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Xavier Magazine | March 26, 2017

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Profile: Kenny Malone

Profile: Kenny Malone
Felix Winternitz

Kenny Malone

Bachelor of Science in mathematics and economics, 2007

Reporter, WLRN public radio and Miami Herald

Miami

 

The Heart of the Story | How do you go from a mathematics degree to a career as an investigative journalist? Kenny Malone took his personal passion, volunteering at WVXU radio, and teamed it with his training in pure numbers. “It’s an amazingly relevant pairing of skill sets. I combine radio narrative with statistical analysis of datasets. It can produce some powerful stuff.”

Statistically Speaking | “I was part of this whole generation of ‘car-seat kids’ who grew up on National Public Radio. It could be very boring, stuffy, static. But over time, it becomes part of who you are. I fell in love with it. I just walked into WVXU and said, ‘I want to learn about public radio.’ I distinctly remember I missed Fr. Joe Wagner’s statistics class in order to start work at the station. Of all the subject areas, stats are what I’m constantly calling him about today.”

Moving South | “After graduation, I ended up in South Florida with AmeriCorps and the Catholic Volunteers. I was interested in law and medicine, and I looked for a place where those two things met. I worked for a health clinic, which was a nexus of free care meeting public policy issues. But I was still interested in radio.” Signing up as an independent freelancer, he found work in broadcasting.

Crossing to Print | “I now work out of the Miami Herald newsroom. It’s a unique partnership” between an FM news station and a metropolitan daily. Malone has spent a solid part of the past year on a computer-assisted reporting project that reveals systemic failings in the regulation of Florida’s assisted-living facilities. The resulting series, “Neglected to Death,” is winning national acclaim and awards. At its core is the creation of a database that revealed at least 70 questionable deaths at nursing homes.

On the Light Side | On NPR, he’s riffed on an iconic Cuban coffee label snarfed up by J.M. Smucker, discovered a Haitian musician named Manno Charlemagne and carted a microphone into a haunted Everglades mansion to record disembodied voices. You may have heard his steady tone on “All Things Considered” or “Morning Edition,” reporting on orphaned screech owls or a woman whose canine tooth was implanted in her eyeball to help cure her blindness. “I spend entire days begging people for 10 minutes on the phone.”

Doing the Math | Malone recently helped create an “Economic Time Machine” that constantly analyzes what date the recession has set us back to (currently, it clocks in at April 2002). For another report, the newsman revealed that an urban myth—that the Miami Dolphins play better in the heat—is actually true, that every 10- or 20-degree variance makes a difference between a mediocre showing and a winning game. Malone is still working out his own personal equation: “I just wanted to be a storyteller. It took me a long time to call myself a journalist.”

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