Here are a few of the stories I enjoyed writing during my four years with The Grand Island Independent. The Independent's online archives were wiped out in a redesign in December 2008, so any stories from before that time are text-only PDFs from my files. Breaking News • I wrote two stories on a tornado that touched down near Aurora, Neb., in June 2009 -- one written the night of the tornado and the other the following day. • I wrote about the FDIC's closing of a bank in Loup City, Neb., in February 2009. As with all FDIC closings, the bank's shutdown was announced shortly before 5 p.m. on a Friday, and the story was written that evening. • I wrote extensively about an April 2007 fire that destroyed one-quarter of the downtown square of Broken Bow, Neb. The fire started on a Sunday night; my initial story was written the next day. I wrote two more follow-ups that week, plus a feature two weeks later on the fire dangers faced by other small-town downtowns. Explanatory Journalism • When an group opposing a potential school bond in Ord, Neb., hired a controversial Iowa "bond-buster" in June 2008, I wrote about his history in Iowa and Minnesota school districts. • After Nebraska's annual state aid to schools was announced in February 2008, I wrote a story explaining its impact on smaller districts. • In December 2006, I wrote about why Nebraska didn't have more wind power despite the state's significant resources. Then, a year later, I explained why wind power had begun to take off. Feature Writing • In November 2008, I wrote about the Pawnee Nation's first major return to Nebraska since 1875. • A series I wrote in August 2008 examined challenges faced by central Nebraska's smallest public schools. Part one delved into districts' difficulties finding qualified teachers, part two looked at superintendents who oversee multiple districts and part three showed how small districts were using distance learning to level the playing field with larger ones. • I wrote a two-part series in October 2007 on small towns' efforts to court young professionals. Part one looked at towns' problems with having too few young people, and part two looked at what towns were doing to draw them back. • In November 2006, five months after the local diocese of the Catholic Church clustered several rural congregations in our area, I examined the emotional and spiritual toll. Blogging From August 2009 through the time I left in April 2010, I authored a beatblog at The Independent in Grand Island, Neb., called The Scenic Route. The blog, which covered issues of interest to rural central Nebraska, was the first regularly updated blog at The Independent. Here are a few posts from that blog on the amounts of local school bonds, the area's hidden tourism treasures, and crane migration statistics.