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News Projects Archive

Minnesota Public Radio specializes in long-form, in-depth reporting of issues. As part of our journalistic mission, we regularly produce major projects dedicated to examining important topics. Here is an archive of the projects.

Go to storyLife by Design
The word 'design' used to be relegated to the conversations of academics and engineers, but now it pops up in housekeeping magazines and department store aisles. Although most of us don't learn about it in school, design -- both good and bad -- has a tremendous impact on our lives. (January 2007)

Go to storyThe McCarthy Tapes
Eugene McCarthy's political legacy will forever be defined by 1968, when McCarthy turned his opposition to the Vietnam War into a crusade for the presidency. The McCarthy Tapes takes us back to 1968 through the audio recordings of the McCarthy archive. (December 2006)

Go to storyNew energy from old sources
The U.S. is looking for new energy from old sources. In the Midwest, two of the biggest energy kings are coal and corn. There are new challenges to those popular energy sources. (September 2006)

Go to storyMinnesota State Fair 2006
There's always something new at the Minnesota State Fair, along with the old standbys. We sample some of everything from the 2006 State Fair. (August 2006)

Go to storySummer heat, summer drought
A summer heat wave and a continuing lack of rain in the area are putting stress on residents of the Upper Midwest. (July 2006)

Go to storyReflections on serving
Minnesota Public Radio's Public Insight Journalism unit asked veterans and families of veterans to reflect upon the meaning of their service and sacrifice. (May 2006)

Go to storyThe changing face of Pelican Rapids
While immigration has been a hot topic of debate recently, the town of Pelican Rapids in northern Minnesota has been on the front line of immigration reform for years. Minnesota Public Radio's All Things Considered broadcasts live from Pelican Rapids to explore how the town has been affected by an influx of immigrants. (May 2006)

Go to storyGrowing pains on the Iron Range
The Iron Range in northern Minnesota is undergoing an economic transformation. How that will affect the long-standing communities there is open to question. (May 2006)

Go to storyGrowing Up Indian
American Indians are at the bottom of nearly every national indicator of well-being. Indians commit suicide at twice the rate of the general population. They're more likely to be poor, have health problems or die violently. Alcohol and drugs have ripped apart Native families. Often, the kids suffer most. (March 2006)

Go to storyPrescription for Change
"Consumer-driven health care" is designed to get employees to be smart health care shoppers who can save money at the same time. Health Savings Accounts are the most familiar form so far, but companies are creating a host of ways to shift the cost of health care while encouraging employees to live healthy lifestyles. (January 2006)

Go to storyHard Choices for Small Communities
Rural cities and towns want to define their future, but the challenges in creating sustainable economic development can be great. How communities look ahead is at the center of many of today's debates. (February 2006)

Go to storyThis Cold House
Sticker shock on your heating bills this winter may be the incentive you need to make your home more energy efficient. Or, you may need some extra help paying those higher bills. This Cold House takes a closer look at why heating costs are going up, and what you can do about it. (December 2005)

Go to storySinging in the Shadow of AIDS
In 2004, journalist Jonah Eller-Isaacs spent six months traveling alone through sub-Saharan Africa. While living with local families and working with newfound friends, he recorded music of a surprising nature. He found that residents were using music as an effective tool in fighting HIV and AIDS. (November 2005)

Go to storyPolluted Waters: A Long and Costly Cleanup
It's estimated up to 40 percent of Minnesota lakes and rivers are polluted. Federal law requires the state to monitor polluted waters and develop a cleanup plan for those that don't meet standards. But there's not enough money to test or clean up the water. (October 2005)

Go to storyOpen Ears
An ongoing series of audio features that explores how contemporary musicians' listening habits shape their music-making. Each installment features a Twin Cities musician talking about a favorite piece of music from a genre outside his or her own. The series taps musicians' wide-ranging tastes and deep musical knowledge as it explores the surprising and revealing influences that affect today's sounds. (June 2005)

