Alex Smith | KCUR

Alex Smith

Health Reporter

Alex Smith is a health reporter for KCUR. 

Alex began working in radio as an intern at the National Association of Farm Broadcasters. A few years and a couple of radio jobs later, he became the assistant producer of KCUR's magazine show, KC Currents. He became health reporter at KCUR in January 2014.

Ways to Connect

Who was Blind Boone?

Aug 18, 2011

It's often a challenge for even the most hard-core jazz buffs to remember Missouri's pre-ragtime composer known as Blind Boone.

KANSAS CITY, MO – The National Endowment for the Arts recently announced a pledge of $200,000 to help restore the long-abandoned Boone Theater in the 18th and Vine District. While it's a welcome boost for the neighborhood, even many Missourians are hard-pressed to remember the 19th century composer and pianist for whom the theater was named.

Kansas City, MO – The Great Plains is not exactly the setting you might imagine for the continuation of a dynasty of tai chi masters. But when the descendant of the inventors of this martial art moved to KC, she brought with her a rich tradition that has been part of her family for centuries. KCUR's Alex Smith brings us to the Shawnee, Kansas studio where this master and her husband teach and practice.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Sometimes when we hear about flooding in our area, it's easy to get a little leery about what's coming out of our facets. That's especially true when the tap water tastes a little different than usual. Could there be sewage or pesticides leaking into our water supply? Is it safe? This week, Alex Smith investigated.

A Matter of Taste

Photo of books at Prospero's Bookstore courtesy of flickr user _Madolan_.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – During the last 20 years, there's been a kind of quiet war going on. It's over who sells books and how they do it. In the early 90s, most book selling happened in small, locally-owned stores. But the rise of giant retailers and then threatened many of the small stores with extinction.

A group of young Kansas City artists are trying a new way of funding the arts by feeding people.

Kansas City, Mo. – It's a tough time to be an artist. Federal and state governments are cutting back on funding, and, while the art market is improving, it's still slow. KCUR's Alex Smith has the story.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – This past week, UMKC held a luncheon to honor some of its most accomplished alumni. Among the group was a man Kansas City hasn't seen much since he graduated over 40 years ago. Dr. Mutuku Mutinga has spent most of his life combating insect-borne diseases in his native Kenya, but he credits his years in Kansas City with giving him the tools he's needed to carry on the fight.

While he was in town, Dr. Mutinga told his story to KCUR's Alex Smith.

Mission Hills City Hall. Photo by

Mission Hills, Kan. – Mission Hills is doing unusually well in tough times, but it has always been an unusual place. There are only three business - all country clubs - in the whole city. It has no police department. Law enforcement, snow plowing and just about every other city service is contracted from outside the city. Clinging to the Kansas side of the State Line, Mission Hills is just a sliver of two square miles, home to just 3,500 people.

Photo by Angie Jennings.

LAWRENCE, Ks. – Until recently, there were eight known species of Southeast Asian butterfly lizards. But a KU biology student has added another to the count, and he discovered the new species on the menu of a Vietnamese restaurant.

KANSAS CITY, Mo – The 4th district stretches from the Missouri River south to 79th Street and between Troost and State Line, including much of downtown and midtown. Five candidates might seem like a lot of plans and philosophies to sift through, but, for the most part, all five candidates have nearly identical ideas on what the city council should do. Voters will see the five following candidates on the ballot: John Crawford, Jim Glover, Anne McGregor, Edward Pace, and Annie Presley.

Kansas City, MO – Action movie fans may have noticed some different fight moves on the big screen in recent years. In the James Bond film Casino Royale and all three of the Bourne Identity movies, the good guys are using Filipino martial arts to bust up the bad guys.

Now, a former police trainer living in Prairie Village is adapting those moves to help women learn self-defense. KCUR's Alex Smith dropped in on a class to find out more.

Kansas City, MO – For the past several years, Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, Kansas, has been the last place on the planet that officially develops Kodak's Kodachrome film. But with the end of 2010, the lab stopped processing Kodachrome.

So in the past few months, the lab has been receiving thousands of film rolls a day from all over the world. KC Currents' Alex Smith hit the road for Parsons to find out more.

Harold O'Neal recently talked about his musical and extra-musical adventures of the past few years.

Kansas City, MO – Pianist Harold O'Neal's new album Whirling Mantis doesn't come out of the New York jazz clubs where he most often performs. Instead, the songs were largely inspired by the time he spent studying martial arts here in his hometown of Kansas City.


Related story:

Kansas City, MO – We're in the middle of the five-day Hindu celebration of Diwali. On Saturday, some 2000 people gathered at the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center to celebrate with the region's biggest-ever Diwali party.

Earlier last week, KC Currents' Alex Smith went to temple to find out more about the holiday known as the "festival of lights."

Kansas City, MO – Missouri Proposition B squeaked in last night by two points.

Supporters say the measure will require dog breeders to provide safer and cleaner conditions for animals.

