Frank Morris

National Correspondent and Senior Editor

Frank Morris has supervised the reporters in KCUR's newsroom since 1999. In addition to his managerial duties, Morris files regularly with National Public Radio. He’s covered everything from tornadoes to tax law for the network, in stories spanning eight states. His work has won dozens of awards, including four national Public Radio News Directors awards (PRNDIs) and several regional Edward R. Murrow awards. In 2012 he was honored to be named "Journalist of the Year" by the Heart of America Press Club.

Morris grew up in rural Kansas listening to KHCC, spun records at KJHK throughout college at the University of Kansas, and cut his teeth in journalism as an intern for Kansas Public Radio, in the Kansas statehouse.


9:18 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Missouri Among States Suing California Over Henhouse Restrictions

Hens living high on the hog on David Kesten's family farm
Credit Frank Morris / KCUR-FM

By most measures David Kesten's hens are living the good life.

"They can act like chickens, they can run around," says Kesten, who's raising hens in an old wooden shed in the open countryside near Concordia, Mo. "They can go out and catch bugs, they can dig in the ground."

But most U.S. hens live crammed into very close quarters, according to Joe Maxwell, with the Humane Society of the U.S. And he says that's just wrong.

"There are some things we should not do to animals," says Maxwell.

Proposition 2, and the Commerce Clause

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8:35 am
Tue March 4, 2014

'Free State Serenade': Chuck Mead’s Ode To The Dark Side Of Kansas

Chuck Mead remembers seeing a colt born in this barn on his parents' property south of Lawrence.
Credit Frank Morris / KCUR

Musician Chuck Mead has made a name for himself in Nashville, but his new album is all about his home state of Kansas. Mead describes the music in Free State Serenade as “Kansas Noir… true stories of love, murder, and a UFO."

“Nashville is where you go to make country music,” says Mead. “There’s a certain song vibration down here, there’s a whole song writing culture and playing culture that really doesn’t exist outside of New York, or Los Angeles or Chicago."

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2:37 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

X-rays Expose Problem For Milton Wolf’s U.S. Senate Campaign

Milton Wolf formally announcing his candidacy in October, 2013
Credit Milton Wolf for Senate Campaign

Milton Wolf has been mounting a strong primary challenge for the seat currently held by Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts. But a recent expose by the Topeka Capital-Journal of Facebook posts made by Wolf has some questioning whether he will be able to continue the race.

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Arts and Culture
2:54 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

All The Songs On The New Chuck Mead Album Are About Kansas

The cover of Chuck Mead's new album, Free State Serenade

Chuck Mead left Kansas more than two decades ago when he set out for Nashville and made a name for himself in country music. Now he’s circling back to Kansas, where his career began.

The first group he formed there, BR549, started out as the house band at Robert’s Western World on Lower Broadway in Nashville, just across the alley from Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry.  BR549 quickly built a huge following playing regularly in the small bar.

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8:02 am
Mon February 17, 2014

Winter Storms Trigger Widespread Salt Shortage

Salt Miner Lewis Lavy rests for a moment before drilling another wall of rock salt. The Hutchinson Salt Mine has been working 24/7 for months.
Frank Morris KCUR-FM

If you think the roads you’re driving on seem worse than usual this winter, you’re probably right.The waves of snowstorms in much of the country have exhausted supplies of rock salt, the main tool that road crews use to melt ice and snow. Even areas with vast quantities of salt underground are having a hard time getting it onto their streets this year.

When Milwaukee fights road ice with cheese brine, New Jersey breaks out the pickle juice and New York, a major salt producer, declares a salt shortage, you know you’ve got a widespread problem.

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Arts and Culture
1:45 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

William S. Burroughs And Lawrence, Kansas: Linked Inexorably

On the Banks of the Wakarusa with .44 Special, March 4, 1994
From William S. Burroughs in Prints: A Portfolio of Original Photographs Courtesy of the Spencer Museum of Art

Wednesday, February 5, marked what would have been the 100th birthday of one of the 20th century’s most important and notorious writers: William S. Burroughs.

Burroughs was one of the original Beat poets, and helped spark a cultural revolution. He wrote like no one had before, about topics considered impolite, if not obscene, at the time.  

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Business & Tech
8:24 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Kansas City’s Enormous Airline Overhaul Base Full Again

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon spoke at the overhaul base Thursday.
Credit Frank Morris / KCUR

Kansas City can finally hang a “no vacancy” sign on one of its largest and most important industrial buildings.  

