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Ashley Westerman

Ashley Westerman is a producer who occasionally directs the show. Since joining the staff in June 2015, she has produced a variety of stories including a coal mine closing near her hometown, the 2016 Republican National Convention, and the Rohingya refugee crisis in southern Bangladesh. She is also an occasional reporter for Morning Edition, and NPR.org, where she has contributed reports on both domestic and international news.

Ashley was a summer intern in 2011 with Morning Edition and pitched a story on her very first day. She went on to work as a reporter and host for member station 89.3 WRKF in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she earned awards covering everything from healthcare to jambalaya.

Ashley is an East-West Center 2018 Jefferson Fellow and a two-time reporting fellow with the International Center for Journalists. Through ICFJ, she has covered labor issues in her home country of the Philippines for NPR and health care in Appalachia for Voice of America.

For the first few months of the COVID19 pandemic, Spenser Murray was afraid to leave his house.

"I was literally scared to leave the house, like even just ordering groceries was like freaking me out," Murray says. "And I turned 30 during the pandemic and that was the point where I was still kind of really freaked out about going outside."

The last time Mustapha Alauya L. Pacasum saw his ancestral home standing was three years ago.

The spacious three-story concrete house in his hometown of Marawi, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, was built in 1971. Pacasum, a 37-year-old political aide, still remembers the smell of the large living room.

"It had a distinctive old wood smell and visitors sometimes imagine it as a haunted house because of the large painting displayed in the center of the sala [living room]," he says. "I miss it so much."

Freshman Taylor Vibbert has always wanted to be in a sorority. When she signed up to rush this fall at Western Kentucky University, she was looking forward to the fanfair, house tours and meet-and-greets.

Then she got some bad news: Greek recruitment would be mostly virtual this year.

"That was a bummer," the 18-year-old from Louisville, Ky., said in early August. "Honestly, if I would have known, I probably wouldn't have signed up."

Vibbert was concerned she would be more outgoing in-person than over the computer, but she was willing to see how it goes.

"In a battle for facts, in a battle for truth, journalism is activism," says Philippine journalist Maria Ressa.

Ressa, who is internationally known and lauded for standing up to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's escalating attacks on the press, tells NPR that circumstances in the Philippines have forced her to evolve as a journalist.

If you spend any time on social media, you know it can be a war of words out there. Whether it's the debate over wearing masks, the racial unrest sweeping across the U.S. or the impending presidential election — everyone's got an opinion and someone is always ready to give a hot take.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

New leadership has taken over at a company known for a particular brand of cute.

Shintaro Tsuji, the 92-year-old founder of Sanrio, the Japanese company that created Hello Kitty, handed over the reins to his 31-year-old grandson Tomokuni Tsuji, who officially became Sanrio's president and CEO on July 1. It's the first leadership change in the company's 60-year history.

Johnson & Johnson has announced it will discontinue two lines of skin-lightening products popular in Asia, making it one of the latest major companies to change business tactics seen as racist amid the global debate over racial inequality.

There's something about the video of the George Floyd killing that makes it very specific to the Twin Cities.

The video shows a white police officer and a black male victim — a familiar dynamic in similar videos and killings seen nationwide — but there's a third identifiable person: an Asian American officer seen running interference with the crowd and standing watch. He's now-former Minneapolis police officer Tou Thao, a Hmong American — which is how you know this isn't "any" city. It's Minneapolis.

The best thing about being 17, according to Shawn Richardson, is freedom.

"I'm able to go out more with my friends," he says. "I can do things solo."

Shawn is a rising high school senior in Minneapolis. School is fine, but what he really loves is track. His friend timed him running the 100-meter dash in 10.71 seconds.

The track season was canceled because of COVID-19. But if he can run that time officially, he will have the school record. Distance running isn't his thing. Shawn is a sprinter.

"It's like gathering energy and then just letting it go," he says.

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