Cooper McKim


Cooper McKim has worked in public media in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and now South Carolina. He recently graduated from Tufts University with a degree in Environmental Policy and Music. At Tufts, he produced three podcasts relating to entrepreneurship, environmental policy, and narrative storytelling.  Now at SC Public Radio, he's excited to report on compelling stories related to flood recovery here in South Carolina. 

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Richland County Farmland flooding in 2015
Provided by Michael King

The Red Cross and National Guard may no longer be on the streets of Richland County, but that doesn't mean recovery from the devastating 2015 flood is over. In fact, hundreds of people are still out of their homes in the county according to Mike King, Richland County's Long-Term Disaster Recovery Chief. He says there’s been a lot of progress in recovery, but there's still a long way to go.  

OCEARCH researcher tagging the male white shark Hilton
Provided by OCEARCH

Off the coast of Hilton Head Island, the M/V OCEARCH sits stationary ready to catch sharks from twelve inches to twelve feet. The vessel is a temporary laboratory for scientists conducting research on the fish, from the way they see color to their mating habits. OCEARCH has done expeditions around the world, though this is the first time the organization has worked off the South Carolina or Georgia coast. They were pulled here by shark activity.

Beached vessel at Woods Bridge Marina
Provided by County of Beaufort

Beaufort County officials are planning to begin removing abandoned boats and dock fragments from its shores this week. A storm surge caused by Hurricane Matthew left a substantial amount of debris in several locations around the county.

Beaufort County Deputy Administrator Josh Gruber said, “It looks like a number of the boats and large pieces of the dock[s] were washed up into the marsh."

Sign at the end of the road near the Baxley's farm
Cooper McKim/SC Public Radio

On a 5000-acre farm in Marion County, the Baxley family grows corn, soybeans, tobacco, and peanuts. In the past few years, intense storms have ruined their harvesting season, denying the family much needed revenue.  Neal Baxley, who manages the farm with his dad, is interested in planting a new crop, one that's more flexible, resilient, and profitable. For Baxley, hemp is the answer. The only problem is hemp isn't legal to produce in South Carolina. Cooper McKim reports that the state is one of many currently trying to legalize hemp production this year.

US Senator Graham speaking in Town Hall.
Cooper McKim/SC Public Radio

U-S Senator Lindsey Graham met a rambunctious crowd at a Clemson University auditorium on Saturday. The room overflowed with constituents from young children to elderly veterans. This is one of the few times since President Trump's election Graham has met with constituents in his home state.

Jaime Harrison
Provided by Jaime Harrison

UPDATE, 2/23/17, 2:30 pm:

The Associated Press is reporting that SC Democratic Party Chair, Jaime Harrison, has withdrawn from the race for chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

A tap stand being set up in Columbia.
Jennie Reeb/Water Mission

Water Mission is a non-profit based in Charleston focused on helping developing nations restore access to clean water, particularly following natural disasters. The group has projects around the world including Peru, Indonesia, and Kenya. In 2015, they used their purifying technology to help a city closer to home: Columbia. Cooper McKim has the story.

View of the statehouse rally
Thomas Hammond

As rush hour arrives in downtown Columbia, cars honk in response to protesters filling the sidewalks with their signs at the ready: We are All Immigrants, Humanity has No Borders, and Spread the Love. Protesters are here in response to President Trump's recent ban on refugees and travel restrictions on seven predominantly Muslim countries. Cooper McKim reports the protest drew passion as well as skepticism.

South Carolina's Third Constitution, Ratified in 1790
Josh Floyd

South Carolina's original constitutions are breaking down. The several hundred-year-old parchments are tattered with frayed edges, browning corners, and stiff pages. In an effort to save the documents, archivists are seeking to preserve them permanently. For now, the documents lay unseen in a temperature-controlled room. 

"Everything in here is 60 degrees, less than 50% relative humidity," says Eric Emerson, Director of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.

Josh Floyd / SC Public Radio

Hurricane Matthew brought considerable damage and devastation across the east coast, but it’s hard to find a town affected more than Nichols, South Carolina. A month after the storm, debris was piled up so high along the roads that it was like driving through a tunnel. Today, nearly three months after the storm hit, most of that debris is gone, but the damage can still be seen. Every house has damage and there’s not a single citizen in sight. The town feels empty, but it’s not abandoned. If you find someone to talk to, there’s a smile on their face.