In its heyday some 6000 people worked in the TWA overhaul base at KCI. The place is massive, a million square feet, more room than all three terminals combined. When American Airlines pulled out a few years ago, the place was empty. Now, after an intensive marketing campaign Mark VanLoh, Kansas City’s Aviation director says, it’s just the reverse.

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Business & Tech
6:00 am
Thu January 9, 2014

Sprint Eyes Difficult Merger With T-Mobile

There have been rumors Kansas City-based Sprint Corp. may be interested in merging with wireless competitor, T-Mobile.
Credit Consumerist dot com / Flickr--Creative Commons

Sprint Corp., based in Overland Park, Kan., has been losing subscribers to bigger rivals for years. One way to reverse that trend would be to merge with another carrier, and Sprint is reportedly eyeing the fourth largest wireless provider, T-Mobile, for acquisition.  

When the Wall Street Journal published a report, citing unnamed sources, that Sprint was getting ready to try to buy T-Mobile, lots of industry analysts treated it as old news.  

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Around the Nation
4:02 pm
Sat December 28, 2013

Injured Veteran Keeps Up His Fight, Deciding To Live

Tomas Young was paralyzed from the chest down during his deployment to Iraq. He had decided to refuse care and end his life, but since changed his mind.
Frank Morris for NPR

Originally published on Sat December 28, 2013 5:54 pm

A spinal injury left Iraq War veteran Tomas Young paralyzed below the waist in 2004. Further medical complications a few years later made him quadriplegic.

Although Young had enlisted two days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he became an outspoken anti-war activist.

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8:26 am
Thu December 19, 2013

Organization Helps Kansas City Military Come Home For The Holidays

Vicki Sanders waiting for arrival of husband, Army Corporal Robert Sanders at KCI airport in Kansas City, Mo.
Credit Dan Verbeck / KCUR

People from the Kansas City area serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines have started arriving home for the holidays. The services don’t cover a trip like that, but lower-paid service men and women can put in for a ticket home from a group called Operation Homefront.

Corporal Robert Sanders landed at KCI Wednesday afternoon, met by his wife, and two young sons. Sanders and his wife Vicki Sanders both graduated from Shawnee Mission North High School.

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Business & Tech
8:02 am
Fri December 13, 2013

Boulevard Sale Shows American Beer Makers Have Turned The Tables On Europe

Most Boulevard beer produced today is consumed in the Midwest, but that may be changing.
Frank Morris KCUR

People in Kansas City may not be too thrilled about it, but the pending sale of Boulevard Brewing company to Belgian beer maker Duvel Moortgat says a lot about how the American craft beer industry has grown up and gone global.

Kansas Citians are proud of lots of things, their barbeque, the Chiefs, Sporting Kansas City, even lately, the Royals, and most beer lovers in this town would add Boulevard Brewing to that list.  

“I think Boulevard is, is one with Kansas City,” says Bob Ellis, standing in line for a Boulevard Tank 7, at the Bier Station, in Kansas City.  

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10:01 am
Sun December 8, 2013

Sporting Kansas City Wins Major League Soccer National Championship

A jubilant crowd at the Bier Station in the Brookside neighborhood of Kansas City celebrates Sporting KC’s win.
Credit Frank Morris / KCUR

Sporting Kansas City and MLS Cup opponent, Real Salt Lake tied the score 1-1 after two hours of regulation play. That left a “shoot out” a series of kicks with just one player, squared off against the opposing teams goal keeper, to settle the national championship.  

Fans across Kansas City, and a sold out stadium, watched as the longest shoot out in MLS playoff history unfolded. The score was tied, again after 10 kicks. But in the end, Sporting KC put seven in the net, Salt Lake, six.

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Business & Tech
5:44 am
Wed December 4, 2013

Former Chiefs Players Sue Team Over Brain Injury

Five former Kansas City Chiefs players are suing the team over brain injuries they say resulting from concussions they sustained playing in the late 1980s and early 1990s.    

The suit alleges that Chiefs leadership understood the long-term risks of concussions back then, but didn’t take them into account.  

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7:17 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

Newt Gingrich Backs Roberts Over Wolf In Kansas Senate Primary

Kansas Senator Pat Roberts campaigns backed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich
Credit Frank Morris / KCUR-FM

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts campaigned with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at a campaign event Friday in Overland Park, Kan. Roberts faces a serious primary challenge.

