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2021: Year in review

Leona Larson

2021 was still the year of the pandemic. The coronavirus took a toll in lives lost and changed. WMUK covered the pandemic and the impact on the health care system, business and education. We also brought you stories about the issue of homelessness, covered local government and previewed elections. As 2021 comes to a close, below are some of the stories we brought you about major issues, human interest and everything else. For WMUK, the end of 2021 brings the end of an era. Our news director Andy Robins is retiring after nearly 37 years with the station, the last 24 leading our news department. His contributions are numerous. We thank Andy for all he has done and wish him the best in retirement.

Housing was a major issue in Kalamazoo in 2021. In May, we brought you a three-part series in partnership with MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette about people staying at two hotels in Kalamazoo because they didn’t have a home. The stories explored the challenges to solving the issue of housing and homelessness. They also introduced the audiences to some of the people facing homelessness. Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. The issue persisted as the city of Kalamazoo cleared an encampment of homeless people in October. 

As COVID continued to fill up hospitals and slow down economic recovery, it affected other areas of life. We reported on the backlog at veterinary clinics caused by delayed treatment from the full shut down during 2020. The demand was also caused by more people getting pets while working from home. Early in 2021, schools debated returning to in person instruction. Some families in Kalamazoo Public Schools chose to stick with virtual instruction, rather than come back to the classroom.

We took some time to look back through history during the year. The Kalamazoo Air Zoo restored a World War II era dive bomber that crashed into Lake Michigan in 1944. The family of the last pilot to fly the plane held a reunion at the Air Zoo before the plane was sent to the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum in Hawaii. An African-American soldier who fought for the Union during the Civil War got a headstone for his grave in Vicksburg. We learned how the Sons of Union Veterans works to honor the legacy of those who served. We also covered arts and culture and took listeners to the studios of Rootead in Kalamazoo during tryouts for the Rootead Youth Drum Ensemble. 

Less than a week into the New Year, the nation’s divisions were on display for everyone to see. The attack on the U.S. Capitol came during the certification of Joe Biden’s election as President. West Michigan Congressman Fred Upton told WMUK the next day that Donald Trump had inspired the attack.

Working past those divisions was the subject of an event held in September in Kalamazoo. Andy Robins interviewed two of the featured speakers about how people with sharply different beliefs can have honest and civil discussions.

Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.