At the 75th Street Brewery, a group of nearly forty had dwindled to seven when Proposition B was declared victorious just before midnight. Dispelling some campaign rumors, a spokesperson for the Missourians for the Protection of Dogs says they have no other plans to set up rules for the treatment of animals in business or agriculture in Missouri.

Kansas City, MO – Almost daily polls show a tough uphill battle for Democrats for this election. It's a sea change from the enthusiasm for Obama two years ago, which was especially strong in younger voters. KCUR's Alex Smith recently spoke with some Democratic organizers at UMKC about the changes they've witnessed working on the front lines.

This coming weekend, Kansas Citians will have the chance to hear two internationally-known concert pianists. And they're traveling all the way from . . . Parkville.

Kansas City, MO – KCUR's Alex Smith has the story of how Park University has built a world-famous conservatory with the help of Uzbek-born pianist Stanislav Ioudenitch.

photo: Sara Forrest Photography

The new season of the Kansas City Ballet is its last at the Lyric Theatre before next fall's move to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Kansas City, MO – The new season of the Kansas City Ballet is its last at the Lyric Theatre before next fall's move to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

In the jazz world, making it big isn't what it used to be. Record sales are down, instrumentals don't make hit songs, and even Grammy-winners need day jobs. But for those with the right combination of talent, dedication and luck, it's still possible to make a living and good music.

Kansas City, MO – This week, the Royals hosted the Oakland Athletics in a series that resulted in 1 win for the A's and 2 wins for Kansas City. Long-time baseball fans might recognized the A's visit as a kind of homecoming; before the Royals, the A's were Kansas City's home team from mid- 50s to the mid- 60s.

Kansas City musicians Nathan Granner and Jeffrey Rukaman have a new take on the iconic 1955 Frank Sinatra album.

Kansas City, MO – Kansas City has seen its fair share of "tribute" bands in the past few years. Midtown bars have hosted sometimes nearly note-for-note renditions of music by Radiohead, U2 and Huey Lewis and the News, to name a few.

Kansas City, MO – Earlier this summer, about 25 Cuban families gathered to honor Father Patrick Tobin, a Catholic Priest who helped them settle in Kansas City almost 50 years ago. As a board member of Catholic Relief Services, Tobin was given the job of helping refugees fleeing the Cuban Revolution. Tobin organized parishes in Kansas City to provide housing, jobs and basic services for the Cubans. Alex Smith spoke with Father Patrick Tobin as well as one of the Cubans who arrived in the early 60s, Maria Rovarosa.

Simulating Poverty

Jun 22, 2010

Kansas City, MO – If you grew up in Kansas City anytime since 1980, you probably took a school field trip to Exchange City. At this learning center, grade school students take on the roles of various members of an adult community, like the mayor, banker and radio reporter, to learn how the economy of the "real world" really works.

Valley Falls, Kan. – This coming weekend, E.H. Young Park in Riverside will serve as a showcase not just for Scottish culture, but for feats of strength as well with the the Kansas City Scottish Highland Games.

This story was produced for KC Currents. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KC Currents Podcast.

Kansas City, Mo. – If you've been paying careful attention to the financial crisis in the past few years, or the more recent news of financial reform proposals, you've probably come across the unconventional views of economist and law professor Bill Black. He's recently testified before Congress four times, and he's appeared on Bill Moyer's Journal and in Michael Moore's film Capitalism: A Love Story. He's also been heard as an expert commentator on NPR News and This American Life.

Kansas City, Mo. – Many in the health and pharmaceutical industries believe that the greatest possibilities for indigenous knowledge in mainstream society may come from natural healing remedies. Commonly used herbal remedies like aloe vera for burns, St. John's wort for depression and valerian root for insomnia are proven not just by clinical trials, but by thousands of years of traditional use.

Kansas City, Mo. – Businessman and political boss Tom Pendergast was a major player in Kansas City life for nearly 20 years. Many of the facts of his underground activities during Prohibition have been lost to history.

But new renovations and development in the Crossroads have recently revealed another clue to understanding the man who's been called the Al Capone of the Plains.

Kansas City's Experimental Instrument Orchestra is a folk band, in which the two members craft their own instruments.

Kansas City, MO – Folk music has always relied on a do-it-yourself philosophy. But Kansas City's Experimental Instrument Orchestra takes the idea to new extremes. They not only improvise music, but also create their own instruments. KCUR's Alex Smith recently spoke with EIO band members Amy Farrand and Mark Smeltzer.

Kansas City guitarist Will Matthews has toured and recorded with the Count Basie Orchestra for nearly 15 years, but he's also found time to develop a solo career.

Kansas City, MO – In the 1930's, Kansas City may have served as the jazz capital of the world, but today, you rarely hear the swing music of groups like the Count Basie Orchestra. Count Basie died in 1984, but his band continues to play around the world to audiences craving the classic Basie sound.

Lawrence, Kan. – Now that it seems spring may have really begun, farmers and gardeners are making plans to grow food and ornamental plants. But an ambitious new project at the University of Kansas has researchers tilling the soil in hopes of growing medicine. KC Currents' Alex Smith went to Lawrence this week to find out more.