The event was a show of force, and conservative political clout.  Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer was there, along with Mary Kay Culp, the executive director of Kansans for Life, and Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association.     

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Business & Tech
1:38 pm
Fri October 18, 2013

Boulevard Beer 'Ingrained in Kansas City' Sold to Duvel of Belgium

Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR-FM

The owner of Kansas City’s Boulevard Brewing Company has sold a majority stake in the business to a Belgian brewery. Still John McDonald, Boulevard’s founder, says the deal with Duvel Moortgat will only allow the brewery to accelerate its Kansas City expansion.

Charting a new path

John McDonald just turned 60, and that got him thinking about stepping back from the beer business. He began looking for partners.

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Business & Tech
9:50 am
Thu October 17, 2013

Intermodal Shipping Hub Opens In Johnson County

BNSF Railway officially opens a huge new freight handling center in southern Johnson County, Kan. Thursday. The intermodal freight yard in Edgerton will be the largest in the region.

Kansas City is a major shipping hub. It’s the second largest rail hub, as measured by number of train cars, and by some measures, the third largest trucking center in the country. 

All that freight flowing in and out of the Kansas City-area creates jobs for drivers, warehouse workers and others. Increasingly it comes in by train, and gets distributed from Johnson County by truck.  

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1:03 pm
Fri October 11, 2013

Government Shutdown Stops USDA Data, Leaves Farmers Guessing

Credit Frank Morris / KCUR-FM

Normally, Friday would be a big day for the commodity markets. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Report is due, providing what is widely excepted to be the most trusted and complete snapshot of farm markets in the middle of harvest season. But, with the government shutdown the report is not coming out. In fact, farmers and ranchers aren’t getting any of the USDA information they rely on, and in this case, ignorance is not bliss.

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8:32 am
Wed October 9, 2013

Tea Party's Milton Wolf To Challenge U.S. Senator Roberts

Milton Wolf is challenging U.S. Senator Pat Roberts in the Republican primary in Kansas.
Credit Frank Morris / KCUR

A Leawood physician who is a distant cousin of President Barack Obama is challenging Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts in the Republican primary. Milton Wolf is taking on the incumbent with strong support from Tea Party conservatives.   

Wolf’s first campaign event filled a large ballroom in south Overland Park, Kan. Tuesday evening. It featured live performers and a slick biographical video.   

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9:35 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

Shutdown Hits America’s First Line of Attack, Whiteman AFB

Shoppers packed U.S. military commissaries, like this one at Whiteman AFB on Tuesday. The government shutdown closed the stores indefinitely as of Tuesday night.
Frank Morris KCUR

The government shutdown forced hundreds of thousands of civilian employees to go home early Tuesday, including thousands in the military installations around Kansas City. Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley in central Kan., and Whiteman Air Force Base near Knob Noster, Mo., all furloughed technicians and workers. 

Shutdown expected to take toll on Whiteman

At Whiteman Air Force Base, B-2 stealth bombers based here soar like giant evil bats over the facility almost every day.

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Business & Tech
8:24 am
Mon September 9, 2013

Local Probiotics Company Is Missouri’s Exporter Of The Year

The Governor’s Conference on Economic Development in Missouri has named a Kansas City company its Exporter of the Year. SCD Probiotics makes products used for human health, agriculture, veterinary medicine and industry.   

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7:53 pm
Wed August 28, 2013

Horse Slaughter Divides Horse Lovers

The Hilltop Saddle Club, established in 1944, is the oldest African American saddle club in the nation. Most members of the group oppose horse slaughter.
Frank Morris KCUR

Most Americans don’t eat horse meat, and they don’t like the idea of horses being slaughtered, but a handful of investors are struggling to restart a horse slaughter industry in the United States.

They argue that slaughter would be good for the horse business, and more humane than the current situation. The issue cleaves horse owners into two camps: one that views horses as pets, and another that see them as livestock.

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Cops & Crime
9:50 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

Bradley Manning Wants To Serve Time In Leavenworth As A Woman

Private Bradley Manning, who was convicted of one of the largest security breaches in U.S. history, has been moved to the Army’s maximum security prison at Fort Leavenworth.   But, Manning wants to serve the time as a woman.

Manning has issued a statement, saying he'd like to be called Chelsea, and start hormone therapy, because he identifies as a female.  Jeff Wingo, a spokesman at Fort Leavenworth, says there’s only so much the Army can do.

