Interviews

The Old Paints: Pure Pop And Country From Birmingham

Birmingham band The Old Paints are known for their upbeat sound and a percussionist who plays the log. Yes, that's right, a log. The group draws musical inspiration from artists and bands like Woody Guthrie, Wilco, and The White Stripes. Their second album, This Machine, comes out this summer. For WBHM, Joseph Thornton talked with band members Andy Harris and Breely Flowers about their music and the forthcoming album.

New Hoover City Schools Superintendent Starts June 1

It’s been a headlined filled year for Hoover City Schools, with controversies over zoning and busing, and the resignation of their superintendent. Now a new leader, Dr. Kathy Murphy, is on deck to take the helm. WBHM’s Sherrel Wheeler Stewart sat down for a conversation with her as she looks ahead to this new assignment.

Birmingham-Southern College Names New President

Birmingham-Southern College announced Wednesday Edward Leonard will become the school’s next president. He comes to BSC after eight years as president of Bethany College in Kansas. Leonard takes over from General Charles Krulak who is retiring after four years on the job. Krulak helped lead BSC through a major fiscal crisis that brought budget cuts and layoffs. Leonard spoke with WBHM’s Andrew Yeager and says he’s been familiar with Birmingham-Southern for decades.

What Stands in a Storm

Monday marks the fourth anniversary of a massive tornado outbreak where 62 tornados raked across Alabama in a single day. More than 250 people died from those storms on April 27, 2011. Writer Kim Cross chronicles that time through several personal stories in her book What Stands in a Storm. It grew out of an article she wrote for Southern Living magazine. She spoke with WBHM’s Andrew Yeager.

US Secretary Of Education Arne Duncan

According to the U.S. Department of Education, Alabama's high school graduation rate jumped eight percent between the years 2011 and 2013. That may not sound like a lot, but it was one of the largest increases in the country, which also saw its rate increase while racial gaps decreased. WBHM's education reporter Dan Carsen caught up with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to talk about what the numbers mean for the state and for the nation.

Recovering Heroin Addict Brad Blount On A Dark Time, And How He Escaped It

Heroin use is on the rise in Alabama. And contrary to old stereotypes, it doesn't respect race, class, or neighborhood boundaries. Brad Blount of Vestavia Hills is proof. He's from a solid family in that well-heeled suburb, but the 24-year-old tells WBHM's Dan Carsen that despite it all, his life took a dark turn.

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Trisha Powell Crain On State Supreme Court Upholding Alabama Accountability Act

The Alabama Accountability Act has been controversial since the night it passed the state legislature in 2013. What started as a school flexibility bill morphed into a way to give tax credits and scholarships to students to attend other public schools and private schools. But late Monday the state Supreme Court upheld the law. WBHM's Dan Carsen caught up with Alabama School Connection writer Trisha Powell Crain to talk it over. Crain starts with a brief overview of the Act, and some concerns.

INTERVIEW: State Senator Del Marsh On New Charter School Bill

Charter schools are public schools exempt from many of the curriculum and staffing rules that apply to standard schools. But to stay open, charters are supposed to meet achievement goals spelled out in their charter contract. Alabama is one of eight states that does not allow charter schools, but that could change soon. After failing to pass a charter bill in 2012, Republican lawmakers are trying again in the session that's starting today, March 3, 2015. WBHM's education reporter Dan Carsen caught up with Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, the charter bill's sponsor. He says being late to the game is actually an advantage.

UA BOT Member On Dr. Ray Watts, UAB Football Controversy

Supporters of the University of Alabama at Birmingham's recently canceled football program have vowed to protest when the UA System Board of Trustees meets in Birmingham later this week. WBHM contributor Greg Bass spoke with Board of Trustees member Finis St. John of Cullman about the controversy surrounding UAB football and the role of the Board of Trustees in the governance of UAB.

