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NCPR News Staff: Martha Foley

News and Public Affairs Director
Martha Foley joined the staff of WSLU as morning host in 1981, after a stint at The St. Lawrence Plaindealer. She helped found the news department in 1982, and has seen it grow, and shrink, and grow again. "I especially liked the 'grow again' part," she says, "it means working with really talented reporters, telling more and more stories from around the North Country."

Martha has won state and national awards for her reporting and editing. She has encouraged local news at public radio stations across the country as a member and director of Public Radio News Directors, Inc., an organization of over 100 local newsrooms. As a director of PRNDI for six years, she was responsible for The PRNDI Project, an annual training program for young reporters, and NewsWorks, training for station news departments.

Martha grew up on an Adirondack foothill in northeastern Saratoga County. She lives just south of Canton with her husband, boatbuilder Everett Smith, and her teenaged son, Emmett. Favorite pastimes: sitting, looking, and listening. E-mail

Stories filed by Martha Foley

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Half the planets are visible right now--the back row (Jupiter and Saturn) and the front (Mars and Mercury). Aileen says five are visible, actually, if you just look down. Photo: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Size_planets_comparison.jpg">Lsmpascal</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Half the planets are visible right now--the back row (Jupiter and Saturn) and the front (Mars and Mercury). Aileen says five are visible, actually, if you just look down. Photo: Lsmpascal, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Planets, planets, planets: who's up and where

St. Lawrence University physicist Aileen O'Donoghue says the planets are the big news of the night sky just now. Between Mercury (just up in the northwest), Jupiter in the west, Saturn in the east, and Mars in the middle, there are four visible these nights. And Earth (just look down, she says) makes five.

This, plus how we're losing dark as spring gives over to summer next month, and much more from Aileen's monthly stop in our studios this morning.  Go to full article
They start small, but they don't (hopefully) stay that way. Make sure to leave enough space for you transplants to thrive. Photo: Martha Foley
They start small, but they don't (hopefully) stay that way. Make sure to leave enough space for you transplants to thrive. Photo: Martha Foley

Plants need their space too

It's tempting, all that nice open space in the garden. But as you plant the six packs of annuals, or divide and distribute the perennials, or arrange the rows of beets and carrots, be careful to plant things far enough apart.

Cooperative Extension's Amy Ivy lays down the law, and explains why following the rules on spacing can make a real difference late on in the season.  Go to full article
It's still a little cool for transplanting tender flowers and warm weather vegetables. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/crabchick/7276027148/">crabchick</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
It's still a little cool for transplanting tender flowers and warm weather vegetables. Photo: crabchick, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Not quite prime time for tender transplants

The calendar is a bit ahead of the weather this spring, and that means it's probably a good idea to proceed with caution in the garden.

Mother's Day typically coincides with good weather for transplants, and garden centers and greenhouses send thousands of nicely started plants and flowers out their doors over the weekend. But this year, Cooperative Extension's Amy Ivy says, we should be extra careful about putting tender flowers and warm weather vegetables in the ground. Better to baby them for a week or two till the weather really warms up. Plants are looking for "heat units," and cool nights and days still in the 60s don't quite add up.  Go to full article
Yard signs like this have kept the Garrett Phillips case in the public eye.   Photo: Julie Grant
Yard signs like this have kept the Garrett Phillips case in the public eye. Photo: Julie Grant

Garrett Phillips case in St. Lawrence County grand jury today

After two and a half years, evidence in the murder of 12-year-old Garrett Phillips of Potsdam is being heard in a St. Lawrence Country Grand Jury today. Phillips was killed in the apartment he shared with his mother in October, 2011. Investigators said he'd been strangled, and smothered.

Since then, there's not been much hard news in the case. Last week, WWNY-TV in Watertown reported that County District Attorney Mary Rain would present evidence to the grand jury today. WWNY's John Friot also reported that at least two dozen witnesses had been served subpoenas ordering them to testify.

According to Friot, there's been no big break. But there was a high-level meeting recently between Rain and other prosecutors and investigators around the state who've been involved in the ongoing investigation. He said, "What I am being told is, the consensus was, when you connect all the dots, it brings the dots to a certain person of interest."  Go to full article
Apparent retrograde motion of Mars in 2003. Animation: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Apparent_retrograde_motion_of_Mars_in_2003.gif">Eugene Alvin Villar</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Apparent retrograde motion of Mars in 2003. Animation: Eugene Alvin Villar, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Spring comes to the solar system

St. Lawrence University physicist Aileen O'Donoghue stopped by the NCPR studio this morning with an update on all the ways we can chart the change of season without ever looking at a thermometer. Just watch the winter constellations, like Orion, disappear and the spring sky emerge.

She also maps out where Earth is in relation to the other planets racing around the Sun, and which ones we can see just now. Venus is still bright in the morning. We're moving away from Jupiter, and you'd probably need really good binoculars or a telescope now to see its moons. And Mars is red and bright in the east early in the evening. If you follow its motion night by night, you'll notice it's going "backwards" for a while now. She explains this retrograde motion, which was a key clue in the ancients' realization that we are not the center of the universe.  Go to full article
Donnie (in the foreground) and Didd on the bus leaving the North Country. Photo: Amy Finkel, for Gothamist, used with permission.
Donnie (in the foreground) and Didd on the bus leaving the North Country. Photo: Amy Finkel, for Gothamist, used with permission.