Go to storyStoryCorps
More than 100 people took part in StoryCorps, a national oral history project, when it stopped in downtown Minneapolis this summer. A 26-foot trailer served as a mobile recording booth, where everyday people interviewed friends and relatives about their lives. Those stories will eventually end up in the Library of Congress. The project started in New York's Grand Central Station, and was at Peavey Plaza in downtown Minneapolis for nearly three weeks. (June 2005)

Go to storyThinking Global in Minnesota
Someone once said, when China sneezes, the world catches a cold. You can play on that phrase any number of ways when you set out to create a portrait of Minnesota's global face. Part of Think Global, the 2005 public radio collaboration. (May 2005)

Go to storyWhat happened at Red Lake?
Residents of the Red Lake reservation in northern Minnesota are struggling to understand a shooting Monday that left 10 people dead and seven injured. The gunman was a 16-year-old student at Red Lake High School, who killed himself afterward. (March 2005)

Go to storyThe Budget Balancer
How should we spend our money? That's the question the governor, state lawmakers, and all Minnesotans have to answer as the state faces yet another two-year budget deficit. Minnesota law requires a balanced budget. The governor has proposed his fix. This is your chance. What kind of state do you want Minnesota to be? (March 2005)

Go to storyToxic Traces
3M announced in 2000 that it was phasing out its popular Scotchgard product, because the anti-stain spray contained chemicals toxic to lab animals. The chemicals had also turned up in the blood of 3M workers, though the company said its employees were not harmed. 3M produced the chemicals at its plant in Cottage Grove, Minnesota. An investigation by Minnesota Public Radio and American RadioWorks found that even after 3M said it would no longer make the toxic chemicals, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency let two years pass before it began any inquiries. The story raises questions about who is responsible for the safety of the public and the environment, and about whether state agencies are doing enough to protect citizens from toxic chemicals. (February 2005)

Go to storyA Mirror on Morality
Since the November, 2004, election, much has been said about moral values. Many people say their beliefs don't just play an important role in their life, but also in how they vote. Conservative Christians voted in large numbers, helping to re-elect President Bush. We held a series of conversations with parishioners from around the region about how their moral values play into their political decisions. (November 2004)

Go to storyThe Education Achievement Gap: Minnesota's Embarrassment
Minnesota students are traditionally among the nation's top performers on key standardized tests. Unfortunately, the statewide averages mask an embarrassing reality. Students of color consistently score far below their white classmates. This disparity in academic performance between groups of students is known as the achievement gap. It's a national problem. But Minnesota's gap is particularly wide. (September 2004)

Go to storyWhose Recovery Is It?
When economists coined the term "economic recovery" to describe an economy that is growing, it's doubtful they considered the multiple layers of meaning it would carry. The word "recovery" seems to imply hope, happiness and comfort -- or at least movement in that direction. But to some in Minnesota, the period of recovery has brought continued unease and difficulty. (September 2004)

Go to storyMeth in Minnesota: The costly addiction
Meth is taking its toll in Minnesota. Methamphetamine, a highly-addictive drug that's been around for decades, has become the drug of choice for many in recent years because it's cheap, easy to make, and a "good high." But it is a costly drug in terms of the devastation it causes for users and their families, and the challenges it brings for law enforcement and health officials. (June 2004)

Go to storyWhat is Marriage?
Everyone's talking about marriage these days. The debate rages from pulpits to the U.S. Senate. Most of the discussion centers on who can get married -- whether gays and lesbians should have that right. We wanted to back up a step and ask, What is marriage? (May 2004)

Go to storyFishing for Stories
Minnesota is home to more anglers and more fishing opportunities than just about any other place in the country. The Department of Natural Resources estimates 15,000 miles of cold and warm water streams and 5,493 fishable lakes are available to anglers. Minnesota also leads the nation in per capita sales of fishing licenses. Which means, we should have plenty of good fish stories. (May 2004)

Go to storyBeyond Bake Sales
School fundraising is a multi-billion dollar business nationwide, and shows no signs of shrinking — schools say tight budgets are forcing them to seek funding any way they can. Traditionally, that's meant turning students into a sales force marketing candy, wrapping paper, and frozen pizzas. Increasingly, schools are also making more direct pleas for support. As the contributions grow, critics worry about exacerbating inequities between school districts based on their ability to raise funds from private sources. (March 2004)

