During Morning Edition and All Things Considered, or on Cityscape

Commentaries are opinion pieces provided by a wide variety of individuals in the St. Louis region. They are not necessarily the opinion of St. Louis Public Radio, but are intended to reflect diverse viewpoints on issues affecting our region. To submit a commentary or proposal, email

Most of the editors I've admired left their newsrooms because they were pushed out or carried out. Fortunately, neither is the case for me. I’m happily looking forward to retirement at the end of this month and to finding out what happens when you stop juggling work and life and just let life take over.

For me, being a journalist is more than a job. It’s a state of mind, a way of relating to the world. It’s a commitment to keep asking questions and an understanding that some questions will never be fully answered.

At the end of this month, I will retire. Yet I’ve never felt more certain that my beleaguered profession matters. Let me explain why. Let me challenge you to think like a journalist, too.

Footage of cell phone video of the Aug. 20, 2014, death of Kajieme Powell
Video provided by St. Louis Metropolitan Police

Michael Brown's death got international attention. But for those of us who live here in St. Louis, the police shooting of Kajieme Powell raises questions that are at least as troubling -- questions about police procedure, community trust and the confrontations that test both.

National Park Service

Like all great art, the Gateway Arch commands attention for more than its striking beauty. It also beckons us to see ourselves and our place in the world with new perspective.

Most St. Louisans have looked at the Arch thousands of times, yet each moment reveals a different face. Nature works its magic on the shiny steel with the changing seasons, the time of day, the glint of sun and the blur of clouds. The thoughts and feelings the Arch inspires change, too -- from day to day and era to era, following human cycles of aspiration and insight.

These renderings show what it would look like in National Car Rental Field. The car rental company forged a $158 million deal to name an in-flux riverfront stadium.
Courtesy of HOK

So now we know that our new football stadium would be called National Car Rental Field. That rolls off the tongue with an odd ring of impermanence – a reminder that stadiums and teams, like rental cars, come and go.

Native flowers growing alongside the Katy Trail near St. Charles.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Three questions pop up when people hear I’m planning to retire at the end of the year as editor of St. Louis Public Radio. Is there hidden drama? (No.) Are you healthy? (Yes.) Then comes the question people are more comfortable asking out loud: What do you plan to do?

Nothing, I say. It has turned out to be a surprisingly controversial answer.

Wellspring Church in Ferguson, September 21, 2015.
Kelly Moffitt, St. Louis Public Radio

Now that the Ferguson Commission has made its report, what are St. Louisans thinking? Monday at Wellspring Church in Ferguson, many expressed frustration — with officials, obstacles and each other. But another note sounded clearly through the discontent: determination to press forward.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon accepts a copy of the Ferguson Commission's recomendations from co-chairs Rich McClure (L) and Rev. Starsky Wilson during a press conference in Florissant.
Bill Greenblatt I UPI

Two unavoidable questions face St. Louisans now that the Ferguson Commission has made its report: What will change and who will change it? But something fundamental has changed already. Speaking as representatives of our region, the commission members declared – officially, directly and publicly: “We have not moved beyond race.”

Brittany Burke
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Arrogance, booze, geographic isolation and a gender power imbalance – those ingredients brew a culture in Jefferson City that is at times hazardous for women. This week, St. Louis Public Radio’s political team analyzed why the culture persists, who it hurts and whether it can be changed.

Supporters of raising St. Louis' minimum wage listen to testimony Tuesday at St. Louis City Hall.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

On Labor Day, we celebrate work by not working. How appropriate. Our attitudes about work are often contradictory, and current work-related debates raise puzzling questions.

Take the minimum wage. Recently, St. Louis decided to increase it; St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger reiterated why the suburbs would not, as Jason Rosenbaum reported.

We Must Stop Killing Each Other signs are posted on the security gate of a building near where Mansur Ball-Bey was shot by police.
Linda Lockhart I St. Louis Public Radio

Two recent deaths – the police killing of Mansur Ball-Bey and the incomprehensible shooting of 9-year-old Jamyla Bolden – felt like giant steps backward for a region already plagued by violence and mistrust. This week, St. Louisans took three small but significant steps forward, beginning to address the underlying problems that breed despair.

St. Louis Public Schools

On my street, and probably on yours, the kids went back to school this week, changing the rhythm of the neighborhood and evoking that peculiar sense of possibility that marks the end of summer.

Years after we’re out, school still shapes life -- personally and as a community. But as the news reminded us this week, the actual experience schools provide for students remains far from equal. And the process for making schools better remains mired in uncertainty.

Congratulations to Sarah Hermes Griesbach and Amy Reidel, the co-founders and editors of "All the Art:” the visual art quarterly of St. Louis. The magazine highlights not only the tried and true arts institutions such as the St. Louis Art Museum and Laumeier Sculpture Park, but highlights the many and varied art galleries and smaller institutions in our metropolitan area that display high quality visual art.

Protests and chants came into the St. Louis County Council chambers Tuesday night.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

One year after Michael Brown’s death, St. Louisans are yearning for resolution. Truth is we’re nowhere close to achieving it. We can’t even be sure we’re on the right track. And yet, the anger and pain that we’ve experienced since last August have brought us to a new place. Call it the end of the beginning.

A sign in Old Mines, Mo., announces that Missouri French, or Paw Paw French, speakers live there 300 years after it was established. Still, the dialect is considered highly endangered.
Courtesy Illinois Country French Preservation Inc. | Facebook

America may be the land of opportunity, but history shapes our options. This week, history came to light in three St. Louis Public Radio reports.

