Frank Morris

Frank Morris has supervised the reporters in KCUR's newsroom since 1999. In addition to his managerial duties, Morris files regularly with National Public Radio. He’s covered everything from tornadoes to tax law for the network, in stories spanning eight states. His work has won dozens of awards, including four national Public Radio News Directors awards (PRNDIs) and several regional Edward R. Murrow awards. In 2012 he was honored to be named "Journalist of the Year" by the Heart of America Press Club.

Morris grew up in rural Kansas listening to KHCC, spun records at KJHK throughout college at the University of Kansas, and cut his teeth in journalism as an intern for Kansas Public Radio, in the Kansas statehouse.

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5:13am

Tue July 28, 2015
Around the Nation

The Demise Of Old-Style Demolition Derby

Originally published on Tue July 28, 2015 1:58 pm

Travis Moyer (center) drives the car that he built for the demolition derby in Kansas.
Frank Morris KCUR

Americans have been intentionally ramming cars into each other for sport for decades. And at this time of year, fans crowd into county fairs to see battered, souped-up cars bash each other to pieces.

This steel equivalent of blood sport draws a passionate following, and the drivers say it is deeply addicting.

"There's nothing better," says John Green, a demolition derby driver at a recent fair in Franklin County, Kan. "A lot of people say they would do it, but until you get in there and do it you never know the real feeling."

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5:04am

Thu July 9, 2015
U.S.

Kansas Lawsuit Settlement Sets Standard For Gun Seller Liability

Originally published on Thu July 9, 2015 2:09 pm

Elizabeth Shirley's lawsuit, which resulted in a settlement for $132,000, could send a message to gun dealers across the country. But for now, the precedent will only have weight in Kansas.
Ethan Miller Getty Images

Each year, convicted felons get thousands of weapons from licensed gun dealers. They skirt the mandatory background checks by having people who do qualify fill out the paperwork for them.

Now, the settlement of a lawsuit over a tragic murder-suicide in Kansas has made it easier to sue gun dealers who allow these "straw purchases" with a wink and a nod.

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5:55pm

Wed July 8, 2015
Business

To Survive, The Greeting Card Industry Will Have To Get Creative

Originally published on Wed July 8, 2015 6:34 pm

Owner David DeLongy takes apart glass shelving at Lynn's Hallmark store in Gainesville, Fla., which closed in February.
Matt Stamey Gainesville Sun/Landov

The greeting card industry is struggling to stay relevant in the digital age.

Hallmark has announced that it's closing its distribution center in Enfield, Conn., and cutting 570 jobs there, as it consolidates operations elsewhere.

For decades, the greeting card maker held a reputation as the type of company where good employees had a job for life.

Julie Elliott, Hallmark's PR director, says layoffs, like the ones announced this week, are especially painful.

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4:38am

Thu June 25, 2015
History

Beyond The Battle Flag: Controversy Over Confederate Symbols Unfurls

Originally published on Sat June 27, 2015 1:26 pm

This Confederate monument in located in a cemetery in a mostly African-American part of Kansas City, Mo.
Frank Morris KCUR

The Charleston, S.C., shootings have sparked lots of discussion about the Confederate battle flag, but it's not the only symbol of the Confederacy.

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6:20pm

Thu May 21, 2015
Around the Nation

One Family Revitalizes A Small Town With, Yes, Quilts

Originally published on Tue May 26, 2015 4:30 pm

Alan Doan likes the fact that Missouri Star Quilt Co. is following in the footsteps of fellow Hamilton native J.C. Penney, but Doan's never been into an actual J.C. Penney store.
Frank Morris KCUR

Just a few years ago, downtown Hamilton, Mo., looked a lot like a thousand other forgotten, rural towns. Abandoned, forlorn buildings marred the main drag.

But in recent years, an explosively fast-growing startup business in rural north western Missouri has shaken up a staid industry, producing a YouTube star and revitalizing a town with a proud retail history.

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3:32am

Thu April 9, 2015
It's All Politics

Suicides By Missouri Politicians Raise Questions About State Ethics

Originally published on Thu April 9, 2015 2:53 pm

Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich committed suicide following political attacks during his campaign for governor. His press secretary, Spence Jackson, committed suicide just one month later.
Jeff Roberson AP

In Missouri, two political suicides have stunned the Republican Party. In February, state Auditor Tom Schweich, a leading candidate for the party's nomination for governor, shot himself. Then just last month, his press secretary, Spence Jackson, took his own life. The tragedies have sparked fresh scrutiny of Missouri's increasingly bruising political system.

Schweich launched his campaign for governor with a scathing broadside against the state's Republican Party establishment.

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3:57am

Mon March 9, 2015
All Tech Considered

In Kansas City, Superfast Internet And A Digital Divide

Originally published on Mon March 9, 2015 1:35 pm

Since Google Fiber rolled out gigabit broadband in Kansas City four years ago, residents have enjoyed fast Internet connections, including what locals call "the world's fastest Starbucks."
Frank Morris KCUR

Kansas City has some of the Internet's best service anywhere. Providers there jostle for customers who can now expect broadband that's about 100 times faster than the national average.

But, four years after Google Fiber landed in Kansas City, people are still trying to figure out just what to do with all that speed.

Kansas City's a modest, Midwestern place. Residents are proud of their barbecue and baseball team. But Aaron Deacon says that now there's something else: inexpensive, world-class Internet.

