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BBC Pop Up: Behind-the-scenes blog

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Welcome to BBC Pop Up. The BBC's first mobile bureau is spending a month in each of six very different parts of the US. We want Americans to tell us what local stories we should share with a global audience. We've created a behind-the-scenes blog so we can tell you not only what we're up to, but also explain why and how we're doing it. Please get in touch with your story ideas and comments on the project.


I didn't really know anything about feral pigs before I came to Baton Rouge. I came across the subject by speaking to my editor and to people in coffee shops here in Baton Rouge. The pigs destroy property and can ruin crops. They are big, strong and hard to kill.

Estimates suggest around three-quarters of US states have a feral pig problem, and that number is growing. The wild pigs are estimated to cause $1.5bn (£933m) in damages each year, and the US Department of Agriculture says there are currently more than five million of them. The hogs also carry diseases that can be transmitted to other animals and humans.

Today, I met with two men, pictured above, who work for Louisiana State University. They're trying to find an effective poison to quell the spread of the hogs. Before I arrived, they had just caught a boar trying to break into their pen in an attempt to mate - so they shot it.

The film will be out in the next few days and will focus on the battle against the "four legged enemy". Stay tuned.

Benjamin Zand


I'm currently packing my bag to head to New Orleans and speak to a few voodoo practitioners who have opened botanical shops that sell voodoo-related materials.

The idea came from speaking to a few individuals in and around the Lafayette, Louisiana, region about medicine bottles they had found over the past 10 years, containing small "voodoo spells".

One of those people is a river worker named Paul, pictured above.

These bottles, which each contain six scraps of paper with small etchings scribbled in both English and various African languages, have been picked out of the local river.

Full story coming soon.

Matt Danzico


And, belatedly, here's the video from that community meeting so you can put a face to the story idea.

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Media captionDeep South saga - the stories Louisiana locals wants to share with the world


Image caption Story ideas get posted on the wall of the Manship School of Journalism

Last night, BBC Pop Up held a community meeting for residents of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. On a muggy October evening, a mixture of about 100 enthusiastic students, journalists and local residents gathered at Louisiana State University.

Image caption From STDs to BP, some of the ideas locals want us to follow up

The team collected dozens of suggestions for stories they want the BBC's first mobile bureau to cover during its month in the area. Here is an abbreviated list:

  • An investigation into corporal punishment and whether it relates to incarceration rates.
  • Why are public schools in East Baton Rouge failing? Why is "the state funding a variety of charter schools"?
  • Baton Rouge is a "food desert". Also a story on obesity rates in the region.
  • A look at the upheaval over the proposed annexation of parts of East Baton Rouge Parish, including claims of racism.
  • A sinkhole "west of Baton Rouge". And Louisiana's disappearing coastline.
  • A story on an art studio built with Welsh stones from a farm in Wales.
  • "Hollywood South": What are the real benefits of giving tax breaks to those making movies in Louisiana?
  • How the BP oil disaster still affects southern Louisiana's environment.


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Media captionAlyssa Carson says 'failure is not an option'

Alyssa Carson is not your average teenager. The 13-year-old from Baton Rouge is training to be the first human to go to Mars.

BBC Pop Up caught up with the Baton Rouge teenager whose call sign at the US space agency is "Blueberry".

If you're inspired or intrigued by Alyssa's remarkable story, then let us know what question you'd like to ask her. We'll be going back to her soon to find out her answers.


I arrived in Baton Rouge late last night. The first thing on my agenda this morning was to head over to Louisiana State University to discuss our plans to teach journalism classes this month.

After the meeting, I was asked if we wanted to meet a tiger. Now, that's not something you hear everyday, so I immediately said yes.

I knew LSU's college football team are the Tigers, so I presumed we would meet someone dressed as a mascot. Instead, we met Mike.

Image caption Mike, the Tiger, lives on LSU's campus

Mike is a Bengali-Siberian hybrid, and the sixth tiger to be the official mascot of the university. The first tiger was in 1936, originally named The Sheikh, and renamed in honour of Mike Chambers, the athletic trainer who brought the tiger to the campus.

