Kaia Findlay

Kaia Findlay is a producer for The State of Things, WUNC's daily, live talk show. Kaia grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in a household filled with teachers and storytellers. In elementary school, she usually fell asleep listening to recordings of 1950s radio comedy programs. After a semester of writing for her high school newspaper, she decided she hated journalism. While pursuing her bachelor’s in environmental studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, she got talked back into it. Kaia received a master’s degree from the UNC Hussman School of Journalism, where she focused on reporting and science communication. She has published stories with Our State Magazine, Indy Week, and HuffPost. She most recently worked as the manager for a podcast on environmental sustainability and higher education. Her reporting passions include climate and the environment, health and science, food and women’s issues. When not working at WUNC, Kaia goes pebble-wrestling, takes long bike rides, and reads while hammocking.

 

  The letters begin with various greetings. “Dear 50 year of age self.” “To my future children.” “Dear future me, It’s me, I mean you, but circa 2020.” These are the words of a group of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill undergraduates who processed the reality of a pandemic-dominated year through letters to the future as a class assignment this spring.

This March, our world turned digital. Zoom meetings, virtual school and video chats dominated work, school and home life. To ease this transition to computer-based life, the state’s public libraries stepped up for their communities.

Activist Skip Gibbs was in the midst of leading a protest in Durham this summer when he felt that something wasn’t right. In the crowd, which had gathered to demand that the city council redirect the police department budget into social services, he saw mostly white faces.

Asheville-based singer-songwriter Ben Phantom’s father never talked about his time in Vietnam. So when he finally decided to go back for a visit after 42 years in the United States, Phantom brought a video camera.

Increased coronavirus case numbers and deaths in North Carolina have taken a lethal toll on people inside state prisons. The number of coronavirus-related deaths has doubled since the end of September, and more than one of every six prisoners has tested positive, according to reporting by Charlotte Observer investigative reporter Ames Alexander. In December, four prisoners at four different facilities died in the span of five days. Outbreaks have continued across the system.

The Asheville City Council voted to remove the third and final Confederate monument from Asheville’s Pack Square Tuesday night. The 65-foot Vance Monument commemorates Zebulon Vance, North Carolina’s governor during the Civil War and U.S. Senator during Reconstruction who opposed civil rights for Black people.

When Ella Dawson got diagnosed with genital herpes, she felt like her body betrayed her. Herpes was something dirty, something bad that happened to other people. For a 20-something coming into her sexuality and body confidence, a sexually transmitted infection was a huge setback.

When Anne-Maria Makhulu tells her family history, it sounds as if she is paging through a well-worn textbook in her mind, memories written in the margins next to dates and city names. And in a way, she is. Makhulu is a cultural anthropologist who teaches at Duke University. Her research work is autobiographical, she says, based on her experiences as a child of an English mother and a South African father growing up in Europe and Africa.

Frank Stasio bids WUNC goodbye today as he hosts his last live show before retirement. Stasio hosted thousands of live conversations in his 14 years as permanent host of The State of Things, with guests ranging from politicians and musicians to academics and activists.


A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium protects North Carolina tenants from evictions until the end of the year. Any tenant can provide their landlord with a declaration form that attests they are unable to pay their rent and at risk of homelessness.

What movie is the top of the list for a Buffalo-born, Durham-residing, grandchild-adoring talk show host? For host Frank Stasio’s grand “Movies on the Radio” finale, listeners have submitted their guesses. Is Frank a fan of car chases and cheap beer? Then it might be “Smokey and the Bandit.”


Youth voters came out in record numbers in North Carolina and across the nation. By the end of early voting, North Carolinians aged 18-29 had already reached 93% of their total 2016 turn out, according to data from NextGen America. More data about the impact of youth voters in the 2020 elections is still forthcoming, but preliminary analysis by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University suggests the youth vote helped power Biden into the White House in key states like Michigan and Pennsylvania.

In 2018, Sandra Lawson became the first openly gay, Black female rabbi in the world. But her path to rabbinical school was far from traditional. Lawson grew up in a Christian household with parents who didn’t get along. When she got to college, she lacked focus and dropped out.

When a Kentucky grand jury failed to indict police officers responsible for killing 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, multidisciplinary artist Shanequa Gay turned to her work in a search for justice. Her exhibit “holding space for nobility: a memorial for Breonna Taylor” opened last week at the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill. 