Go to storyA Bad State of Mind: Minnesota's fractured mental health system
Minnesota has one of the highest teen suicide rates in the nation. Families in crisis may have to wait months for treatment of mental health diseases, and health care organizations are closing mental health treatment facilities even as the rates of mental health disease soar. Some mental health experts say the state is "a basket case" when it comes to providing proper treatment. (February 2004)

Go to storyThe State of the Unions
Unions in the United States are working hard to make up ground they lost in the changing realities of the modern work world. At one time, half of American workers were in a union. Now the number is just one in eight. Are unions still relevant in the 21st century? (January 2004)

Go to storyWhose Democracy Is It?
America is proud of its democratic values: accountable leaders, honest voting and a free press. But recently Americans have begun to ask Whose Democracy Is It? (November 2003)

Go to storyThe legacy of the Reserve Mining case
Lake Superior was once a battleground. Reserve Mining Company dumped its waste rock into the lake. Tons of sediment poured into the lake every day. Duluth's drinking water, 50 miles away, was contaminated with a fiber that might cause cancer. A court ultimately forced Reserve to stop the dumping, laying down the principle that the government can force industry to clean up its pollution. (October 2003)

Go to storyThe Winds of Change
The concept of wind power dates back some 5,000 years to ancient Egypt. Since then humans have used wind to power sailboats, grind grain, pump water, and most recently, generate electricity. Over the past few decades Minnesota has emerged as a national leader in that area. Despite that success, wind experts say developing the resource more fully remains a tricky prospect. (September 2003)

Go to storyRekindling the Spirit: The Rebirth of Native American Spirituality
The U.S. government and Christian churches spent more than 150 years trying to eliminate American Indian spiritual practices. But the spiritual beliefs survived. Across America, Indians young and old are returning to traditional ways. (August 2003)

Go to storyMinnesota's Right Turn
The election of November 2002 turned the bulk of government over to the Republican Party in Minnesota. Although most of the campaign focused on economic issues, GOP legislators were able to successfully pass a conservative social agenda, confident that their plans were consistent with what the state's voters were demanding. What is the impact of a liberal state becoming a conservative stronghold? (August 2003)

Go to storyWater Wars
The Missouri River is nicknamed the "Big Muddy." But for the last 50 years that description applies more to its politics than the water. Ever since a half-dozen dams were built on the upper Missouri, most of the river is surprisingly clear. But the dam's clouded the river's politics like never before. The fallout has divided the Missouri Basin into two camps: upstream and downstream. And so far downstream is winning. (July 2003)

Go to storyThe Fight Against Fat
Americans are eating themselves to death. Obesity is on the rise. More people eat too much, get too little exercise, and suffer a variety of health problems as a result. We've seen virtually a doubling in the number of obese persons over the past two decades, and an alarming increase in the number of obese children. (June 2003)

Go to storyPreston, Minnesota: At a fork in the river
A special live broadcast of All Things Considered from Preston's historic Jailhouse Inn. The program explores the southeast Minnesota city's ongoing struggle to retain its small town heritage, while also trying to ensure its economic survival. (April 2003)

Go to storyThe State of Dairy Farming
Minnesota's dairy industry is going through historic change -- for the worse. In the last 20 years, 72 percent of the state's dairy farmers have left the business. Some say Minnesota needs larger scale farms, but many disagree. (April 2003)

Go to storyA Lesson on Learning
The federal government has expanded its role in public schools by making unprecedented demands for raising student achievement. Supporters say the "No Child Left Behind" law ensures much needed school reform. But critics claim it's a threat to local decision making. (March 2003)

Go to storyLife After Prison
The nation's prison population the last two decades has grown to record levels. Now, a record number of those put behind bars are getting out. Many are returning to their former neighborhoods. They're looking for jobs and a place to live, and they have a prison record. (March 2003)

Go to storyThe Homeland Project
The children of Hmong immigrants are learning about the homeland of their parents. Recently, five Hmong high school students from St. Paul embarked on a two-week trip to Thailand and Laos in the hope that seeing their parents' homeland and meeting relatives they had only heard about would help them understand the deep cultural gap that separates them from their parents. (March 2003)