A short piece of Louisiana history for you - the team's moniker is supposedly a reference to the state's Confederate heritage. All Louisiana infantry in the army of Northern Virginia became known as the Tigers during the Civil War in recognition of the bravery of two New Orleans brigades - the Tiger Rifles and the Washington Artillery (whose logo featured a snarling tiger's head).

There's so much more to come from Baton Rouge and Louisiana, but if anything manages to top day one, I'll be amazed!

Benjamin Zand


Now BBC Pop Up has moved on to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in America's Deep South. The two cities are separated by a great distance - 1,248 miles by road to be precise - but when it comes to politics, culture and racial diversity they are worlds apart. We can't wait to find out more.

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Media captionThe Deep South is a world away from life on the edge of the Rockies


In many ways, Boulder is a seemingly perfect community. Accessibility to New York-quality restaurants and nightlife make it an exciting outpost, the quality of life is very high simply due to the sheer amount of community events and its access to outdoor beauty is unparalleled.

But our month-long stay reaffirmed our suspicions that no matter how glossy the surface of an American city like Boulder may look, there are always deep cracks lurking beneath the surface.

Yes, Boulder is beautiful. But it is also plagued by some very serious issues, from the high number of sexual assault cases at its university to eating disorders for some of the more exercise-obsessed to a very noticeable lack of diversity among its liberal, white population.

That said, when we stopped Boulderites in the street or invited them to public discussions, they were very forthcoming and pointed out these negative aspects of their community. And that's precisely what makes those in Boulder so interesting - they are seeking perfection in both themselves and their environment.

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Media captionA documentary for BBC World News tells the story of Pop Up in Boulder

Here's the documentary we made for BBC World News about our month in Boulder.

Not all the stories we filmed made the final cut and those that did had to get trimmed. You can check out the full-length versions lower down in this blog or on our BBC Pop Up index page. And you can find out more about the project on our Tumblr blog.

Matt Danzico


We completed the first month of BBC Pop Up!

We drove for three days across the country from NYC to Boulder. We explored the region, headed up into the mountains, held community meetings, made friends and listened to the community about the issues they wanted to be covered.

The team created nine videos (one is still to come) and one 24-minute documentary. We wrote text pieces, did radio features, spoke at a TEDx conference, and did radio and TV interviews.

Image caption Matt doing a live TV interview on BBC World News

It was all a bit crazy, but we managed to get it all done.

I did not know much about Boulder before we got there, but by the time we left, I had seen it from all angles. The "hippy enclave" is much more than that. It is a fascinating, unique city with a big future in technology.

Now though, it's time for stop number two: Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A place in the deep, deep south of America, known for alligators and Cajun culture.

I'm currently sitting in the Washington DC bureau meeting up with BBC the team here, but filming has already begun in Baton Rouge after another long car trip (and a pit stop in Dallas).

Image caption Getting ready to hit the road ... again

We have a new member this month, Anna Bressanin, who is a BBC VJ usually based in New York City.

There are many more stories and adventures to come. We will all be reunited on Monday, and it all starts again with our next community meeting on Tuesday, 7 October.

Benjamin Zand


We had a busy time in Boulder - and a lot of visitors (David Botti, Franz Strasser, Anthony Zurcher and Lindle Markwell all joined us from the Washington bureau, while Jack Garland popped in for a brief stint from our LA office). We've compiled all our video features here.

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Media captionAnorexia in America's thinnest city. Jack Garland reports on the dark side of the healthy living lifestyle for which Boulder is famous
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Media captionA victim's father blames high-capacity magazines
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Media captionResidents of Boulder, Colorado, talk to the BBC's Pop Up team about the air strikes President Obama has authorised in Syria
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Media captionThe BBC speaks to women in Colorado about what issues matter to them ahead of the mid-term elections.
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Media captionWe all dream from time to time of escaping it all and heading for the hills, but is it all it's cracked up to be?
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Media captionFor decades Boulder, Colorado has purchased preservation land around the city - but with limited space available for building construction, the city faces an affordable housing crisis.
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Media captionStories of survival. On 11 September 2013, the small community of Jamestown, Colorado, was almost wiped out by the worst flood in 500 years.
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Media captionBBC video journalists Matt Danzico and Benjamin Zand explain why the BBC is hitting the road to find out from Americans what stories they want to hear told.
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Media captionBBC Pop Up: Mobile bureau reporting from across the US

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