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Thank You

Jason Parrott is leaving Tri States Public Radio after more than 16 years to work for the city of Quincy as the city's Community Development Planner.

I started working as the southeast Iowa news correspondent for Tri States Public Radio on September 2, 2003. Sixteen years and a few months later, I'm moving on to a new line of work, so I just wanted to spend a few more minutes with you and say thank you!

Thank you to Tri States Public Radio for taking a chance on a kid fresh out of graduate school.

Thank you to my amazing co-workers over the years, who have taught me so much about the world of radio and the world of journalism and who continue to provide an essential service to this region.

Thank you to the men and women who, day after day, answered my phone calls and agreed to spend a few minutes with me, sharing their expertise, their experiences, and their concerns me over the years.

And thank you to all of you. All of you out there on the other side of this radio who have listened to me grow, and hopefully improve, as a journalist over the past 16 years.

When I first started working in Keokuk, I only knew a little bit about the city. A good friend of mine from WIU lived there and my family was spread out throughout southeast Iowa.

  • Fun fact: For the first year or so of my time in Keokuk, my office was the living room of the small apartment I rented on north 3rd Street.  I could interview someone, write the story,  and take a nap -- all in the same room.

My priority from the start was to meet as many people as I could; attend as many meetings as I could; and simply get a complete understanding of Keokuk. 16 years later---I think I have a pretty good idea of what Keokuk is all about, but there is still a lot to learn.
As I became more comfortable, I expanded my reach into Fort Madison, Burlington, Hancock County, and northeast Missouri. So many people just kept answering the phone and agreeing to interviews that I could offer a wider variety of news coverage for all of you.

I would like to believe that people kept answering their phones all these years because I worked every day to be fair and un-biased. I allowed people to tell me their stories and then I did my best to deliver what they said to you in a clear and accurate manner. I wanted people to wonder, “Where does he stand on that issue?” because that made sure I was providing them facts---not opinions.

Over the years, I have experienced so many opportunities that I would have never even imagined before I started working for Tri States Public Radio. If you don’t mind, I might share a few of them with you now.

I have hosted about a dozen community or candidate forums, attended nearly one-thousand meetings and news conferences, conducted probably five-thousand interviews, and written roughly ten-thousand stories.

The one I have found myself re-telling the most over the years involves former Vice President Joe Biden.

I attended a campaign event for him in the early 2000’s. There were only about three of us there. Afterwards, I approached him and we chatted for a few minutes on the record. After I turned the microphone off, I told him that my mom was a big fan of his.

He told me to call her, and as luck would have it, she left her job at the WIU rec center a few minutes early for lunch that day. So his late son Beau took her phone number and I did not think anything of it until a few days later when my mom called. She said she had a voice mail at work from Joe Biden wishing her a nice day and that he met her son.

That’s one story I will always remember from my time here at the station.

I will also remember:

  • The day I spent following Roxy, the Fort Madison School District’s bloodhound who had a deformed paw. Roxy showed the kids it was OK to be different.
  • The profile I did on Quincy’s women’s roller derby team. That story won me one of my two national journalism awards.
  • The divisive nature of the two courthouse debate in Lee County. It provided me my most frustrating moment as a journalist… as I moderated a forum in Keokuk on the topic and the crowd was at times unruly and at times rude.
  • My first story that aired on NPR when the flood museum in Fort Madison flooded in 2008.
  • The challenging nature of sitting in courtrooms during difficult trials, in particular the trial of one of the men accused of killing a Burlington teenager several years ago.
  • Discussions about whether ducks and pot-belly pigs should be allowed as pets within city limits.
  • The protests of the oil pipeline that now runs through southeast Iowa. I believe my first time on an NPR newscast was my report on how dozens of people were arrested during a large-scale protest one afternoon.
  • The countless encounters with presidential candidates. I had an opportunity to ask a young Senator from Illinois,  Barack Obama, several questions during a stop in Keokuk prior to his winning bid for the White House. I also watched a staffer attempt to move former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee to another piece of sidewalk during an interview after a couple of pigeons landed directly above him.
  • The construction of new libraries, new schools, new courthouses, and the ongoing efforts to continue those trends.

And there was the time in late 2004 that I covered a Veterans Day event at the Keokuk National Cemetery. I recorded the ceremony, including a young woman singing the national anthem. Nowadays, I save all of my interviews, but early on I would have written my story and deleted the audio. But for some reason, I had not deleted my recording of the event.
About two weeks after the ceremony, I got a phone call telling me that the young woman who sang during the ceremony had passed away and that her family did not have a recent recording of her singing. So I was able to record it onto a CD and give it to them so they could have that recording of her singing so beautifully.

There are dozens and dozens more stories that I should mention here… but time does not allow it.

That’s radio for you

I started out in radio as a weekend announcer for a group of stations in Monmouth while I was in college.

Tri States Public Radio is my only professional job.

I have spent the past 16 years working to inform you, to entertain you, and to expand your knowledge of the world around you in a fair and unbiased fashion.

I hope I have accomplished all that.

I did so because I love Tri States Public Radio and I love Journalism. Both will remain in my heart because they’re needed now more than ever. But it is time for me to walk away and begin the next chapter in my life.

On Monday I will start my new job as Community Development Planner for the city of Quincy. So instead of writing news reports about historic preservation, community development, zoning, transportation and so on, I will actively participate in it.

I am excited for the opportunity and hope to stay in touch with as many of the people I have met along this journey.

So again, thank you for allowing me to spend the past 16 years with you.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.