WATCH: Briarwood Nature Preserve, a natural wonder

Briarwood Nature Preserve, located near Saline, Louisiana, is the birthplace and home of Caroline Dormon, a world renowned naturalist, author, artist and the first woman hired by the United States Forest Service. Click the video below for a tour of the wildflowers and serene landscape.

Discovering history beyond the books

History isn’t as bland of a subject as it’s sometimes portrayed. Many people probably think of a stack of dusty books taking up space in a classroom or library, but I envision a vibrant picture of stories preserved by people, places, and culture.

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Will people know the color of your heart?

I was very honored to have the opportunity to speak to the graduating seniors of my alma mater, Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. On Thursday, May 5, NSU threw a ‘Fork Em Farewell Crawfish Boil’ for seniors and their families. As a board member for the NSU Alumni Association, I was asked to share some advice for these soon-to-be graduates as they set out into the world.

Here are my remarks:

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Advice from a 105-year-old with no intent of slowing down

Advice from a 105-year-old with no intent of slowing down

Northwestern State University’s oldest living graduate, Earline Andrews, turned 105 on Wednesday. We attended NSU nearly 75 years apart.

What a privilege and honor it was Wednesday morning to visit with Tyler resident Earline Andrews on her 105 birthday. She happens to be the oldest living graduate of my alma mater, Northwestern State University! I don’t think she could have been more delighted when we arrived with a beautiful bouquet of flowers on behalf of NSU and balloons from our KLTV morning team.

I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the stories from her time at ‘old Normal,’ short for the college’s former name, Louisiana State Normal College. Andrews explained that Natchitoches, Louisiana has earned a special fondness in her heart. She recalled sleeping on the porch of the girls dorm during warmer months, the plantation bell that signaled the start of each school day, and vivid memories of the famous Christmas lights that adorn the downtown riverbank. Continue reading

Emotional ESPN film profiles heroic death, legacy of NFL great Joe Delaney

This month, the heroic story of NFL legend Joe Delaney will be shared with millions of people around the world in ESPN’s latest ’30 For 30′ film. Wednesday night, I got the chance to attend an advance screening of ‘Delaney,’ the short film profiling the life and legacy of the Kansas City Chiefs running back who died in 1983 while trying to rescue three children from drowning in a pond.

The 20-minute documentary, screened at the Robinson Film Center in Shreveport, Louisiana, beautifully captures an emotional account of Delaney’s tragically short 24-year life and legacy.

The running back from Haughton had an extraordinary collegiate career in both football and track at Northwestern State University. Chosen by the Kansas City Chiefs in the second round of the 1981 NFL draft, Delaney exploded on the field and was selected AFC Rookie of the Year in 1981 and played in the Pro Bowl. Continue reading

No More Pain at the Pump?

A month ago, I was seriously considering taking out a loan to be able to afford filling up my gas tank. I can remember filling up my car in high school for about $1.19. I know gas prices have been much lower than that in my lifetime, but I never honestly expected to see a gallon of gas below 2 dollars again. The amount of money I spent filling up was simply disgusting. Each week, I kept inching closer to 80 bucks for a full tank.  I’d close my eyes and pray that the machine would malfunction and pump a few more drops in for free. Of course I had better chances of winning the lottery, but a guy can dream, right?

In the near-term, lower gas prices is a welcome relief, right? I wonder if the dramatic dip in prices will actually make things worse down the road. Hopefully drivers don’t return to their gas-guzzling habits of the past and submit themselves to the death grip of big oil and foreign influences. We’ve seen a dramatic decrease in the number of drivers on the road and an equally significant drop in the number of big trucks and SUVs rolling off showroom floors. Continue reading

An update on my “Going Green” success

After a little searching and planning, my efforts to go green have been met with some success. In my last post, I discussed my frustration with not being able to participate in curbside recycling. Unfortunately, I’m not eligible for a recycling canister to be placed curbside.

I called Shreveport Green, which suggested I save my recyclables and bring them to the recycling center for collection. Still feeling motivated to make a difference, I bought an outdoor trash can with a lid to place outside on my patio.  I’ve been saving all my recyclable plastics, glass, paper and cardboard. Continue reading

Overcoming my obstacles to “Going Green”

From the rolling hills of the Kisatchie Forest to the marshes and bayous of the Atchafalaya Basin, you can’t escape Louisiana’s natural beauty. Why would you want to? It’s easy to understand why so much time and effort is spent protecting Mother Nature. Current efforts, however, may not be enough.

With a disappearing coastline and hazy skies on hot days, the human footprint on the environment is growing. Recycling is one of the easiest ways to reduce our impact and has been around for years. Some critics say it’s not cost-effective or the impact is negligible without widespread participation.  Well, Earth’s prayers may have been answered.  Continue reading

WATCH: Hurricanes Gustav and Ike dump heavy rain, force evacuations

Click the video below to watch a montage of my reports on the evacuation and sheltering of tens of thousands of Louisiana and Texas residents during hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Standing eye-to-eye with Hurricane Ike

Gusts of wind topping 100 miles per hour, 20 foot storm surge, hazardous airborne debris; you couldn’t ask for a more hazardous work environment.  Who would be crazy enough to voluntarily brave the elements?

I’ve always thought it irresponsible and somewhat sensationalist for TV journalists to stand out in the middle of a hurricane, all for a 50 second live shot. I’m not writing this post because I felt I was put in harm’s way.  In fact, my managers have done everything possible to ensure we keep personal safety at the forefront of everything we do.   It certainly makes for compelling live television, but what journalistic value does standing in a storm provide?  Continue reading

Governor Jindal vetoes legislative pay raise

Governor Bobby JindalToday, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed Senate Bill 672, which would have more than doubled the salaries of state legislators.  The bill would have increased legislator’s pay from $16 thousand a year to over $37 thousand.

Sponsored by Senator Ann Duplessis of New Orleans, the bill originally proposed tripling legislator pay.  That proposition was later amended to only double the increase.  If the bill had been signed into law, Louisiana legislators would be among the highest paid in the South. Continue reading

My photographic journey hits bookshelves

I’ve always had a love and respect for documentary photography. As a journalist, I appreciate quality storytelling. I think a powerful photograph or visual medium is an incredible means for creatively telling a story without leading the observer.

I’ve always enjoyed photographing the natural beauty of historic Natchitoches, Louisiana, so I’ve assembled my favorite shots into a published book. Click here to preview or purchase Natchitoches: Birthplace of Louisiana.

Discovering a road paved in good intention

So few communities today embrace their past as closely as Natchitoches, Louisiana. The town is a heritage tourism hot-spot due to its unique blend of the past and present. While the locals are a relatively forward-looking population, tradition and culture are planted deep within daily life.

The relaxed style of living adds to the close-knit feel of the community. People still hold doors and respond with “ma’am” or “sir” regardless of age. Looking beyond the intangible, physical reminders of Natchitoches’ storied past are synonymous with any visit to the town.

Anyone who can properly pronounce “Natchitoches” most likely associates a memory with one of three things: Christmas lights, meat pies, or brick-paved Front Street. Continue reading

More than 50 thousand demonstrators pack tiny Louisiana town

Thousands of marchers gathered in Jena, Louisiana on Thursday to rally support for Mychal Bell, one of six black students initially charged with attempted murder for the beating of a white classmate. Charges were eventually dropped against five of the teens, while Bell still sits behind bars awaiting trial. I traveled to Jena with my crew from NSU22 to cover the march.

They came from all corners of the country, marching in step behind a unified voice.  Almost 50 thousand people rallied around equal justice for the Jena Six. The tension branched from a tree at Jena High School, where normally only white students could sit under its shade. When black students spoke out, nooses were found hanging from the branches. White students responsible for the act were punished by school administrators, while six black students faced felony assault charges for beating up a white classmate over the incident. Continue reading