Josh Floyd / SC Public Radio

It’s been two months since Hurricane Matthew devastated cities across the east coast. In Lumberton, North Carolina, a Robeson County town hit especially hard by the storm, people are still seeking relief aid. Many families are still displaced from their homes, but many more are starting the steps to rebuild. That’s where the Robeson Church and Community Center comes in. Outside the building, a line of people await any help they can get. Inside, the center and the Red Cross have joined forces to offer any help they can give.

Cherryvale Community Center
Josh Floyd/SC Public Radio

On an overcast day in Sumter County, there’s a community center with a huge RV parked outside.  FEMA is stenciled across the front of the vehicle and wires hanging out the back are snaking their way inside.  The RV provides internet and phone service to the Cherryvale Community Center ,where FEMA has set up their short term Mobile Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). It’s one of the last recovery center’s open in the state before Hurricane Matthew flood victims can no longer apply for FEMA grants or low-interest loans.

Photo courtesy of Grace Beam/Post and Courier via Pool

The five-week trial of a former North Charleston police officer ended in a mistrial after the jury deadlocked.  This comes after four days and twenty-two hours of deliberation.  

35-year old Michael Slager was charged with murder after he fired eight shots at 50-year-old Walter Scott as he ran in. Slager had pulled Scott over for a broken brake light in April 2015. The incident was captured on cell phone video that shocked the nation. 

Michael Slager at the Defense's table during his trial.
Grace Beahm/Post and Courier via Pool

The murder trial of former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager has ended in a mistrial. After a month long trial and four days of deliberation, the jurors were not able to reach a unanimous agreement.

The two conviction options included murder and voluntary manslaughter. Any verdict must have unanimous agreement.

Yuryi Abramochkin

President-Elect Donald Trump has selected Governor Nikki Haley as the next US Ambassador to the United Nations. Haley is the first female appointed to a top position in Trump's administration. The two have had a tense relationship, as she first supported Marco Rubio then Ted Cruz for the Presidency. Russ McKinney reports from the Capital. 

Inside the Marion County Administrative Office.
Cooper McKim/SC Public Radio

At the end of a busy strip mall, a line is weaving out the door. The Marion County Administrative Office is home to "Team South Carolina" -- a one-day event striving to connect local flood victims with recovery services. More than ten agencies, government and non-profit are organized at the back offering forms, brochures, and advice. Many here are from Nichols, one of the hardest hit towns by the flood that followed Hurricane Matthew. For most, it's the first step towards long-term recovery.  Cooper McKim has the story.

Seven-Foot translucent fabric woven by Susan Lenz
Cooper McKim/SC Public Radio

When the flood hit South Carolina in October of last year, Cindi Boiter felt helpless to the devastation around her. Talking with her artist friends, she realized they had an itch to respond to the storm somehow. An idea came to her: an art exhibition on the anniversary of the flood. "You can record data, say how much water we had, but there are sensations of experiencing this that there are almost not words for," says Boiter. Cooper McKim reports.

A tree in Dan Stachowiak's Backyard
Provided by Dan Stachowiak

Hurricane Matthew has come and gone, but major threats still remain. Waterways in North and South Carolina are quickly rising due to the Hurricane's torrential rains.  North Carolina has already seen devastating effects and now, South Carolina is starting to feel the impact. Five counties are seeing major flooding, with many communities encouraging their residents to evacuate. Dan Stachowiak is an evacuee from Conway. Cooper McKim follows Stachowiak on his journey through floodwaters to feed his cats.

Governor Nikki Haley and her team, Saturday morning.

    Governor Haley says Hurricane Matthew is still a deadly storm packing sustained winds of 75 mph. She adds no one should yet try to return home until the state gives their go-ahead. Flash flood warnings are still in effect all over the state. Haley also warns of a cyber threat: residents are getting e-mails with supposed power outage updates that, when clicked on, actually cause malware to be installed.


Governor Haley will hold another press conference at 6 p.m. today.