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bus crash
2:23 pm
Wed August 21, 2013

Pembroke Hill School 6th Graders Injured In Minor Bus Crash

A school bus carrying sixth grade girls from Pembroke Hill School in Kansas City, Mo. overturned at a ramp at the intersection of Kansas 7 and Kaw Drive in Wyandotte County, Kan. early this afternoon. Nine children have reportedly been transported to hospitals, none of them suffering critical injuries. 

KCUR is following the story and will provide updates in our afternoon newscasts.

Harvest Public Media
8:27 am
Wed August 7, 2013

My Farm Roots: Tough Guys In The Saddle

Nate Pike has worked the land outside Dodge City, Kan., for most of his 80 years.
Credit Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

I met Nate Pike working on a story back in 2012. When I dropped back by his ranch 30 miles south of Dodge City, Kan., this summer, he took me on a bumpy pickup ride to see a spring called St. Jacob’s Well and we got to talking about the former owner of some of his ranchland.

Pike has been out on his ranch for a while and he told me the former owner started ranching in western Kansas before 1900.

“He was a fine old gentleman and one of the toughest old men I ever knew,” Pike told me, his gravelly voice carrying over the pickup truck’s rambles.

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Harvest Public Media
7:37 am
Tue July 30, 2013

As Aquifer Dwindles, Rural Kan. Wells Run Dry

Limited water supply has put stress on many western Kansas towns, like Meade.
Credit Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

The drought, now in its third year in parts of western Kansas is taxing a resource that has been under pressure for decades: the High Plains Aquifer system.

The aquifer is enormous, but it’s running low in places, forcing a move to dry land farming, and farmers aren’t the only ones effected.

The drought has been burning up crops, lawns and trees for three years now. But there are places where you wouldn’t even know it’s dry, like at the Garden City Big Pool, in Garden City, Kan.

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7:46 am
Mon July 29, 2013

Kan. Farmers Struggle As Ogallala Aquifer Dwindles

Because of the short water supply, farmer Anthony Stevenson only planted half his corn field this year.
Credit Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

Imagine enough water to fill a couple of great lakes, but spread under some of the driest parts of eight western states. That was the High Plains Aquifer 60 years ago, before new pumping and irrigation systems made it easy for farmers to extract billions of gallons from it, and use it to grow lucrative crops on the arid land.

An agricultural gold rush of sorts followed, transforming the regional economy. But now parts of the aquifer are playing out, leaving parts of the high plains high and dry.

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4:46 pm
Wed July 10, 2013

Spreading Virus Kills Hundreds of Thousands of Pigs

Healthy pigs in central Missouri
Frank Morris KCUR

A virus new to the United States is spreading through farms hundreds of thousands of baby pigs.  

Like most hog farmers, Brent Sandidge in Missouri, has been losing money lately.

"We’ve had a drought, and record high feed prices, so that’d be the last thing you’d need is another hit," says Sandidge.

But that hit came this spring for some with the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus. Bob Morrison, at the University of Minnesota says the excrement of infected pigs is loaded with the bug.

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3:00 am
Tue July 2, 2013

Farm Bill Fail Leaves Farmers Uncertain, But Unvexed

The Kalbs cut wheat on a clear Kansas Day.
Frank Morris Harvest Public Media

Farmers work at the mercy of three big forces that are largely outside their control, the weather, the markets, and the government.

In many parts of the country the first two are doing pretty well these days, but government remains the wild card. Congress can’t seem to pass the farm bill, a huge package of legislation setting food policy for years to come.

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Cops & Crime
6:11 pm
Tue June 18, 2013

KC Man Tied to New York Bomb Plot

Khalid Ouazzani

The FBI alleges that a Kansas City man was involved in a fledgling plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange. The case came up as an example of effective the government surveillance programs have been at foiling some 50 terrorist plots.

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Harvest Public Media
10:49 am
Mon June 17, 2013

What Is The Future Of Crop Insurance?

Kansas wheat farmer John Thaemert surveys his parched crop in this file photo from 2006.
Credit Frank Morris

Crop insurance is a big part of the farm bill debate in Washington this year. The Senate recently passed a bill that would expand the heavily subsidized program.  And now the House is zeroing in on the issue.  

Several pending amendments would curb how much the government provides to cut the cost farmers pay for crop insurance. But, crop insurance premiums aren’t the only part of the system supported by tax payers.

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