Emerald O'Brien

Civics Desk

Emerald O'Brien comes to KBIA from Colorado, where she grew up listening to NPR shows in the car and begging her parents to turn on something more fun. She is a senior in Convergence Journalism at the University of Missouri, and hopes to continue a career in public radio and making children everywhere hate car rides. 

Ways to Connect

Nathan Lawrence / KBIA

  In this special, hear the voices of journalism students from the University of Missouri. In their time there, they've learned not only about their majors, but also about their identities, their families and their values. They were challenged in their magazine writing class this Spring to tell the stories of those significant learning moments in their lives. With help from their teacher and master-storyteller, Berkley Hudson, they recount stories about experiences from chosen families to chosen names. 

Listen to our radio special of selected commentaries here: 

Jan Mees won reelection to her fourth term on the Columbia Board of Education, and Jim Whitt held off challenger Sarah Dubbert to win his third term.

Jessica Abel

Every storytelling medium has its own set of rules and challenges for how to tell a successful story. Radio is different than print, which is different than Internet, and so forth. It can be hard to cross between them, both for those who tell stories as their job and for those who just use stories to communicate with the people around them. 


Cartoonist Jessica Abel built her career on telling stories through drawing and writing, but more recently she's figured out first-hand how to move between mediums. 

Emerald O'Brien / KBIA

Columbia voters chose to end the roll cart debate at the polls Tuesday. Proposition 1 passed with 54 percent of the vote, banning the city from moving forward with roll carts for trash collection in any way for the next six months.

Ashley Reese / KBIA

The 13th True/False film festival brought new and interesting films from far and near to the city of Columbia once again this year. Last week, art installations filled the streets, large, colorful “Q” signs started appearing outside downtown businesses, and Columbia seemed much more crowded. The words on everyone's lips seemed to be “documentary.”  


This story is part of True/False Conversations, a series of in-depth interviews with the filmmakers of this year's True/False Film Fest. Find the rest of them here or download the podcast on iTunes. 

How do you make a film about the feelings and consequences of suicide through the story of a woman who has been dead 40 years and is barely remembered?


Antonio Tibaldi

This story is part of True/False Conversations, a series of in-depth interviews with the filmmakers of this year's True/False Film Fest. Find the rest of them here or download the podcast on iTunes. 

From afar, "Thy Father's Chair" seems to follows the apparent television mantra: "Hoarders makes for great entertainment." But even as the first scenes unfold, it's clear that this is not the average messy house story. The observational documentary follows a pair of adult Orthodox Jewish twins, who are forced to clean up their family's Brooklyn home after the death of their parents. However, as they dig through the clutter and garbage, the twins and the filmmakers delve into questions about faith, rules, pain and letting go.

Nathan Lawrence / KBIA

In this special, hear the voices of journalism students from the University of Missouri. They know that figuring out who you are isn't as easy as it sounds. They were challenged in their magazine writing capstone class to tell stories from their lives that have helped shape who they are. With help from their teacher and master-storyteller, Berkley Hudson, they recount stories from first loves and first tattoos to losses that touched their lives. 

Mike Matthes / City of Columbia website

  City Manager Mike Matthes got a salary increase after much city council discussion last night.

The amendment to Matthes’ contract had unanimous approval, taking his base salary from $150,000 to $165,000. But as Third Ward Council Member Karl Skala made clear, Matthes is not actually receiving a $15,000 raise.

Rural electric pole
File Photo / KBIA

Twelve Columbia residents spoke to city council members Monday night in opposition to new high-voltage power lines to be built on the south side of Columbia. This opposition followed a report by city staff outlining the details and progress of the project. According to the report, the additional lines are needed to lighten the load on existing power lines in that part of town. The plan has been in the works since 2007 and a route was chosen in 2013, but residents’ concerns prompted the council to reopen the issue for another public hearing.

Emerald O'Brien / KBIA

  Columbia residents heard from the planning group working on an updated development code for the final time Wednesday night. After almost two years of work, Clarion Associates submitted a final draft to Columbia’s Planning and Zoning Commission in October.

Don Elliot, who is the director of Clarion’s Denver team, presented an overview of the potential code, which condenses the current development code into five sections and integrates many existing requirements.  

File Photo / KBIA

The issue of roll carts came back up in front of the Columbia City Council last night, and will be in front of voters next year. The council discussed an initiative petition to ban roll carts as the city’s way to collect garbage, and  unanimously voted to put the issue in front of voters during the presidential primary on March 15, 2016.

Emerald O'Brien / KBIA

  There were no signs that downtown Columbia would become a center for housing 27 years ago, nor that it would become a hotbed for debate about it. But that’s what the last several years have proven to be, going as far as a lawsuit against the city, and development in downtown Columbia still divides residents.

For two years, the outside consulting firm Clarion Associates has been working to update the city’s development code to help regulate the influx of large new building. On Wednesday November 4, Columbia’s Community Development Department will hold a public forum on the final draft of that code. The draft will be available for public comment until December 4th, and then the Planning and Zoning Commission will make a final review before sending it to city council for voting.

