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"Emus Loose in Egnar" on Wednesday's Access Utah

University of Nebraska Press

Journalist Judy Muller says that at a time when mainstream news media are hemorrhaging and doomsayers are predicting the death of journalism, we can take heart: the First Amendment is alive and well in small towns across America. 

In her book (from 2011) Emus Loose in Egnar: Big Stories from Small Towns , Muller takes us on a grassroots tour of rural American newspapers, from an Indian reservation in Montana to the Alaskan tundra to Martha’s Vineyard, (and to Moab and Monticello in Utah) and discovers that many weeklies are not just surviving, but thriving. 

Muller says that in these small towns, stories can range from club news to Klan news, from broken treaties to broken hearts, from banned books to escaped emus; they document the births, deaths, crimes, sports, and local shenanigans that might seem to matter only to those who live there. And yet, she says, these “little” stories create a mosaic of American life that tells us a great deal about who we are—what moves us, angers us, amuses us.

Muller introduces us to characters both quirky and courageous, reminding us that there is a different kind of “bottom line” in the hearts of journalists who keep churning out good stories, week after week, for the corniest of reasons: that our freedoms depend on it.

Judy Muller, an Emmy, duPont-Columbia and Peabody Award-winning television correspondent and National Public Radio commentator, is Professor of Journalism in the USC Annenberg School for Journalism and Communication.

She went to work for ABC News in 1990, and covered the 1992 Rodney King trial and ensuing riots, the 1994 Northridge earthquake and the O.J. Simpson criminal and civil trials, among other stories. As part of a "Nightline" team, she received an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for coverage of the 1992 Los Angeles riots and an Emmy Award for coverage of the Simpson case. In 2011, she received a second duPont-Columbia Award, as well as a Peabody, for her reporting on medical marijuana dispensaries in Southern California.

A regular contributor to NPR's "Morning Edition," she is author of a book about her experiences as a journalist titled “Now This -- Radio, Television and the Real World.” Muller is also a contributing correspondent to public television news programs throughout California.

Before joining the ABC News team, Muller was a CBS News correspondent who contributed to "CBS News Sunday Morning" and the "CBS Weekend News."

Muller is a graduate of Mary Washington College.