Go to storyClouds of Doubt
Millions of pounds of pesticides are used in Minnesota every year. They're used on farm crops, lawns, parks and golf courses. Every year, some of those chemicals are misused. Sometimes people and animals are exposed to pesticides. Those incidents often violate state and federal law. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is the only state agency responsible for enforcing those laws. But an MPR investigation finds violations of the law are often unpunished, and sometimes ignored. (February 2003)

Go to storyFalling Behind
There was a time when all you had to do was get a job. In the 1950s and '60s, most full-time jobs paid enough to support a family and even buy a house. But times have changed. Today, you can work 40 hours a week and still not be able to buy health insurance, let alone a house of your own. Many people in Minnesota are working, but poor, and barely get by. (January 2003)

Go to storyHometown Hockey
Residents of northwestern Minnesota take their hockey very seriously. Tuesday night, the rivalry between the Roseau and Warroad high school hockey teams resumes. It's one of the most celebrated sports rivalries in this part of the state. MPR's Morning Edition and Midday broadcast live from Roseau Tuesday, Jan. 28. (January 2003)

Go to storyFinding Faith
Minnesotans have innovative or unusual ways to approach their spiritual lives. (December 2002)

Go to storyGoodbye Jesse
Jesse Ventura took Minnesota and the nation by surprise, delivering an upset victory that few political observers had predicted. And very little that followed was predictable, either. (December 2002)

Go to storyPowerline Blues
In the late 1970s, farmers tried to stop construction of a 400-mile-long transmission line that would cross their land on the way from North Dakota to the Twin Cities. A system, which line opponents said was unfair, turned ordinary people into radicals. (December 2002)

Go to storyHunting for Answers
This may be a pivotal year for Minnesota's deer herd. With more than one million whitetails in the state, game managers are wondering if they can keep the population in check. Even with heavy hunting pressure, the number of deer keeps growing. Meanwhile, the harmful effects of the deer population keep growing. Traffic accidents, plant depredation and disease are the most obvious worries. (November 2002)

Go to storyA Mighty Good Road
On October 15, 1852, the first train of the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad traveled from Chicago to Joliet, Illinois. Two years later it would bring a delegation of east coast journalists and dignitaries to the Mississippi River as part of the Grand Excursion to Minnesota. Over the next 50 years, as the Rock Island Line grew, it carried passengers and freight through 14 states and became part of the story of the American west. Then it inspired a song that has been passed from generation to generation. Minnesota Public Radio's Jim Bickal has traced the stories of the song and the railroad and discovered that together they tell quite a tale. (October 2002)

Go to storyMinnesota's Uncivil War
A war fought in the Minnesota River valley back in 1862 still leaves scars today. On one side were the Dakota Indians. On the other, settlers and the U.S. government. Hundreds of people died on both sides of the five-week long war. It lead to the largest mass execution in U.S. history, when 38 Dakota were hanged in Mankato. Much has been written about the Dakota war, but the impact on descendants is less studied. More than a century later, the war still sparks intense debate. But the events are seen by many in a much different light now. (September 2002)

Go to storyOver the Hill to the Poor House
The American dream is freedom and financial security. But it's possible to lose everything. One day you have a job, a family, a house. Then there's an accident, an illness, a poor choice. One hundred years ago, if you lost your health, or your mind, you might have faced the poorhouse. Some people wonder how far we've come from a time when poor people were simply thrown away. (July 2002)

Go to storyReading, Writing and Revenue
Schools throughout the state have been laying off teachers, raising fees, and slashing services to balance their budgets. They blame the drastic cuts on rising costs and insufficient state funding. Some policymakers question whether schools will ever have enough money. (June 2002)

Go to storyChanging Currents
Agriculture, industry and navigation are challenging the region's rivers and streams. The debate has been the same for 100 years. Are our rivers a resource for recreation and preservation, or simply for industry to use? How can those competing interests keep our rivers healthy? (May 2002)

