on my laptop, which is a huge distraction. Since I’ve been on this cleanse, I’ve been more engaged in real life conversations, and I’ve gotten a lot more done.
3. I do actually need Twitter. Like I mentioned earlier, my first instinct when news breaks is to turn to Twitter. I get so many real-time updates from so many sources, it would be silly for a journalist not to use it, both for sharing and consuming news. Thus, I can’t give it up.
I’m not suggesting that everyone take a week from Twitter to learn, but I would recommend taking a step back to evaluate how you use it. It could really do you some good.
This week was a long one, to say the least. On Friday, my partner and I were assigned to what we thought was a compelling story about how light pollution can affect military night training operations. We were promised access to both Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood, and we were really excited to get so close to the action and do some real reporting. We spent all day Friday, part of the weekend, and all day Monday contacting sources and lining up interviews.
Then, Tuesday came. And everything fell apart.
Our sources, seemingly all at once, backed out on us. They gave a myriad of excuses and apologies, but it didn’t make us feel any better. It was Tuesday afternoon, our story was due in 48 hours, and we had nothing.
We spent a good couple of hours brainstorming with our professor, and eventually we decided on a story idea. It was weak, but it was something. We were told it was a “teaching moment,” and that we were to do our best to create the best story with whatever we could find. Read more of this post
I’ve run across some bad luck recently, and it involves the stories I’ve been covering. Somehow, each of my last two radio stories for KBIA radio have in some way involved…poop. Defecation. Excretory functions. CRAP.
My last story involved fish that ate algae and secreted it, which allowed scientists to harvest the algae and extract biofuel from it. Cool, but also disgusting.
In my most recent radio piece, I covered another Mizzou scientist doing some unique research that also involved feces. Keith Goyne, a professor in Mizzou’s School of Natural Resources, found a way to keep veterinary antibiotics out of drinking water.
You see, when farm animals eat food that contains antibiotics, most of the antibiotics in the food aren’t absorbed into their bodies. Instead, they excrete them. And when that animal manure is used for fertilizer, it seeps into the soil. And then when it rains, the antibiotics in the manure wash out and end up in streams, rivers, lakes, etc.
So Goyne is putting ‘buffer strips’ of strategically grown grass and/or plants around the farmland to keep those antibiotics from contaminating the drinking water. You can listen to my story about it below…
Click on the link to listen —> BUFFERS0216.mp3
In other news, this was officially my final story for the radio station, as I worked my last shift Wednesday. I’ll be moving on to the Columbia Missourian in a few weeks, so keep on the lookout for either a print story or some type of multimedia piece.
Thanks for reading!
This week was another “team story” week in reporting class, which means I was placed in a group with two of my fellow convergence journos and assigned a story. The story we pitched and were selected to cover was about a researcher here at Mizzou by the name of David Brune. He’s doing some really interesting research with algae and, with the help of some sea creatures, has figured out how to extract oil from the algae to make biofuel. Cool, no? The only problem was…I hate science.
I’ve always been a very right-brained guy, interested in music and art and words. And when it came to math and science, I wanted nothing to do with it. The Bill Nye videos were about the only things that could get me to understand and be interested in science. So as you can imagine, this was a difficult story for me to work on. Not only were the concepts and terms involved in the story complex, but we had to figure out a way to write our radio script in a way that the average person would understand…because in radio, you only get to hear it once. There’s no rereading like in newspaper, so if you don’t get it the first time, you’re
We worked really hard on the story, and I think the end result is something I can be proud of. It’s definitely an improvement over my first team story, so that’s encouraging. Below is the link to the audio story, as well as some pictures we took.
Click the link to listen! –> algaeasbiofuel.mp3
I awoke this morning to find it was snowing once again. If I were to count the number of days it’s snowed this winter, I’d probably use all of my fingers and maybe a few toes, too. It’s been pretty miserable. Today, however, wasn’t too brutal. The wind was almost nonexistent, and the temperatures stayed in the upper 20s. And the snow that fell was absolutely beautiful.
We had a lecture today about photography, and seeing as how I’m still playing with and learning my new camera, I decided to go out and shoot a few photos around campus. My professor told us that shooting pictures in the snow was
a pain in the ass pretty challenging, but I decided to give it a try. Below are the five best shots I grabbed today.
So, this week marked the beginning of my shifts at the various news outlets run by the j-school. My first reporting shift was scheduled to be at KBIA radio, Columbia’s local NPR affiliate. To be completely honest, I was extremely nervous when I headed to my first shift. Even though I had been trained to use all of the equipment I needed, I was still worried I wouldn’t be able to handle the challenges I would face at the station.
At my first story pitch meeting I pitched a story about Ricky Kreklow, a basketball player at Columbia’s Rock Bridge High School who is headed to Mizzou in the fall. I did some preliminary research on Kreklow and made a few phone calls, and was granted access to cover Rock Bridge’s game against Jefferson City and interview Kreklow and his father after the game. I took a Marantz and my new Nikon D70 and headed to Jefferson City. I was there for a long time, but I got some great interviews and natural sound.
I then spent yesterday and today editing the audio down, and I think I wound up with a decent story. It’s posted below. Give it a listen and tell me what you think!
We also got feedback on our first team story this week. We received a decent grade on the story, but more importantly we learned a lot from our mistakes. Below is the video package we put together.
Oh, I shot some photos, too! Here they are: