Master’s Project

7032688781_2006e425e8_k.jpgReported and produced radio series on free digital music and copyright law for Columbia Journalism School.

Talked with musicians, copyright experts and music industry professionals about what free streaming music means for the future of the industry. Originally completed in August of 2012.


All Boroughs to Share Burden of NYC Trash

Solid waste is transported outside of Newtown Creek Nature Walk in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Dealing with New York City’s 25,000 tons of trash each day is getting harder all the time.

Garbage treatment facilities exist around the city in areas that were once industrial, but are now more residential. According to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Solid Waste Management Plan, one of the city’s environmental goals is borough equity: all five have to share the burden of the city’s garbage.

And a state appeals court decision last month upheld the city’s right to build a new facility in Manhattan, against resident’s objections.No solution is popular, but New Yorkers can agree on one thing: nobody wants garbage in their backyard. Annie Russell reports.
N: It’s a sunny day in Greenpoint. A perfect day for a stroll. How about the Newtown Creek Nature Walk? The quarter-mile stretch of public space opened in 2007 and sits in the industrial area right next to the Newtown Creek Sewage Treatment Plant. The silver entrance gates sparkle in the sunlight.

SOUND: Gate slamming.

N: But the walk itself is less emerald city, more wicked witch’s castle. A concrete passageway snakes around a parking lot, an asphalt factory, and utilitarian office buildings.

The view? The New York Skyline. And a giant pile of trash.

Kyoko Masutni biked here to eat lunch overlooking the water. She won’t go closer than that.

A: MASUTNI 1: “My boyfriend tries to canoe, even though he is aware it’s polluted.”

As she eats her tofu sandwich, she’s gazing across the creek at the industrial landscape.

SOUND: Water in the creek

N: She lives around here and she knows about the neighborhood’s other environmental issues, like the underground oil spill, and radioactive waste storage facility nearby. Masutni thinks about that.

A: MASUTNI 2: “I’m probably not staying in North Brooklyn for long term.”

N: The waste treatment plant doesn’t make it any more attractive. North Brooklyn and the South Bronx are home to most of the city’s sanitation facilities. Together they handle about 30% of the city’s trash.

That inequality is why the city wants to build a Marine Transfer Station on East 91st street and the East River in Manhattan, directly through an athletic center. The idea is not popular.

A: MACK 1: “It’s a significant safety hazard, just to pedestrians, to children. The fact that the entrance ramp bisects the Asphalt Green facility is very worrisome.

N: That’s David Mack. He’s the Vice President of Residents for Sane Trash Solutions, an Upper East Side group that opposes the facility.

He says the East side station will increase garbage truck traffic and will not necessarily relieve the burden on outer boroughs, since much of Manhattan’s garbage is now transported to New Jersey. But he says a city officials have told him there’s a quid pro quo.

A: MACK 2 “This facility has to be built, because we struck a deal with these other communities that if they had a waste transfer site built, that you would have one built.”

No one from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection was available to speak on tape. But the city’s Solid Waste Management Plan cites environmental studies that say spreading these facilities around is healthier for New Yorkers.

Annie Russell, Columbia Radio News.

Bloomberg Stands by Fingerprinting Policy

Originally aired on Uptown Radio March 2, 2012

People wait in line to enter the Northern Brooklyn Food Stamp and DeKalb Job Center on Friday, Feb. 24. Photo by Mark Lennihan, AP.

HOST INTRO 1: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo vowed in his State of the State address in January to get rid of a practice he thinks is invasive and unfair.

ACT: (CUOMO 1): “I’m saying stop fingerprinting for families with children for food.”

HOST INTRO 2: New York State started doing this in 1996 to prevent fraud and clerical errors, but stopped in 2007. Only New York City requires it now, along with the state of Arizona. California and Texas recently passed laws to end the practice. New Yorkers are divided on the issue, but there’s at least one strong advocate: Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Annie Russell reports.

RUSSELL: June Scott is waiting to meet with her social worker in a sunny Hell’s Kitchen office.

She’s 38, and has a disability that allows her to collect Social Security Income.

She’s here today because she wants help finding a job. She says fingerprinting is an invasion of privacy.

ACT (SCOTT 1): If you want food, and you can’t afford to buy food, why should you be fingerprinted for that? That doesn’t make any sense to me.

RUSSELL: Scott isn’t on food stamps right now, and says she would not apply if it meant she had to be fingerprinted.

This is one of Cuomo’s big points. Just over a million New York City residents are on food stamps, but he says an additional thirty percent are eligible. He thinks fingerprinting scares them away.

June Scott’s social worker, Yan Bennis, isn’t so sure. He helps his clients apply for food stamps all the time.

ACT (BENNIS 1): I think that as long as it prevents fraud and everything else I think it’s worth it and we would wind up saving money that way.

RUSSELL: Mayor Bloomberg agrees. On his weekly show on WOR Radio last Friday, he said the policy saved the city 5 million dollars last year in overpayments.

It’s not clear whether those were fraud or errors, but he says the savings prove the policy is working.

ACT: (BLOOMBERG 1): It’s no stigma because all of our city employees do it. Most companies do it in this day and age. I don’t know who doesn’t. It’s not painful, it doesn’t take any time.

RUSSELL: City employees are fingerprinted, but that’s not the case everywhere.

A spokesperson for the company the mayor founded, Bloomberg LP, said it does not fingerprint incoming employees, but uses fingerprinting for computer access.

Social worker Yan Bennis adds that most people on food stamps are never fingerprinted.

Anyone who applied before 1996 was grandfathered in.

But if Cuomo wants to get rid of the practice, he may have more support in 2013. Everyone who’s expressed interest in running for New York City mayor next year agrees that fingerprinting should stop.

Annie Russell, Columbia Radio News.

Selling Laughs in Times Square

Voices of New York Postcard for Uptown Radio. Originally aired February 17, 2012.

HOST INTRO: Times Square is full of comedy clubs hoping to entertain New York’s many tourists. But getting customers into the seats is no joke. Sidewalk sellers work strictly on commission, and some days they don’t leave laughing. Annie Russell reports.

RUSSELL: Friday afternoon on 7th Avenue. Another busy day for Midtown’s comedy promoters.

SOUND: (OVALEZ AND LADIES 1): “Do you lovely ladies like stand up comedy? Oh, you’re on the move, have a good one.

ACT (OVALEZ 1): My name is David Ovalez and I’m a promoter for the comedy clubs here in Times Square. This is a very difficult job. A lot of people cannot do it. 90% of people quit in the first two weeks. I was one of them. I quit this job three times. I was like ‘I can’t do this, it’s too hard.’ It’s stopping the people. That’s the hardest part.”

RUSSELL: Ovalez is paid by the comedy clubs on commission. If he can’t convince anyone to buy a $30 ticket to the show, he doesn’t get paid. He says the rejection builds character.
ACT: (OVALEZ 2): “After you get used to the rejection, it’s nothing, you know what I mean? I can go to the club and talk to any girl now,”

RUSSELL: And there are other perks to his job.

ACT: (OVALEZ 3)“I’ve gotten plenty of girls’ numbers from this job, yes. And it all starts with “Do you like stand-up comedy?”

RUSSELL: But today, no luck. After four hours in Times Square, Ovalez has yet to make a sale. Finally, someone stops.

SOUND (OVALEZ AND TOURIST): “My friend, do you like stand-up comedy?” “I do!” he replies. “Where are you from my friend?”
“Denmark. I’m actually leaving America today” “Did you have fun in New York?” “Yes it was awesome,” “Alright, have a good one,”

ACT (OVALEZ 4): “Almost, almost. You always want to say “have a nice day” or “have a good one” to keep your spirits up as well, you know what I mean? You go through a lot of rejection out here.”

RUSSELL: No sale today, but Ovalez says he’ll be back at 9:00am tomorrow. Annie Russell, Columbia Radio News.

Fans Mourn Whitney Houston at Apollo Theatre in Harlem


Day report for Uptown Radio, originally aired February 17, 2012.

Whitney Houston shrine in front of the Apollo Theater. Credit: Annie Russell

HOST INTRO: Since Whitney Houston’s death last Saturday, fans around the world have mourned the star many call the “Queen of Pop.” In New York City, fans have been gathering in front the Apollo Theater in Harlem, where they’re building an impromptu memorial.

By Annie Russell

RUSSELL: There’s a growing shrine of roses, photos, balloons and candles on the sidewalk in front of the Apollo Theater. Fan Therese Todman says she felt it was important to come.

ACT (TODMAN 1): “I have to show my respect by writing something on the wall for her. That the world could see.”

RUSSELL: The Apollo is an appropriate place for this memorial. Countless contestants for the theater’s iconic “amateur night” sang Houston’s songs, hoping to mimic her soaring voice. And the star filmed one of her first music videos here for her single “The Greatest Love of All.”

SOUND: Fade up and under narr, “Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston.

RUSSELL: Also here is retired teacher Mary Ann Sussoni, who says she used to play this song for her students. She’s surprised at how hard she’s taking this.

ACT (SUSSONI 1): “I haven’t been- except for my family members when they’ve gone that I’ve been so sad. And I’m feeling so sad for a person that’s not a family member, but yet feels like a family member.”

RUSSELL: Sussoni says it’s been an emotional week. She found herself writing poetry about Houston on the subway ride to the memorial. Some visitors, she said, were more cynical.

ACT (SUSSONI 2): “Someone just stood here and said ‘Oh what a waste.’ And I said ‘it wasn’t a waste, it’s a deep loss’”

RUSSELL: Local musicians have come to pay their respects too. Lord Harrison is a rapper who comes to 125th street to promote his group. He says he’s signed the wall several times since Saturday.

ACT (HARISSON 1)“I just wrote ‘without you there wouldn’t be no me.’ She gives me the goose bumps. She’s the best.”

RUSSELL: Like so many fans at the Apollo, Harrison has a personal relationship with Houston’s music.

ACT (HARRISON 2) “She taught me how to French kiss, Whitney Houston. I learned how to French kiss off of her songs.”

RUSSELL: Across the street from the Apollo, there’s a store called Kiss Electronics. Clerk Jasmine Mahla says the demand for Houston’s music has been overwhelming:

ACT (MALA 1): “Everything is gone, all her CDs, DVDs, everything is on backorder.”

RUSSELL: Mahla says fans started coming in so soon that there was no time to create a display of Houston’s records and films.

ACT (MALA 2): After her death that was Saturday, the next day everything was gone.”

RUSSELL: Mahla says customers had no preference for a specific album or song, but many have the same favorite.


RUSSELL: That was her hit from the movie “The Bodyguard,” I will always love you. Houston’s funeral at New Hope Baptist Church is invitation only, but the Associated Press will live stream the service on their website tomorrow.

Annie Russell, Columbia Radio News.