Vince Kolb-Lugo/SC Public Radio
Vince Kolb-Lugo/SC Public Radio

Rafting Creek is a quiet stream that winds behind a cemetery, under a road, then through the woods - it's idyllic. But when rain began last year during the historic flood, the Sumter waterway started to fill up. As the storm continued, the area began to flood, sweeping diagonally over the cemetery, road, and woods themselves. The ground under the cemetery became saturated; the pressure of it caused the caskets to pop out of graves. Three thousand-pound vaults with coffins inside were carried several hundred feet into the woods across the road.

Recording "Resumption" at South Carolina Public Radio.
AT Shire/SC Public Radio

Resumption is a violin, drums, and piano composition inspired by the flood in South Carolina last year. The trio attempts to capture the musical personality of the storm from early rain to recovery using the diverse expression of our instruments.

The view just outside of the Columbia Metro Wastewater Treatment Plant during October's flood.
David Wiman

South Carolina's largest wastewater treatment plant had spent a week preparing for a hurricane in early October last year. The rain started, winds were blowing, but instead of a hurricane, South Carolina got a flood -- the worst it's seen in years. Cooper McKim reports how four individuals stayed behind to keep the plant running.

Vince Kolb-Lugo/SC Public Radio
Vince Kolb-Lugo/SC Public Radio

In West Columbia, Lake Murray is the source of water for 60,000 nearby residents. Before anyone can turn on their sink though, the water has to be treated for taste, cleaning, and safety. This past July, the treatment process ran into a problem: there was a contaminant present.  It's called haloacetic acid, a carcinogenic, and it was above the legal limit of what the plant should be sending out to citizens. Cooper McKim has the story.


Cory Alpert
Cory Alpert

University of South Carolina vs. Louisiana State University. October 10, 2015. USC expected to welcome the Tigers into their home football stadium until the weather had a different plan. Just a week after a major flood, the roads to South Carolina were inaccessible. LSU offered up their stadium along with the home team side, and billboards welcoming USC to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Ten months later, the favor is being returned. Cooper McKim has the story.



Cooper McKim/SC Public Radio
Cooper McKim/SC Public Radio

In early February, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded South Carolina $157 million in disaster recovery funds. Lexington County got $16.3 million or about a tenth of those funds.

James Quantz
James Quantz

University of South Carolina is sending three current students to this summer's Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil. One will be competing in Track & Field, one for swimming, and one for diving. All of them are international students competing for their home countries. The school's athletics department says that's not surprising. Cooper McKim has the story.

Bill Stangler
Bill Stangler

Since October's historic flood last year, there have been twenty sewage spills, overflows, or line breaks that released over 10,000 gallons of raw or under-treated sewage in Columbia. Those numbers were reported by the state's Department of Health and Environmental Control.  Columbia has dealt with sewage overflows for decades, as many other cities with outdated collection systems have, but October's historic flood shined a light on the continuous problem.

Thomas Lauderdale
Thomas Lauderdale

If you listen to NPR on your way home from work, you're probably familiar with the voice of Ari Shapiro. He's reported around the world and as of last year, he's one of the hosts of All Things Considered.  But when he's on vacation, he uses his voice in a different way. For the past seven years, Shapiro has been a regular guest singer with the "Little Orchestra" known as Pink Martini.  Cooper McKim talks with Ari Shapiro about his career as a performer.

Roger Gilbertson
Roger Gilbertson

At the start of July, applications officially opened for the state Farm Aid program.  Farmers are now able to fill out their losses and submit them to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture for a limited reimbursement of their lost income from October's historic flood.  But, the process is confusing. Training workshops are being held around the state to help farmers better understand the process. Cooper McKim talks to farmers and experts about it.

Matt Brodie

A Half-Marathon and 5K race took place last weekend at Harbison State Forest to re-ignite support for victims in October's historic flood.  Race2Rebuild (R2R) sponsored the race in addition to organizing a rebuilding event the previous day.  Around twenty-five R2R runners participated and many volunteered as well at the rebuilding sites in Columbia.  Cooper McKim speaks with volunteers, partners, and leaders from Race2Rebuild about why their mission and how they ended up in  South Carolina.