Carsen And Lindley Talk Alabama Schools’ Low Test Scores

School test results have been in the news across Alabama lately, often next to words like "sobering" and "not on track." So what's going on? WBHM's News Director Rachel Osier Lindley sits down with education reporter Dan Carsen to shed light on a complex and heated issue. Carsen just returned from a conference put on by NPR's Ed Team, and part of that "Ed Summit" dealt with testing. Perfect timing for a while-the-iron-is-hot interview.

Federal Judge Puts Temporary Hold on Same-Sex Marriage Decision

Alabama same-sex couples who hoped to get marriage licenses today will have to wait a few more weeks to see if the state will legally recognize their relationships. A federal judge put a two-week hold on her decision striking down Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage. WBHM's Rachel Osier Lindley spoke to Andrew Yeager about what happened over the weekend and what might happen next.

Faculty Senate Vote For Reassessment of Sports And “No-Confidence” on Watts

It's been a week since UAB announced the end of its football, bowling, and rifle teams. Today at a meeting of the Faculty Senate, at least two-thirds of that body approved drafting two resolutions: a declaration supporting the school's athletic programs and a transparent financial reassessment of them; and, a "no confidence" resolution directed at university president Ray Watts. WBHM's Dan Carsen and Rachel Osier Lindley break down the day's events.

INTERVIEW: Big-Picture Perspective On Colleges Ending Football Programs

On December 2, the University of Alabama at Birmingham announced it is cutting its football, bowling and rifle teams after the 2014-2015 season. As costs to maintain athletics programs grow, some experts think this could be the beginning of a trend. Malcolm Moran, director of the National Sports Journalism Center, explains why to WBHM's Dan Carsen.

Protestors Demand Assurances UAB Football Will Not Be Cut

Today UAB supporters dressed in green and gold school colors chanted in the sun for their football team while members of the marching band played. But it wasn't a football game. It was on Birmingham's 20th Street South, in front of the university's administration building. They were responding to reports that the football program may be discontinued, and they're angry about that possibility.

A College For Inmates, And An Interview With Its President

The United States locks up people at a higher rate than anywhere else in the world. Some of the most overcrowded prisons are right here in Alabama. Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women is one of them. But some inmates there have access to a unique state-funded program that offers academics and "life skills" they'll need after release. The problem is, this J.F. Ingram State Technical College program, which could ease overcrowding, is struggling for funds. WBHM's Dan Carsen has the story and a full-length interview with J.F. Ingram's president.

INTERVIEW: Inmate And Horticulture Student Timothy Brown

Alabama's J.F. Ingram State may be the nation's only state-run two-year college exclusively for inmates. Its mission is to reduce recidivism by offering "three legs of the stool": academics, life skills, and vocational training. WBHM's Dan Carsen recently visited Ingram's Deatsville campus, where he met Timothy Brown, a 53-year-old convicted robber and burglar serving a life sentence but hoping for parole. Brown had walked over from the Frank Lee minimum-security facility next door. He'd been passing around organic cantaloupe and filling in for his horticulture teacher. Dan starts the interview by asking Brown if doing the latter makes him nervous.

INTERVIEW: Trisha Powell Crain On Alabama’s Low NAEP Ranks

Alabama recently got some unflattering news about its students' proficiency, especially in eighth-grade mathematics. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, is a standardized test sometimes called "the nation's report card." On the 2013 test, Alabama eighth-graders ranked fiftieth out of 52 jurisdictions in math (schools on military bases and in the District of Columbia were counted separately). But as with most education topics, things are not quite as simple as they seem. WBHM's Dan Carsen sat down with Alabama School Connection executive director Trisha Powell Crain to go behind those results. She says we shouldn't put too much emphasis on one test, or be too surprised at Alabama's low showing.

INTERVIEWS With “Make Them Listen” Anti-Illegal-Immigration Protesters

Today was the first day of a two-day nationally coordinated protest against immigration reform and the recent "border surge" of undocumented minors. The effort was organized by the Facebook-based "Make Them Listen." Saturday's protest, also planned for Highway 280 near Walmart, looks to be bigger. WBHM's Dan Carsen caught up with local coordinator Deanna Frankowski during the first protest of two held during Friday's rush hours. She says illegal immigration poses health, economic, and security risks ... and she says much more than that.

