new_DPM_site_banner_revised
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

'Morning Edition' producers highlight their favorite stories of 2021

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

You know, whatever I say on this program, whatever I do reflects the work of several people and sometimes many. This show is staffed by a 24-hour team of editors and producers, so let's hear from them. As 2021 ends, we asked producers to talk about their most memorable stories of the year.

RYAN BENK, BYLINE: Hey. I'm Ryan Benk. My most memorable moment was Noel King's conversation with TV legend Russell T. Davies. Davies just released a new limited drama called "It's A Sin." It was loosely based on his life coming into adulthood as a gay man in London, just as the AIDS crisis broke out.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

RUSSELL T DAVIES: I still have people I know and I think about to this day, I wonder if they died.

NOEL KING: Really?

DAVIES: My friend Eddie (ph). Where Eddie is - I don't know if he died. And it's very interesting that I've never gone to look him up because part of me doesn't want to know. There are still these blocks in my mind. I think, no, no, no, leave Eddie where he was. Leave him. Maybe he's happy somewhere. Good old Eddie, lovely boy.

BENK: That line still shoots a shiver up my spine. During the AIDS crisis, it could feel like some people just up and disappeared. They'd be vibrant sparks of life, and then, whoosh, they'd vanish away. And all these years later, you may not really know or want to know what happened to them.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LISA WEINER, BYLINE: I'm Lisa Weiner. A piece that will stick with me is the profile we did of an Afghan refugee family, the Mohib family. Rachel Martin, our editor H.J. Mai and I met with them at a hotel where they were staying in an office park in Northern Virginia. They'd been living there for weeks.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

RACHEL MARTIN: The hotel room is sparse. There's a small kitchen where her family is finishing up a breakfast of fried eggs and Afghan bread.

MASI MOHIB: Is this sesame or poppy seed?

MARTIN: These are sesames. Poppy seeds are the black ones.

MOHIB: The black ones.

WEINER: That moment felt really small and unremarkable during our recording, but it quickly became my favorite scene when we put the whole story together. I hadn't appreciated just how daunting and exhausting all those everyday trivial things can be when you're new to a country, like learning the names of the ingredients in your breakfast.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

AVERY KEATLEY, BYLINE: My name is Avery Keatley, and I'm a producer for MORNING EDITION. One of my favorite radio moments this year came from barbecue pitmaster Rodney Scott. We asked him about the first time he roasted a whole hog by himself, when he was about 11 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

RODNEY SCOTT: We always, you know, get on one knee and look under the hog to see it while it's cooking to make sure you don't burn it. So all day long, I'm looking under this hog, nervous. I'm this kid. And this guy was watching me from a distance to make sure I didn't screw it up. And when they flipped it over, man, you're talking about feeling accomplished. Wow. You couldn't tell me anything that day.

KEATLEY: I love that you can still hear the pride and satisfaction in his voice all these years later. In a year when so much of our coverage was really difficult, this moment of a young kid proving himself stands out to me as a beacon of joy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LILLY QUIROZ, BYLINE: My name is Lilly Quiroz. And earlier this year, I spoke with Melvin and Nestor, a Salvadoran father and son who had been separated at the Texas-Mexico border in 2018 under the Trump administration.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

NESTOR: (Through interpreter) Every night I had the same dream - that I was there where they kept me. In my dreams, I felt like I was reliving it all again. Those dreams made me feel really bad.

MELVIN: (Through interpreter) I would notice him looking very sad, without any motivation.

QUIROZ: Following the separation, Nestor had nightmares in which he'd sometimes wake up crying. For some, this kind of trauma never goes away. I wanted to make sure that these people and the trauma they suffered were not forgotten.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

VICTORIA WHITLEY-BERRY, BYLINE: Hey, y'all. I'm Victoria Whitley-Berry. And this year, I reported on the rise of LGBTQ+ characters in children's television. And if you know me at all, you would know that I would basically talk your ear off about some of my favorite queer cartoons. And so I kind of wanted to talk about that with an actual kid. I called up 12-year-old Tommy McFarland. And when I was talking with them, I could not stop myself from just going on and on about how these shows would have had a huge impact on me if I had them when I was a kid. And Tommy surprised me because here I was geeking out over the first queer wedding in a kid's show, and Tommy was like, duh, why wouldn't there be a gay wedding?

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

TOMMY MCFARLAND: Why does this show need a gay character? 'Cause gay people exist - literally, gay people exist in the world. You're going to walk outside; there's going to be a gay person.

WHITLEY-BERRY: I really made it a priority to cover a lot of stories with trans people in them, especially stories like anti-trans legislation that was cropping up all over the country. But to me, that should not be the only reason we talk to trans people. And so hearing Tommy be so confident about who they are at such a young age, it honestly kind of gave me some hope - and, of course, made you feel a little old, but in a good way.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BARRY GORDEMER, BYLINE: I'm Barry Gordemer. Over the summer, Arkansas threw away 80,000 doses of COVID vaccine. They'd reached their expiration date without anybody taking them. At the same time, hospitalizations and deaths were spiking. I traveled to Arkansas with science reporter Pien Huang. We talked to vaxx- (ph) anti-vaxxers. Two moments summed up the divide. The first came from pharmacist Tammy Kellebrew. She was begging people to get vaccinated.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

TAMMY KELLEBREW: Prior to the vaccine, I was heartsick because people died, and we couldn't help them. And now they don't get the vaccine. We can't help them. And so after every death, I go back to the pharmacy. And I cry, and then I go back to work.

GORDEMER: Then there was Debbie Reynolds.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

DEBBIE REYNOLDS: I'm not going to take the vaccine. They think we're stupid. How many people do you see laying around on the sidewalks and in their yards dying of COVID? Nowhere.

GORDEMER: I was haunted by a distrust of government, of health care, of institutions that was so deep that people were dying needlessly.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NINA KRAVINSKY, BYLINE: I'm Nina Kravinsky. One of my most memorable moments was at the very beginning of 2021, when vaccines were just starting to roll out. Communities were making lists of who they wanted vaccinated first. Among those on the Cherokee Nation's list were Cherokee language speakers. I produced this conversation between Steve Inskeep and Meda Nix, a fluent Cherokee speaker.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

INSKEEP: When you preserve this language, what is it that you're preserving?

MEDA NIX: Everything - our culture, our beliefs, our ways.

KRAVINSKY: Nix loves to sing, especially hymns in Cherokee. She teaches them to fifth-graders to help them learn the language.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

NIX: (Singing in Cherokee).

KRAVINSKY: I'm not really a religious person, but I think I'll always remember the way Nix's voice here made me feel at such a difficult but also hopeful point in the pandemic.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

NIX: (Singing in Cherokee).

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: MORNING EDITION producers with some of their most memorable moments of 2021 on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.