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3:50am

Tue February 24, 2015
Business

Analysts Fear A Prolonged Drop In Oil Prices Will Hurt Oklahoma's Banks

Originally published on Tue February 24, 2015 2:39 pm

Drilling rigs dot the landscape near Calumet, Okla., in April 2013. Oklahoma's economy blossomed during the domestic fracking boom, but as the price of crude oil drops, that could change.
Sue Ogrocki AP

In Oklahoma, a state that largely rode out the recession on a gusher of new-found oil, things may be about to change.

Now it costs more to produce most of Oklahoma's oil than it's worth on the world market. That's triggering a sharp economic reversal, one that some say has the makings of a prolonged downturn.

"Over the last five years, the stars really aligned," says Roy Williams, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. "The community's investment in itself just blossomed, the energy industry blossomed."

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4:51pm

Mon February 16, 2015
Energy

With Quakes Spiking, Oil Industry Is Under The Microscope In Oklahoma

Originally published on Tue February 17, 2015 12:24 pm

A functioning oil rig sits in front of the capital building in Oklahoma City, Okla. The oil industry is an important employer in the state, but officials are concerned a technique used to dispose of wastewater from oil extraction is behind a surge in earthquakes here.
Frank Morris KCUR

Out on Oklahoma's flat prairie, Medford, population about 900, is the kind of place where people give directions from the four-way stop in the middle of town.

It seems pretty sedate, but it's not. "We are shaking all the time," says Dea Mandevill, the city manager. "All the time."

The afternoon I stopped by, Mandevill says two quakes had already rumbled through Medford.

"Light day," she laughs. But, she adds, "the day's not over yet; we still have several more hours."

Mandevill may be laughing it off, but Austin Holland, the state seismologist, isn't.

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9:43am

Sat January 17, 2015
All Tech Considered

As Cities Push For Their Own Broadband, Cable Firms Say Not So Fast

Originally published on Mon February 2, 2015 1:19 pm

Provo, Utah, is one of three cities in which Google is rolling out its Google Fiber gigabit Internet and television service.
George Frey Reuters/Landov

Americans increasingly see decently fast Internet as more like a functioning sewer line than a luxury.

And a number of cities are trying to get into the Internet provider business, but laws in 19 states hamper those efforts. President Obama announced this week that he wants to lift those restrictions, and supporters of what is known as municipal broadband can't wait.

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6:45pm

Tue January 13, 2015
Religion

Kansas City Catholics Divided Over Vatican Investigation Of Bishop

Originally published on Wed January 14, 2015 5:33 pm

Bishop Robert Finn of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese was convicted of shielding a sexually abusive priest in 2012. He is now the subject of a Vatican investigation.
Patrick Semansky AP

A Catholic bishop normally governs pretty much unchecked in his diocese — only the pope can dislodge a bishop. And each time Catholics celebrate Mass in Kansas City, Mo., they pray for Bishop Robert Finn, right after they pray for Pope Francis.

But some Catholics here, like David Biersmith, a Eucharistic minister, refuse to go along.

"When the priest says that, you know, you're supposed say it with him, but I just leave that out," Biersmith says. "I just don't say it. Because he's not my bishop, as far as I'm concerned."

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5:08pm

Wed April 9, 2014
Environment

Federal Plan To Save Prairie Chickens Ruffles State Feathers

Originally published on Tue April 15, 2014 5:29 pm

A male lesser prairie chicken in the Texas Panhandle. The bird's entire habitat includes parts of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
Jon McRoberts AP

It's prairie chicken mating season!

Still, it's tough being a lesser prairie chicken these days. This type of grouse once spanned an enormous area, though now they survive mainly in pockets of Oklahoma and Kansas. Their numbers are plummeting; in 2012, the population dropped by half.

But after they were recently listed as a threatened species by the U.S. government, complaints of federal overreach and lawsuits have followed.

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5:02pm

Sat December 28, 2013
Around the Nation

Injured Veteran Keeps Up His Fight, Deciding To Live

Originally published on Sat December 28, 2013 6:54 pm

Tomas Young was paralyzed from the chest down during his deployment to Iraq. He had decided to refuse care and end his life, but since changed his mind.
Frank Morris for NPR

A spinal injury left Iraq War veteran Tomas Young paralyzed below the waist in 2004. Further medical complications a few years later made him quadriplegic.

Although Young had enlisted two days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he became an outspoken anti-war activist.

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3:32am

Mon May 27, 2013
The Salt

Twinkies' Return Is Mostly Sweet News For Kansas Town

Originally published on Mon May 27, 2013 5:17 am

Hostess Twinkies are offered for sale in Chicago, part of the last shipment of Hostess products the company made in 2012.
Scott Olson Getty Images

The news of Hostess' return to Emporia, Kan., sparked an ecstatic response in this beleaguered town — even though there will be only half as many jobs.

The new company, formed when investors bought Hostess' snack cake business, has hired longtime snack cake production veterans Pat Chambers and her husband, Bob, to help get the bakery here running again. Pat lost her job at the Hostess plant when it closed last November. Now, she sits beaming on her front porch, wearing a dirty Hostess work shirt.

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5:50pm

Wed April 10, 2013
The Salt

Cities Turn Sewage Into 'Black Gold' For Local Farms

Originally published on Fri April 12, 2013 12:07 pm

Thick jets of processed sewage arc out 30 to 40 feet from giant moving spreaders at Birmingham Farm in Kansas City, Mo.
Frank Morris for NPR

On a normal day, Kansas City, Mo., processes more than 70 million gallons of raw sewage. This sewage used to be a nuisance, but Kansas City, and a lot of municipalities around the country, are now turning it into a resource for city farmers hard up for fertilizer.

After the sewage has been processed at a treatment plant, it's piped out to Birmingham Farm on the north side of the Missouri River.

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