Fireworks, fourth of july, reflected, horizontal, arch
Rachel Heidenry | 2008

Journalists can be an irreverent lot, yet most of us believe devoutly in the sanctity of the First Amendment. The Fourth of July is its holy day, and we are its acolytes. But this year, the celebration of a free press ought to be tempered with doses of concern and reality.

Commentary: The arts have the power to heal

Jul 2, 2015

As we approach that fateful day in August when the Ferguson tragedy took place, I am again reminded of the power of the arts.

On a recent trip to Japan, our guide told us of the Maeda Clan, rulers in the city of Kanazawa in the16th century, and how they turned from the sword to using the arts and culture to reunite and heal Japan after 150 years of civil war.

Back home some of the reactions to the Ferguson situation expressed through the arts were incredibly moving and powerful. Some art projects were actually begun before August 9.

Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Two squalls of controversy blew in to dominate the news early this week — a mega-media frenzy over Rachel Dolezal’s race and a mini-media frenzy over the Cardinals hacking investigation. Both made surprising disclosures and touched on serious issues.

Yet here at St. Louis Public Radio, where we try to focus on news that matters, we wondered how much any of this might matter in the long run. Sadly, the horrendous shooting that killed nine black churchgoers Wednesday in Charleston put things in sharp perspective.

Principal GeNita Williams presents certificates to eighth graders at Normandy Middle School
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s easier to see problems than to solve them, easier to squelch ideas than to carry them to fruition. But in the news this week, you’ll find unmistakable signs that many St. Louisans are stepping up to turn our bleak winter into a season of growth.

The Sheldon Art Galleries recently featured the incredibly beautiful and well-crafted marionettes of the Bob Kramer Marionnette Studio. I remember way back when, about 35 years ago, having a birthday party for my daughter in the studio which is still in the same location on Laclede.

Martin Duggan
The Nine Network

St. Louis lost two memorable citizens this week -- groundbreakers in very different ways. Environmentalist Leo Drey and journalist Martin Duggan were known for the causes they championed. They will be remembered as well for their character and caring.

Members of the Republican caucus converge in the House Lounge after Diehl announced his resignation.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

As reality shows go, the Missouri General Assembly’s last week is generally worth watching. This week, the legislature outdid itself. Typically, the session closes with a flurry of surprise votes. This year, the surprise was that nothing — nothing — happened on the floor for days as both chambers imploded.

St Louis has many exciting art galas and parties. One of my favorites will take place on May 16. It is the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis's, better known as CAM, Dada Ball and Bash.

The attendees wear crazily surreal outfits and makeup, but just what is Dada?

As usual, I ran around town asking some of the most scholarly folks in the art world to help me with the definition of this obscure and short-lived art movement.  

Church members pick up debris. 81914
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Many St. Louisans followed the news closely this week as unrest, issues and inevitable comparisons to Ferguson streamed from Baltimore. For a moment, it looked as though the country might stop treating Ferguson as a pariah and focus more on the nation's widespread systemic problems related to race.

But so far, it’s not turning out to be that moment.

Members of the Board of Aldermen look on as Tuesday's meeting rolls on.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Bad news hit St. Louisans this week like a hailstorm. But beyond that blast of mayhem, St. Louis Public Radio reported on some glimmers of progress in the efforts to address the region’s longstanding issues.

A woman casts her vote on election day in Ferguson on April 7, 2015.
Bill Greenblatt I UPI

St. Louis area voters sent contradictory messages Tuesday. And that’s a message in itself.

In Ferguson, three new city council members were elected, changing the face of municipal government and raising the number of African-American members to three of seven (counting the mayor). But, as Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies reported, that doesn’t necessarily mean that voters were inspired by the protest movement to clean house.

I was in California at the Palm Springs Art Museum's branch in Palm Desert and saw an exhibition entitled, "A Grand Adventure: American Art of the West.

The exhibition included works by our own native son, Charles Russell, works by Remington, the Taos School of New Mexico, Albert Bierstadt and the list goes on.

When I think of St. Louis, I like to say that we're the last eastern city and how culturally rich we are and WE ARE, but after all we are the Gateway to the West. Our Arch is there to prove it. Of course, it is a magnificent piece in and of itself.

Ferguson protest 3/12/2015
Lawrence Bryant | St. Louis American

Watching yet another panel discuss press coverage of Ferguson this week, I couldn’t help but squirm. We journalists hold others accountable for their shortcomings. But in the months since Michael Brown was shot, we’ve had trouble owning up to our own.

A Taser, with cartridge removed, making an electric arc between its two electrodes
jasonesbain | Wikipedia

About four months before the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, police less than 15 miles down I-70 in St. Charles shot another man named Brown. The event barely drew any attention from anyone except immediate family and friends.

Art for those with challenges

Mar 20, 2015

We've heard of wheelchair basketball, tennis and ice hockey played by those with legs that don't function and we've heard of the Special Olympics.

In the arts there are wonderful organizations who help those with physical and mental disabilities to be a part of the St. Louis art scene.

The Riverfront Times had a terrific article entitled "Thespians On Wheels: Joan Lipkin's Disability Project is on a Roll" written by Aimee Levitt. Levitt says, "There are many ways to fight for social change: marching, shouting, stripping. Joan Lipkin has tried them all."