CQS 25th Anniversary Tribute: Tasnim Shamma

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Tasnim Shamma (Spring 2010)
Economy & Innovation Reporter
WABE 90.1 FM, Public Broadcasting Atlanta

As a New Yorker, I’ve found the South to be a charming, magical place. The Chips Quinn Scholars multimedia training in Nashville, Tenn., was my first true taste of the South (minus that bizarre snowstorm in spring 2010). I didn’t imagine I would choose to live in the region, but in 2012 I accepted my first full-time job in Charlotte, N.C. I covered criminal justice and social justice as a multimedia reporter and produced a podcast called “A Trifling Place” for National Public Radio member station WFAE 90.7 FM. After meeting my husband, I moved to Atlanta in November 2014 and started work at the NPR member station WABE 90.1 FM.

My most meaningful professional accomplishment to date was receiving a 2016 Georgia Associated Press Media Editors Award for best feature reporting in radio.

The story the Georgia editors recognized for creative use of sound was a non-narrated four-minute radio story about Bob Jamerson, a.k.a. Baton Bob. He is a lively street character in Atlanta who twirls his baton while wearing different costumes – most often a pink tutu. We see these individuals and they become fixtures in our daily life. But what do we really know about their lives, motivations and dreams? This story allowed me to properly introduce this beloved, often misunderstood street character to Atlanta.

As the economy and innovation reporter at WABE 90.1 FM, I cover technology, business and transportation. I try to report these radio stories in an engaging manner and with humor whenever possible. But longer feature stories like the one about Atlanta’s twirler force me to be creative in a different way. This story was truly about allowing Bob Jamerson to tell his own story to the world, uninterrupted, while I guided the narrative using only sounds from his environment.

I’ve enjoyed telling feature stories about individuals who don’t often make it into the daily newscasts or fall within my assigned beats. Recently, I produced a feature on the opening of the state’s first Muslim funeral home in Norcross. I explained the Islamic rituals and customs associated with washing and burying the dead, and I tried to explain, from the founder’s perspective, the need for the facility.

The opening of a funeral home is not newsworthy on its own, but just an hour away, a proposed mosque and funeral home project had led to intense public debate, hate speech and threats of armed protests this summer. A colleague later told me she felt that “during this scary time of such blatant xenophobia,” my story conveyed a warm tone of hope and provided information needed to understand our shared humanity.

I was humbled by the response the piece received, and I’m grateful for my supportive Chips Quinn family, whom I find in nearly every city I’ve interned or worked in – from Washington, D.C., to Minneapolis, Minn.

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