Frank Stasio will join film experts Marsha Gordon and Laura Boyes one last time this November for his Movies on the Radio finale.

So we’re having a contest...can you guess Frank’s favorite film? It might be "Buffalo '66." Or perhaps it’s "Radio Flyer." 

We’ll reveal the answer later this month. Send your best guess to sot@wunc.org, or leave us a voicemail at 919-980-5419.

Election Day has arrived. North Carolinians must visit the polls today or turn in their absentee ballots to get their votes cast in the 2020 election. How will the day go for those voting in person? 

More than a third of registered voters in the U.S. have already cast their ballots. North Carolina saw visits from the president and vice president this week as early voting winds down and Election Day approaches. 

North Carolina has a history of split-ticket voting. In 2016, the state voted in a Republican president — but put a Democrat in the governor’s seat. The same thing happened in 2004, with George W. Bush for president and Mike Easley for governor. 

Tensions between parties are high as Election Day approaches. President Donald Trump has wavered on his commitment to a peaceful transition, leaving some to wonder: is election-related violence a threat this year?

Before tech companies like Google and Facebook, before algorithms became the norm for internet experiences, a mid-20th century company attempted to manipulate the future by simulating human behavior. The Simulmatics Corporation, founded in 1959, built a “People Machine” that modeled everything from how people might vote to what kind of dog food they might buy. The company’s clients included the Democratic National Committee, The New York Times and Department of Defense.

Youth reporter Ellie Stevens hears a lot about what adults want out of the election. But the high school senior felt that she didn’t know what her peers wanted from the candidates running this year. 

Burning Coal Theatre Company’s only in-person performance this fall opened last week to a rapt audience of...four. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the live production of “A Hundred Words for Snow” is being performed before drastically-reduced audience sizes, creating an intimate atmosphere. 

As the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett approach, abortion issues have been thrown into the spotlight once again. President Donald Trump nominated Judge Barrett after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month. Justice Ginsburg was a vocal advocate for women’s rights and endorsed abortion rights when questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee at her confirmation hearing in 1993. While Judge Barrett has not signed onto an official opinion cutting back on the rights guaranteed in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, she has disagreed with appeals courts who struck down laws that restrict abortion in her home state of Indiana.

Ryan Bethea has a job to make many computer-bound office workers jealous. As an oyster farmer, his work takes him out into the waters of Westmouth Bay just off Harkers Island. Bethea farms on five acres and runs his business, Oysters Carolina, which sells fresh oysters to individuals, group events and one restaurant in Durham. 

In 1998, Tori Murden McClure set off in a boat she made herself to become the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She did not make it. Eighty-five days into her journey, Hurricane Danielle capsized her boat more times than she could count. 

While going to the ballot box on Election Day is an important ritual for many voters, the coronavirus pandemic has introduced a change in routine. As of Tuesday, Sept. 28, the North Carolina State Board of Elections has received more than a million absentee ballot requests. At this time in 2016, the Board of Elections had received just over 100,000. While some voters hope to stay healthy by avoiding the polls, mail-in voting still presents some anxiety and uncertainty, especially for historically disenfranchised voters like African Americans and Latinos.

North Carolina State University announced a return to in-person classes and on-campus living for the spring semester yesterday. The school closed in late August after a rise in COVID-19 cases. School reopenings led to spikes in cases across the country, according to a new study co-authored by two North Carolina-based professors — as many as 3,000 cases per day. 

Races for executive and legislative positions in North Carolina are in full swing — but what about the third branch of government? There are 190 judicial seats up for election this year, most notably three seats on the North Carolina Supreme Court. 

The criminal justice system puts prisoners out of sight and out of mind for the public. But the recently published book “Crimson Letters: Voices from Death Row” (Black Rose Writing/2020) aims to draw back the veil on the people and realities that make up North Carolina’s death row. 

Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina on Sept. 14, 2018. Two years later, homes and livelihoods are still on the mend. In Craven County, where the city of New Bern was devastated by flooding from the hurricane, disaster recovery groups are still trying to get assistance to nearly 1,400 households affected by the storm. A podcast series called “Storm Stories” focuses on the people and places who may never be the same after the hurricane.

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