Pat Duggins

News Director

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.  If his name or voice is familiar, it could be his twenty five years covering the U.S. space program, including fourteen years on NPR.  Pat’s NASA experience began with the explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986, and includes 103 missions.  Many NPR listeners recall Pat’s commentary during Weekend Edition Saturday on February 1, 2003 when Shuttle Columbia broke apart and burned up during re-entry.  His expertise was utilized during three hours of live and unscripted coverage with NPR’s Scott Simon.  Pat later wrote two books about NASA, Final Countdown: NASA and the End of the Space Shuttle Program and Trailblazing Mars, both of which have been released as audio books.  Pat has also lectured about the future of the space program at Harvard, and writes about international space efforts for "Modern Weekly" magazine in Shanghai, China.

Duggins experience goes beyond NASA.  Most recently, he led the APR news team on a year long investigation of rural health in Alabama, which was recognized with the 50th annual "Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for Radio." The team was honored alongside The New York Times, the Washington Post, ABC-TV, and PBS FRONTLINE. In addition, APR was selected over that year's RFK award laureates to receive the RFK Human Rights Foundation's "John Siegenthaler Prize for Courage in Journalism." Duggins and the team also investigated conditions at Alabama prisons which won APR's third national Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Following the airing of this series and documentary, the U.S. DOJ began an investigation into Alabama prisons, and Governor Kay Ivey enacted a law that stops judges from overruling jury recommendations of life in prison in murder cases, and imposing the death penalty.

APR also covered the 2011 Alabama Tornado outbreak with dawn to dusk rescue and recovery updates. The news crew also provided national and international coverage for the BBC in London, MSNBC, CBC in Canada, and Australia Broadcasting in Sydney and Melbourne.  His efforts, and those of the APR news team, were recognized with back-to-back National Sigma Delta Chi awards from the Society of Professional Journalists.

The Radio Television Digital News Association also honored Pat and the team with three national Edward R. Murrow Awards, including the prestigious prize for overall excellence. The Alabama Associated Press also recognized APR as the "Most Outstanding News Organization" in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. And, Duggins' news series on the long-term impact of the Gulf oil spill won APR's first national PRNDI award from the Public Radio News Directors' Association in a decade, as well as a regional Murrow. His documentary "Civil Rights Radio," on the 1963 "children's march" in Birmingham was honored with the international "Silver Radio Award" from the New York Festivals radio competition, and with a "Gabriel Award" from the Catholic Church. 

Pat’s work isn’t limited to radio, with regular appearances on TV.  He also conducts interview/profile segments for "Alabama, Inc." a University of Alabama TV series on business on airs statewide on Alabama Public Television. Pat also co-hosted “Your Vote Counts,” a program featuring college-age voters who critiqued the final debate between Robert Bentley and Ron Sparks in the 2011 race for Alabama Governor. 

Since his arrival at APR, Pat and the team have won more than one hundred awards for excellence in journalism. Duggins is also the recipient of a Suncoast Regional Emmy.

Ways to Connect

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Alabama's total of Coronavirus cases is now at 783, with four deaths. That fourth fatality is in Mobile County, which has thirty nine cases of its own. Another issue connected to the COVID-19 outbreak is the mental health impact. Video of people fighting over toilet paper in supermarkets has made the news lately. Dr. Thaddeus Ulzen is the chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at University Medical Center in Tuscaloosa. He says sheltering at home is leaving people with the feeling that their lives are out of control and the toilet paper fights are a sign of that.

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The State of Alabama is up to an updated 694 confirmed cases of Coronavirus, and three deaths linked to the illness. While the case load increases, the University of Alabama in Birmingham is looking for a few good COVID-19 patients. The school is taking part in a study that may lead to a treatment for Coronavirus. UAB is one of seventy five participants in a test of drug called Remdesivir. Dr. Paul Goepfert is leading the Birmingham research team. He says four hundred test subjects are being sought for a step by step process.

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Updated at 9 p.m.

The Alabama Department of Public Health and Governor Kay Ivey have confirmed Alabama's first COVID-19 related death. 

"We express our deepest sympathy to the family and loved ones of the patient who died, as well as to the families of everyone who has been affected by this outbreak," State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said. "The health of our residents and the community is our greatest priority, and we will continue working together to care for the patients, protect the safety of health care workers, and protect the people in our state."

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Alabama's caseload of Coronavirus patients has grown to 283. Healthcare providers are looking at innovative ways to get patients in touch with their doctors without a face to visit that might spread the illness. Tuscaloosa’s University Medical Center at the University of Alabama is now using the FACETIME video feature on mobile phones for office visits. Dr. Thomas Weida practices family medicine at UMC.