Interview: Nick Patterson, Author of “Birmingham Foot Soldiers: Voices from the Civil Rights Movement”

When we talk about the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, some big names spring to mind -- Martin Luther King Jr., the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth. But thousands of everyday people also participated in the 1963 Birmingham campaign, often risking their safety -- and even their lives. Author Nick Patterson tells their stories in his new book 'Birmingham Foot Soldiers: Voices from the Civil Rights Movement.' Nick Patterson sat down with WBHM's Rachel Osier Lindley to talk about why he wanted to write about Birmingham's lesser-known foot soldiers.

INTERVIEW: New Jefferson County Schools Chief Craig Pouncey

Jefferson County Schools just hired away the Alabama State Department of Education's veteran Chief of Staff as its superintendent, for the highest salary of any superintendent in the state. WBHM's Dan Carsen caught up with Craig Pouncey, the new leader of Alabama's second-largest school district, on his first full day on the job. The former teacher and assistant principal says one reason for his move was to get away from politics and back to his roots.

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Life After Prison: Interview With Robin, Student And Tutwiler Inmate

All this week, WBHM explores challenges people face after being released from Alabama's prisons. One barrier is a lack of skills. But some educators are working to smooth that transition even before the inmates get out: J.F. Ingram State Technical College has a new program at Tutwiler Prison that teaches vocations and life skills, including getting along with others, with the goal of reducing recidivism. WBHM's Dan Carsen sat in on those classes then spoke with a student -- an inmate named Robin. We agreed not to use last names, but Dan asked her about her plans once she's out ... and about why she's in.

Interview: U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance on Alabama’s Heroin Problem

Heroin use is on the rise across the country, including Alabama. Since 2012, heroin overdoses have killed more than 150 people in Birmingham and surrounding suburbs. And that number continues to rise. A community summit Tuesday at UAB examines the numerous complicated issues surrounding heroin addiction and abuse. For more on the growing heroin problem in Northern Alabama, Rachel Osier Lindley spoke with U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance. Vance discusses the path to heroin addiction and law enforcement's efforts to stop the drug from spreading.

Interview: Reporter Alex Walsh on Alabama’s Prison Budget

Alabama's prison system is currently under investigation by the Justice Department. If some big changes aren't made, the federal government could take over the prison system. We've heard a lot about the conditions inside Alabama prisons, but today we explore a different side: the state prison budget. One in every four dollars in Alabama's general fund budget goes to prisons. And that's growing. Al.com data reporter Alex Walsh joined WBHM's Rachel Osier Lindley to talk about corrections spending.

“Coming Back With Wes Moore” Explores the Struggles of Returning Combat Veterans

The transition from soldier to civilian can be difficult and lonely. Friends and family members often just don't know how to help returning soldiers. But Army veteran and author Wes Moore wants to change that. He's the executive producer and host of "Coming Back With Wes Moore," a new documentary series on PBS. The show follows combat veterans on their journeys back into society. Moore hopes the program will encourage broader awareness of the issues veterans face. Moore spoke with WBHM's Rachel Osier Lindley about the three-part series, his experience returning from combat and the tragic event that inspired the series.

Interview: Mark Crosswhite, Alabama Power’s New CEO

Alabama Power is Alabama's largest utility and an influential force in the state. And the company just saw a leadership change at the highest level. Earlier this year, Charles McCrary retired after serving as CEO for almost thirteen years. Alabama Power's new CEO, Mark Crosswhite, started on March 1. Crosswhite is the former Chief Operating Officer at Southern Company, Alabama Power's parent company. Since taking on the top role, Crosswhite says he's traveled the state, meeting with employees and customers. He recently sat down with WBHM's News Director, Rachel Osier Lindley, to talk about economic development, renewable energy, and his plans for Alabama Power's future.