File Photo / KBIA

Red light cameras were ruled constitutional by Missouri’s Supreme Court in August, but they won’t be coming back to Columbia, yet.

Emerald O'Brien / KBIA

A plan to build at least 18 new bus shelters in Columbia is moving forward after last night’s city council meeting.

The Council voted unanimously to approve the project after a public hearing with 10 speakers - almost all in support of the plan. The city will use $570,000 funds from the federal and local grants to build the shelters.

Columbia Public Schools / cpsk12.org


  Monday night, the Columbia Public Schools’ Board of Education approved an evaluation of whether or not the district could manage marketing for sports teams internally.

Currently, the district is in a five-year contract with Kelly Sports Properties, a marketing company based in Columbia. The contract is set to expire on June 30, 2016.

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

 During Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. last month, he praised the late Thomas Merton as one of four great Americans. Merton was one of the most influential Catholic writers of the 20th century. He spent the last twenty years of his life as a Trappist Monk in a monastery called the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. After his death, his writings remained in the public sphere, but it seemed that little else was left from the man who inspired so many. But this summer, hundreds of his items reappeared in Missouri.


  The Columbia City Council adopted a $442 million budget for the 2016 fiscal year unanimously Monday night. The new budget includes an extra $11 million in both revenues and expenditures from last year, with no new taxes.

vote here sign
KBIA file photo

A majority of the 14 registered voters living in Columbia’s Business Loop Community Improvement District, or CID, have been casting ballots over the past few years.

If the CID board were to pursue a half-cent sales tax increase, these 14 voters could cast the deciding votes. Without voters in the district, property owners could push through the tax hike. After one voter was discovered, the board postponed the election. A recent KBIA investigation revealed an additional 13 voters in the district bringing the total to 14.

Rep. Chris Kelly


   Last night was the first meeting of the Mayor’s Task Force on Infrastructure, a group approved by the city council in July to help guide the city in addressing the infrastructure problems created by the growth of downtown.

The first meeting was mostly housekeeping: introductions and basic structure for future meetings. But the group also began to set protocol for its assignment.

Emerald O'Brien / KBIA

As mobile health technologies like Fitbits and Apple Health become more common, better health seems inevitable. But much of the data that users can now track never actually reaches their doctors.

That’s one of the problems University of Missouri psychiatrist Dr. Ganesh Gopalakrishna faced while treating his patients with various mental illnesses. While some of his patients were logging their activity, both mental and physical, he couldn’t get a good record of it.

Mike Matthes / City of Columbia website

An attorney representing the Columbia Police Officer's Association (CPOA) sent a letter to City Manager Mike Matthes today asking him to rescind a request to remove the association's executive director, Dale Roberts.

MU Health Care / University of Missouri Health System

A program at the University of Missouri is training social workers to bring behavioral healthcare into primary care clinics. The Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training program is run through the MU School of Social Work and completed its first year in July.

Emerald O'Brien / KBIA


  It has been 20 years since the massacre at Srebrenica, Bosnia, when some 8,000 Bosnian men and boys died or went missing. Bosnian-Americans now living in Missouri can't escape the memories.

See the original story from Morning Edition here.

alamosbasement / flickr


  When it comes to kids, physical health may be what sends them to the doctor. Scrapes and fevers may get students sent to the school nurse.

But studies from the National Institute of Mental Health show that half of all mental disorders start by age 14, and almost half of teens have a mental disorder.

Emerald O'Brien / KBIA

Dan Rader spent the final 12 hours of campaign time trying to get his name out, although in a less than conventional manner. Rader is running for Columbia’s First Ward City council seat against six other candidates, and he used bright blue shirts, buses touting signs and a man in a gorilla suit with a megaphone to set himself apart.

He and his campaign seemed focused on MU’s campus, and specifically Greektown.

Questions were more focused and answers were more coherent at the second forum for First Ward City Council candidates last night. The forum was split into two parts, one for questions about development in the First Ward and one for questions about infrastructure. The questions went deeper and the audience held the candidates to their answers more than in the first forum, which was completely audience driven and was open to any topic.

Press Photo / Meru

The Shark’s Fin route of Meru Peak in the Himalayas is considered one of the most challenging climbs in the world. The ascent to the almost 21,000 foot summit has defeated dozens of professional mountain climbers. Meru, one of the films at this weekend’s True False Film Festival, documents three climbers’ trip to the top of the peak where so many others have failed.

  Candidates for Columbia’s First Ward City Council seat came together for the first time Friday after the deadline to enter the race passed last week. Seven of the eight candidates spoke at the first of three public forums before the April election.

Emerald O'Brien / KBIA

The Columbia Fire Department rescued a man trapped in a well at the University of Missouri power plant on Thursday. The fire department was dispatched around 2 p.m. to extract a University Campus Facilities employee who experienced a medical issue while performing regular maintenance on the well.

The well is about 20 feet underground and is one of five drinking water wells on the MU campus.

MU News Bureau Associate Director Christian Basi said the employee’s medical condition required calling and utilizing the fire department, but it wasn't so severe that there wasn't enough time to wait for the crew to arrive.