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Alabama health officials say the State has two hundred and forty two (updated) confirmed cases of Coronavirus. Governor Kay Ivey is asking the Alabama National Guard be ready to be called up on "as needed" basis. This order includes one hundred troops. The Guard would step, Ivey says, if healthcare providers or first responders need support.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey says she has no plans to issue a statewide "shelter in place" order to combat the new Coronavirus, despite a similar action by the City of Birmingham. The city council voted to impose the order until April third. Mayor Randall Woodfin cited an increase of COVID-19 cases in the “Magic City,” rising to 91, for prompting the City’s action.

Alabama Health officials expect Gulf coast COVID caseload to get bigger

Mar 24, 2020
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The Alabama Department of Public Health now says the State has 242 (updated) confirmed cases of Coronavirus. Most are in Jefferson, Madison, and Shelby Counties. However, Alabama health officials expect an increase in the number of Coronavirus cases along the State’s Gulf coast. Mobile County has three testing sites and two confirmed COVID-19 patients. Two more testing are expected for Baldwin County which has three cases. APR’s Gulf Coast reporter Guy Busby spoke with Baldwin County Commission Chair Billie Jo Underwood. She says her community is gearing up to fight the Coronavirus.

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Alabama now has two hundred and forty two (updated) confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The Alabama Department of Public Health will be holding a meeting on who should be tested for COVID-19. The discussion with healthcare providers may result in adjusting the guidelines for who should undergo a test for the illness. The State changed its process three weeks ago, so any doctor could ask for a test. Dr. Scott Harris is Alabama’s State Health Officer. He says the old system based the testing decision on CDC regulations.

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Alabama is reporting three additional cases of the new Coronavirus, bringing the State's total to 196 (updated.)  This word comes as another state vehicle factory prepares to close and officials try to clarify new rules limiting contact between people. State health officials say Alabama's total number of confirmed cases rose to 106 Friday, up from 78 a day earlier. Mercedes-Benz says it's temporarily closing its plant near Tuscaloosa starting next week. And the governor's office says a new rule limiting gatherings to 25 people or less doesn't apply to work-related groups.

Alabama Gulf coast gears up to deal with the Coronavirus

Mar 20, 2020
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Alabama's caseload of Coronavirus now stands at 78. Governor Kay Ivey’s action to close Alabama beaches follows similar action by the City of Gulf Shores. The State’s biggest beachside community ordered its beaches closed yesterday to hold off the spread of the Coronavirus. The move by Gulf Shores to close its beaches was quickly followed by Orange Beach and Dauphin Island. The Baldwin County Commission voted to also close county access.

James Peppler

As Alabama health officials deal with seventy eight confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in the State, a new online project seeks to bring the lessons of the U.S. civil rights movement to students. The Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University unveiled Selma Online this month​. It's a free, online teaching platform that aims to transform how the civil rights movement is taught in middle and high schools.

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Alabama has ordered the closures of day cares, beaches and on-site dining in restaurants as the state tries to contain the spread of the Coronavirus. Gov. Kay Ivey announced the order, which expands an order to all sixty-seven counties that had previously been in place for six counties surrounding Birmingham. The order lasts until April fifth. Alabama's largest coastal city, Gulf Shores, had already announced the closure of public beaches because throngs of young people on spring break were ignoring rules meant to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

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Alabama is postponing its Republican U.S. Senate runoff race between Jeff Sessions and former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville because of the Coronavirus. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey says the runoff is being rescheduled to July 14th because it's too risky for voters to go to the polls and stand in line right now. The winner will face Democratic U.S. Sen. Doug Jones in November. The Hyundai automobile plant in Montgomery is closed after a worker tested positive for the Coronavirus.

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Alabama health officials now confirm 196 (updated) cases of the Coronavirus in the state. A concern was also raised about blood shortages. The American Red Cross has cancelled close to two thousand blood drives. This has prompted the State to ask potentials donors to keep donating, and that blood banks sanitize their facilities. Health officials in Alabama are also making suggestions on what to do if someone thinks they have the Coronavirus. The illness has symptoms similar to the flu, including fever, body aches, and nausea. Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo* is director of infectious diseases at UAB.

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Please find enclosed Alabama Public Radio’s entry for the PMJA Award for Best Radio Series, titled “Alabama Human Trafficking.” The two member Alabama Public Radio news team spent fourteen months and three thousand miles on the road, with no budget, investigating the trafficking issue in Alabama. It all began with a number.

641,000.

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Medical marijuana legislation that would allow people to be prescribed marijuana for fifteen medical conditions, is headed to its first vote in the Alabama Legislature. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on the bill Wednesday and could vote the same day. The bill by Republican Senator Tim Melson would allow people to be prescribed medical marijuana for certain conditions, including cancer, anxiety and chronic pain, and to purchase cannabis products at a dispensary licensed by the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.