Go to storyAre We There Yet?
Nearly everyone agrees that traffic congestion in the Twin Cities is getting worse. Projections show the population is going to keep growing, and policy makers haven't been able to agree on a long-term transportation funding plan. Cars, buses, roads, LRT, commuter rail; Can we solve this problem, or is Minnesota facing gridlock? (April 2002)

Go to storyAdult Entertainment Targets Main Street
The sex industry is making waves in small town Minnesota. Strip clubs are moving out of the shadows and onto Main Street. More than a dozen rural Minnesota cities and counties wrestled with adult business regulation in the past year — after some of them were caught off guard by the arrival of new strip clubs. Adult businesses are protected by the Constitution, so communities are looking for creative ways to regulate them. (March 2002)

Go to storyOur Town
Travel across the region and you'll find cities and towns with much in common. Chain restaurants and big box retail have come to Main Street. Small towns are struggling to manage growth while saving their unique character. Some say small town life is still good, and even safer since Sept. 11. (December 2001)

Go to storySpanish Minnesota
Minnesota has long had a diverse linguistic tradition. Ojibwe, French, German, Norwegian and English have all been languages of commerce at one time. Now the latest census numbers show the language landscape has shifted once again. (November 2001)

Go to storyThe Color of Justice
Minnesota leads the nation in the rate at which it imprisons non-whites. For every white person sent to prison in Minnesota, 21 people of color are imprisoned. A criminal justice system in a democracy functions only if the people believe it is fair and efficient. But racial bias, or the perception of racial bias, may be eroding confidence in the Minnesota justice system. (November 2001)

Go to storyState workers' strike
More than 20,000 state workers went on strike on October 1, 2001 after negotiations over a new contract for two state unions broke down. The strike lasted two weeks. (October 2001)

Go to storyTarget of Terrorism
A collection of stories, audio, and shows stemming from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. (September 2001)

Go to storyPedaling Minnesota
People in Minnesota are eager get outside while the warmth lasts. Minnesota leads the country in bicycle trails. Wisconsin is a close second. They each have about 1,300 miles of trail, and more trails open every year. (September 2001)

Go to storyAging Gracefully
The recent census shows that rural Minnesota is growing older. Many communities have already shown they're up for the challenge. And today's seniors are redefining retirement. (June 2001)

Go to storyPostcard from a Lynching
For 80 years, most residents of Duluth had forgotten, or buried, the story of the lynching of three black men in that city. Recently, the city has regained its memory and confronted the racial tensions which some say still exist. (June 2001)

Go to storyOcean of Wisdom
The Dalai Lama, spiritual and political leader of Tibet, spoke to the Minnesota Legislature and Gov. Ventura in May 2001, and delivered the Carlson lecture at the University of Minnesota. The Tibetan spiritual leader encouraged Gov. Ventura to take his planned trade trip to China in November, even though China has occupied Tibet for more than 40 years. (May 2001)

Go to storyBroken Trust
Many American Indians live in two worlds. Off the reservation, they are guaranteed all the rights of a U.S. citizen. On the reservation, those federal rights disappear. Many Indian people in Minnesota and the Dakotas say they've come to expect injustice both on and off the reservation. MPR News brings you their stories, and their history, in this special project. (April 2001)

Go to storyUnplugged
Wireless technologies, such as cell phones, pagers, and hand-held computers with wireless Internet access are changing the way Minnesotans communicate, work, play and learn. The impact on the state will grow as the industry develops new tools, standardizes technical protocols, and drops prices for wireless devices. (March 2001)

Go to storyNo Free Lunch
How safe is the food you eat? Concerns over mad cow disease, foot-and-mouth disease, E. coli and others have led to some new developments in food safety on the part of farmers, producers and food handlers. But some critics say the costs of those changes, particularly for the rural way of life, are too high a price to pay. (March 2001)

Go to storyA Question of Dignity
Every year, Minnesota spends $850 million caring for the state's elderly in nursing homes. As baby-boomers approach retirement, long-term care experts worry that unless changes occur, those costs could skyrocket. A tripartisan task force studied the issue last summer and wants the state to meet consumer demand by creating a better system of home and community-based care. But the transformation will not be cheap, and the personal decisions will not be easy. (March 2001)