North Country inmates on the bus: free and nowhere to go

Every year, hundreds of men are shipped to prisons here in the North Country, to correctional facilities in Watertown or Malone, Moriah or Ray Brook. We've been telling the story of the region's prison industry with our Prison Time Media Project.
But every year, hundreds of men are also released back into society after serving their time in state or Federal lock-ups.

Often, former inmates are sent back downstate with little preparation and few resources for reentering society. Many begin their new lives with a bus ticket, a new set of clothes, and a small amount of cash.

Amy Finkel is a journalist and documentary filmmaker. She's working on a new project looking at reform and education programs in prisons and she recently published a photo essay in the online magazine Gothamist.

Her photos capture the bus journey that one group of men made from Saranac Lake after being released from prison back to New York City. She spoke about her work with Martha Foley.  Go to full article
43.7? Too cold. Amy says to wait for 50 degree (F) soil temperature before planting peas. Photo: <a href="https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3646/3601931725_066a0fe319_o_d.jpg">Stephen Cochran</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
43.7? Too cold. Amy says to wait for 50 degree (F) soil temperature before planting peas. Photo: Stephen Cochran, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

When it's right to plant peas

The sun is out. The air is warm. It's late April. The crocuses are up and the daffodils aren't far behind. So, time to plant some peas, and maybe some lettuce, right?

Maybe, maybe not, says Cooperative Extension's Amy Ivy. She tells Martha Foley there's an easy way to tell, and it isn't the calendar. Stick a thermometer two inches down in the soil and see what it says. If it isn't 50 degrees down there, it's still too early.

They also talk about ways to warm things up a little and coddle those early season plantings. Amy explains row covers, and says even just protecting new seedlings from the wind can help.  Go to full article
Spring surprise--voles at work. Photo: Martha Foley
Spring surprise--voles at work. Photo: Martha Foley

Why does my lawn look like a giant ant farm?

The spring thaw has finally reached dirt, revealing the winter damage underneath. On lawns, that could include dramatic networks of dirt-lined runways left under this winter's snow pack by voles.

Voles work the surface, tunneling through where the snow meets the lawn. They're vegetarians, and like to eat away at the roots of the grass. Horticulturist Amy Ivy says the lawn's probably too soft to walk on yet, and it's probably too soon to do too much in the way of repair just yet. When things dry out a bit, she suggests raking the damaged area lightly, to level the tunneled areas out. And have some grass seed on hand to reseed after the weather warms up.

Moles throw up bigger mounds of dirt from their underground tunnels. Rake those to spread the dirt around; those areas can be reseeded to grass later as well.

Amy says it's also time to do some remedial pruning where trees and shrubs were broken during the winter. And she talks about best practices for pruning flowering shrubs now.  Go to full article
NPR East Africa correspondent Gregory Warner, one-time NCPR host of "All Before Five." Photo: Pearl Gabel/NPR
NPR East Africa correspondent Gregory Warner, one-time NCPR host of "All Before Five." Photo: Pearl Gabel/NPR

Gregory Warner: there's no word in Russian to describe who he works for

The first story listed in the NCPR archive from Gregory Warner dates to April 2005. He came to the station to help us develop afternoon news, and host All Things Considered. Perhaps you remember his occasional impromptu accordion breaks during ATC? We do! Gregory moved on from NCPR after a couple years and many, many creative, touching, humorous, and vivid stories from across this region.

After freelancing from conflict zones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Congo, and a stint as senior reporter for APM's Marketplace, he's sort of settled down. Gregory's now NPR's East Africa correspondent, based in Kenya, and we hear his reporting from all over a region of the world that's experiencing tremendous economic growth, and a rising threat of global terrorism. His stories are still vivid, touching, and engaging, and he continues to find the surprising, human stories behind the news of the day.

Martha Foley caught up with Gregory this morning at his home base in Nairobi, via Skype. He's just back from assignments in Rwanda, covering the anniversary of the genocide there 20 years ago, and Ukraine, where he was one of the first NPR reporters on the ground as Russia consolidated its control over Crimea.  Go to full article
Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/cafemama/3554624390/in/photolist-6q7nZq-9bWxWy-4FjXbD-48C15n-4B7ks-d33Bcu-4B1fJL-84PDiw-hos2oJ-kmJZQ-Po95f-9kkqg2-hovRDL-ahtbyB-ieJUqN-adLfQb-9Ak9XY-6vikT9-JVDMJ-dAKsT8-83YQcJ-6tNG25-6bCcDi-eh96Pz-6fGSZF-db5C2U-db5BxQ-db5BMC-NxEpj-a4sQ2N-8o4Pya-6f6qui-7PKvEd-4WbwDb-6KeovC-5ek7mn-4X8zQM-2kaEaN-5fgsDp-6jCjBC-7YiN6B-8sZy9F-d33BaN-d33Be9-dWehH-89JiNr-avWqyt-9LbTLM-81LwZ9-4LAwRo">Sarah Gilbert</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Photo: Sarah Gilbert, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Gardening call in gleanings: potato scab, blueberry canes, green manure

Horticulturist Amy Ivy and Martha Foley takes up some odds and ends of questions listeners had during our Spring Gardening Call-in program. Issues covered include scab on beets and potatoes, care of blueberry canes, and what you can use in place of compost if you can't get hold of it.  Go to full article

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