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'Morning Edition' staffers reflect on some of their memorable 2023 stories

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Now, as hosts of this program, we usually say our names at the top of each story, but now we want to take a moment and highlight the names that you don't usually hear on this show.

ASMA KHALID, HOST:

And we're talking about the talented and sleep-deprived editors and producers who bring you MORNING EDITION every single day. Here are some of their favorite stories of 2023.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHEEP BLEATING)

CLAIRE MURASHIMA, BYLINE: I'm Claire Murashima. This year, I looked into quirky classes, including sheep management at the University of Maryland. Students are paired with a pregnant ewe to care for, and Professor Sarah Balcom said that they go to great lengths to see the baby lambs for the first time.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

SARAH BALCOM: They have told me stories of waking up in the middle of the night and driving 45 minutes and trying hard not to speed because you're never quite sure if the cop's going to believe you that you're going to the birth of your lamb.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHEEP BLEATING)

MURASHIMA: This class stuck with me because it's so different from the education I had growing up. One student told me the hands-on format helped with her learning disabilities.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROGUE WAVE SONG, "LAKE MICHIGAN")

LINDSAY TOTTY, BYLINE: Hey, I'm Lindsay Totty. I'm a producer with MORNING EDITION. This summer, there was a social media trend where people were talking about a movie called "Zepotha." The idea was that it was this '80s cult classic horror movie. But here's the thing - the movie doesn't exist. It all started with a musician in the United Kingdom named Emily Jeffri.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DO YOU REMEMBER ME???")

EMILY JEFFRI: (Singing) Do you remember me?

TOTTY: She got her TikTok followers to pretend they were fans of this old movie called "Zepotha" and post about it online, spreading the music she wrote as part of its soundtrack. Now, Jeffri seemed to have this whole movie cooked up in her imagination, and she brought her fans in on the fun.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

JEFFRI: It'd be, like, the villain. Oh, my God, it'd be the villain showing up at the end and, like, looking up at the camera after you think that they've, like, died and then the end credits would roll and it would be so cool. And then the song plays out as the credits are rolling. That's totally what it would be.

TOTTY: This just shows that people on the internet will create a community around just about anything. It was definitely the most fun story I worked on this year.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DO YOU REMEMBER ME???")

JEFFRI: (Singing) Do you remember me?

ADAM BEARNE, BYLINE: I'm Adam Bearne. And here at MORNING EDITION, sometimes we make stories happen that seem impossible to pull off when we first think of them. That happened in March when, to mark the anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq, we brought together a U.S. pilot who dropped bombs on Baghdad with a former resident of the city. Here's Shaymaa Khalil and Steve Ankerstar.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

STEVE ANKERSTAR: Are you hopeful that things are going to be better in 20, 30 years from now between U.S.-Iraqi relations? Or are you pessimistic in that so much damage has been done that there might not be a good way forward in the future?

SHAYMAA KHALIL: I think I have hope because if you don't have hope, we can't live. So as much as we can open spaces for learning from each other, I think this will make change.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOLAR HEAVY'S "OCEANS")

MILTON GUEVARA, BYLINE: My name is Milton Guevara. In September, I traveled with a MORNING EDITION team to a refugee camp in Adre, Chad. We were there to speak with people who fled their homes in Sudan because of the civil war. Salah Almeida Omer was one of them.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

SALAH ALMEIDA OMER: I built all my life to make generation and make (inaudible) and did my best and forced to leave my house.

GUEVARA: His story really stuck with me. Unfortunately, the war in Sudan continues to kill and displace thousands of people.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JULIE DEPENBROCK, BYLINE: My name is Julie Depenbrock. I'm a producer, and the most memorable story I worked on this year was about writer Elizabeth Rush's book "The Quickening," which chronicles her journey to Antarctica and motherhood. As someone who'd been covering climate change for years, Rush knew that seeing the melting ice might change her mind about bringing a child into this unstable world, but still, she went. I love this conversation with Rush because it was a rare story of hope and survival in a time that can feel really apocalyptic and scary.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

ELIZABETH RUSH: There are many people on this planet who have lived through many different kinds of endings before. I think of the Indigenous inhabitants of the Americas, like, their worlds have been ending for five centuries. And at some level, of course, climate change is a different scale of transition, but I also think that these kinds of Earth transformations have happened before, and there's a lot of wisdom in how to survive them.

(SOUNDBITE OF ELIOR'S "DISCOVER")

JAN JOHNSON, BYLINE: This is Jan Johnson. The actor who played Dwight in "The Office" knows it's a little unexpected to hear him talk about finding meaning in life, but when Rainn Wilson spoke to Rachel Martin about a spiritual revolution and his book "Soul Boom," he shared an anecdote that I'm taking to heart right about now. Here he is talking about what he called a transformative moment with the man behind the film classic "My Dinner With Andre."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

RAINN WILSON: I was fortunate as an actor to study with the great acting teacher Andre Gregory. And he would meet with the students, and I had tea with him once, and he said, how are you doing, Rainn? And I said, you know, Andre, I'm just feeling so cynical, I'm feeling pessimistic, the world is a pile of crap, and it's getting worse. And I'll never forget this experience. He grabbed my arm. I mean, even back then, he was, like, 80 years old. Now he's like 110. He grabbed my arm like a vise, and he looked into my eyes, and he said, stop it. Don't do it. Don't be cynical. If you're cynical, they win. You have to keep hope alive.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE RUBY SUNS SONG, "IN REAL LIFE")

MARTÍNEZ: Some of the brilliant and dedicated staff of MORNING EDITION.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE RUBY SUNS SONG, "IN REAL LIFE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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