DEAR READER: This year's Progress Edition — a look at Columbia's groundbreakers

Sunday, April 27, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:18 p.m. CDT, Friday, September 12, 2014

Dear Reader,

The Missourian's annual Progress Edition appears as an insert in today's newspaper — and it can be found as a digital section on the Missourian website.

Putting a Progress Edition out each year is a fascinating challenge. What some consider progress in Columbia, can mean civic turmoil to others.

Broad bands of student housing under construction, for example, may solve a serious lodging problem for MU, but many believe they are beginning to blight the landscape, in addition to overwhelming the city's utilities.

Last year, the special section adopted a strict definition of progress. We looked at the dramatic growth in Columbia and whether the city has been able to keep up with that growth.

Articles covered the widespread surge in housing developments, as well as the millions spent to expand hospitals and transportation. We also looked at the pressure this growth was putting on Columbia's infrastructure — pressure that has been supported by further reporting this year.

Earlier Progress Editions examined the community's concern and care for children, presented a demographic profile of the city and looked at the promise of progress in a dark economy.

This year, as the definition of progress, the Missourian chose innovation. We especially wanted to find people in the community who are using their expertise and resources in original ways to break important new ground, some even making a global difference.

Reporters found that innovation in medicine, health and nutrition, education, agriculture, the social sciences, political science, criminal justice, music, art, technology and more.

Planning for this year's Progress Edition began in late January. This year we were asked to identify topics for stories by mid-February, with visual support in photos and graphics figured out by early March. All of the stories were to be completed and edited by April 10, with a week left to design the section.

One snag occurred midstream — the section, to be called "Bright Ideas," used an illustration of a ball of light in the palm of a hand. One editor flagged it as an illustration better suited to a religion section than a progress edition. We tinkered with the design until we found an appropriate fit.

In the end, there were more articles, graphics and photos than could land inside a 24-page print package.

So, several of the profiles of groundbreakers are running in the news section today — among them, a researcher breeding soybeans with no trans fats; another who studies the treatment of cancer in dogs; a nurse who specializes in neonatal research; a music department professor teaching musicians how to market themselves.

For online subscribers, the Missourian has produced an electronic package that compiles all of the stories. 

The surprise in all of this reporting is the amount of original thinking that takes place in this community of 100,000. It is yet another reason Columbia is often recognized as a great place to live and work.

Jeanne Abbott is the managing editor of the Columbia Missourian.

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