INTERVIEW: James Willig On The “Gamification” Of Medical Education

Medical education is always evolving. One way it's changed in recent years is that residents are not allowed to work the long, judgment-impairing shifts they used to. Most agree that's good. But how do you make up for all that lost teaching time? Some UAB researchers think they have an answer: video games. They created a competitive educational game called "Kaizen-Internal Medicine," or just "Kaizen-IM," and a small but promising study showed that busy young doctors learned from it in their off hours. UAB's James Willig sat down with WBHM's education reporter Dan Carsen to explain. Willig starts with a downside of limiting residents' work hours.

AL.com, WBHM Event Yields Frank Talk On Hoover School Bus Fees

Today, AL.com and WBHM hosted a lunch discussion on the controversy over the Hoover school system's plan to impose fees on student bus riders. AL.com reporter Jon Anderson and WBHM's education reporter Dan Carsen were on hand to facilitate the sometimes heated discussion and answer questions. Afterward, Carsen spoke with WBHM's News Director Rachel Lindley. To start, Carsen recaps how the situation got to where it is today.

INTERVIEW: Rick Vest, Counseling Coordinator Of Two-Year College For Prisoners

J.F. Ingram State is a unique part of Alabama's two-year college system because one hundred percent of its students are incarcerated. Its new pilot program at Julia Tutwiler Prison focuses on life skills, not just vocational training. As part of our prison-reporting partnership with Alabama Media Group's Investigative Journalism Lab, WBHM's Dan Carsen spoke with Ingram State Counseling Coordinator Rick Vest outside Ingram's Tutwiler campus. Among other things, Vest says learning job skills isn't enough.

Interview: Dr. Edward O. Wilson, Biologist and Alabama Native

Dr. Edward O. Wilson is best known for his work studying ants. Wilson discovered the first fire ant colony in North America, as a 13-year-old playing outside in Mobile. The world-renowned scientist recently came back to his alma mater, The University of Alabama, for a week-long symposium celebrating Alabama's biodiversity. Reporter Gigi Douban talked with Wilson about what makes Alabama so special, what to do when ants invade your kitchen and his recent contributions to UA.

Tornado Slams Small Alabama Town

The National Weather Service estimates about 58 tornados hit the South last night, and more severe weather is on the way. Up to 18 of the tornados were in Central Alabama, where they damaged buildings and knocked down trees and power lines. A tornado with wind speeds of up to 100 miles per hour hit Kimberly, a town of less than 3,000 people. Two of its most important buildings were damaged -- one almost completely obliterated. WBHM's Dan Carsen went there to assess the damage and hear about how residents were coping. Carsen took pictures and speaks with WBHM News Director Rachel Osier Lindley.

Interview: Reporter Brian Lawson Discusses Inmate Healthcare

For the next several months, WBHM joins AL.com and the Center for Investigative Reporting as part of the Alabama Media Group's Investigative Journalism Lab. We're taking a closer look at Alabama's prison problems. Earlier this year, a Department of Justice report detailed cases of rape and sexual abuse at the Julia Tutwiler prison in Wetumpka. As part of their continued investigation of Alabama prisons, the Department of Justice is seeing if inmate medical care and mental health care are constitutionally adequate. AL.com reporter Brian Lawson has been looking into inmate health care, and he's heard some troubling stories for former inmates and their families. WBHM's Rachel Osier Lindley sat down with Lawson to find out more.

Interview: Birmingham Barons General Manager Jonathan Nelson

This Saturday, the Birmingham Barons kick off a five-game series against the Tennessee Smokies. The 2013 Southern League Champions are already off to a strong start for their second season at Regions Field. More than 35,000 fans attended the Barons season-opening homestand earlier this month. For more on what to expect this baseball season, WBHM's Rachel Osier Lindley caught up with Birmingham Barons general manager Jonathan Nelson. This is Nelson's 21st season working in professional baseball, and his 10th season as the Barons general manager. In this conversation, Nelson talks about the pressures of following the 2012-2013 season, the impact of the new Regions Field downtown and his favorite Barons mascot.