Go to storyUniversal U
In its 150 years, the University of Minnesota has adhered to its original mission to educate the sons and daughters of Minnesota families, while expanding its reach to welcome students from around the world and to become a major research institution. The tension between the twin missions of providing access and excellence, defines the U in the 21st century. See the MPR online project, Universal U, and learn more about the university that's at the core of a budget battle in Minnesota. (February 2001)

Go to storyFighting the Superbug
Ever since doctors started using penicillin to kill bacterial infections in the 1940s, researchers have worried some bacteria would become resistant to antibiotics. Their fears are now coming true as scientists discover antibiotic-resistant germs. How do our everyday activities contribute to the creation of superbugs and what can be done? (September 2000)

Go to storySharing the Wealth
America is in the midst of the longest economic boom in its history. Charitable giving, at least in Minnesota, has reflected this time of prosperity. But even prosperity brings challenges. In an age of mega-mergers, many people worry that corporate giants won't have the same community conscience as the firms of the 20th century. What is the future of philanthropy in the new millennium? (September 2000)

Go to storyThe Genetics Debate
In July 2000,, 500 scientists, around 200 protesters, and nearly 700 police converged on downtown Minneapolis for the International Society of Animal Genetics Conference. Why does the conference stir such passion and protest? Learn more about the issues, hear from the scientists and protesters. (July 2000)

Go to storyThe Long Boom
The longest expansion in U.S. history has changed the economic landscape and altered the lives of millions, mostly for the better.More than nine years of uninterrupted growth have raised workers' earnings to an all-time high. The number of families owning homes and investing in the stock market is at the highest levels ever. The unemployment rate is at a 30-year low. Yet the boom is far from an unalloyed benefit. Many are stuck in low-paying jobs or unable to find affordable housing, many others are working more. (April 2000)

Go to storyA Quiet Violence
Law enforcement officials have been claiming victory over violent urban crime, but 44 percent of rural Minnesotans think crime in their neighborhood is increasing. Is urban crime moving to rural Minnesota, or has it been there all along? A Quiet Violence examines the effects of rural crime. (April 2000)

Go to storyGuinea Pig Kids
Minnesota Public Radio sent a trio of reporters into high schools to observe how teachers, parents and, most of all, students are coping with Minnesota's new graduation standards. Over the course of five months they found successes and problems, but perhaps most telling, they found a pervasive sense of confusion and uncertainty reflected in a phrase that came up repeatedly — "guinea pig kids." (February 2000)

Go to storyMinnesota in the Dot-Com Age
The high-tech revolution is fueling the American economy in ways unprecedented since the turn of the century. New major industries are growing overnight. Billionaires spring from nowhere. Cities that once were in the doldrums, are now capitals of high technology. Where is Minnesota's place in the high-tech revolution? (December 1999)

Go to storyThe Surveillance Society
Americans enjoy unlimited benefits from new technologies in a wired world. But those wires send information in two directions, and the access to our personal data has never been more open for abuse. It's not just the Internet that erodes our privacy. In dozens, possibly hundreds, of every-day activities, you leave a trail of who you are. As technology brings us closer together, the fragments of information about you are becoming much easier to piece together, revealing the most intimate details of your life. (November 1999)

Go to storyThe Hidden Rainbow
The populations of many smaller communities are changing dramatically, with the influx of residents from many different cultures. As new immigrants move to cities and towns around the region, it's a change that enriches life for some, and threatens other residents. (May 1999)

Go to storyWalking Out of History
Twenty-eight men lost in Antarctica for almost two years, fighting ice and the ocean. The world gave them up for dead; but every one of them survived. As fantastic as it sounds, it's all true. It's the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the Endurance, and the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914. (May 1999)

Go to storyThis Is Home
The 150,000 Hmong people living in the United States traveled thousands of difficult miles to get here. Many settled in St. Paul, Minnesota, giving it the largest urban Hmong population in the world. Today these Hmong are wrestling with issues of culture and identity, with maintaining ties to the past and seeking to thrive in modern urban America. (March 1999)