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The Alabama Public Radio news team spent fourteen months investigating the issue of human trafficking in Alabama. You can find that content at apr.org. The project meant talking with a lot of people, and there’s one part of the story that has taken until now to come together. It’s a University of Alabama project designed to help trafficking survivors, and to build trust where trust appears to be rare.

Please find enclosed Alabama Public Radio’s entry for the Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Radio Feature Story, titled “Changing Mindsets on Sex Trafficking.” The two member Alabama Public Radio news team spent fourteen months and three thousand miles on the road, with no budget, investigating the trafficking issue in Alabama. It all began with a number.

641,000.

Please find enclosed Alabama Public Radio’s entry for the Edward R .Murrow Award for Best Radio Newscast, titled “September 23, 2019. During this year, the two member Alabama Public Radio news team spent fourteen months and three thousand miles on the road, with no budget, investigating the human trafficking issue in Alabama. This effort was pursued while the Alabama Public Radio produced one hundred and seven minutes of newscasts per week, including APR’s entry for best newscast.

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Please find enclosed Alabama Public Radio’s entry for the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Best Radio Investigation, titled “Alabama, Human Trafficking, and the Web.” The two member Alabama Public Radio news team spent fourteen months and three thousand miles on the road, with no budget, investigating the trafficking issue in Alabama. It all began with a number.

641,000.

That’s the number of on-line sex trafficking ads in Alabama, just in 2017, as counted by the University of Alabama’s College of Social Work. APR news built on that tabulation by commissioning a study by the cybercrime lab at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, which “scrapes” the dark web to gather data on terrorism and opioid trafficking, in addition to sex trafficking, for clients including the Federal Government and Facebook.

APR asked the lab to generate a one-day “snap shot” of verified sex trafficking ads in Mobile, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Huntsville. The result for these four small cities outpaced numbers for Atlanta, a main hub for trafficking in the southeast.

The four-month effort included screening out bogus internet ads by using stock photos of sex workers. The UAB computer program searched the web for exact copies of the picture. The ads with original photos were judged by analysts as likely to be genuine, and represented likely victims of trafficking.

SCRIPT

CYBER trafficking/ Pat

August 15, 2019

All year long, the Alabama Public Radio news team has been investigating human trafficking in our state. Researchers who study trafficking consider Alabama to be a microcosm of what’s going on in the U.S. In other words, the problem is here and issues in Alabama are likely occurring everywhere. APR’s Pat Duggins reports one way to put trafficking into focus in Alabama is by looking at the numbers. And, that means taking a deep dive into the internet. A note to our listeners, this story contains content of an adult nature that might not be suitable for all ages.

APR's Pat Duggins

Fans of college football are still buzzing over word that Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is entering the NFL Draft. Alabama Coach Nick Saban wasted no time in singing the praises of the quarterback.

“I don’t think he’s every been in of my office one time, the whole time he’s been here, for anything but something that’s positive in terms of helping him or helping the rest of our program," Saban said.

Inmate homicides are on the rise in Alabama's prisons despite a national spotlight on its corrections system. Prison system statistics show eleven incidents where one inmate killed another during the last fiscal year. Prison system reports show that's more than any recent year. The rise in inmate homicides comes despite a national spotlight on Alabama prisons and state officials' promises for improvement. The Justice Department has threatened to sue the state over its violent prisons. A federal judge also ordered the state to add a many as two thousand corrections officers.

An APR news special report.

A note to our readers, this documentary contains content of an adult nature. Parents may want to consider whether it's appropriate for all ages.

“My friend Becca took to me the hospital, but I hadn’t told the hospital what had happened to me,” Dixie Shannon said. She lives in Central Alabama.

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Alabama Public Radio’s entry for the Pulitzer Prize for Audio Journalism is titled “Selling Kids: Human Trafficking in Alabama.” The two member Alabama Public Radio news team spent fourteen months and three thousand miles on the road, with no budget, investigating the trafficking issue in Alabama. It all began with a number.

641,000.

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Researchers with the University of South Alabama are the first to sign onto a study of West Nile virus. The school says genetic material from infected mosquitoes will be sent to Yale University's school of public health. Workers there will sequence DNA to help understand how the virus and spread and changed over the last two decades in the United States. Back in September, the Alabama Department of Public Health confirmed one human case of West Nile in the state, as well as two infected horses. The virus killed nearly 170 people nationwide last year.

APR's Pat Duggins

Alabama's star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa dislocated his hip, late in the first half of the Crimson Tide's game against Mississippi State. Tide medical staff says it's a season ending injury. Tagovailoa was injured after a scramble when he was tackled from behind by Bulldogs linebacker Leo Lewis. Tagovailoa needed help getting to his feet and was carted off the field with 3:01 left in the second quarter. The junior had been nursing an ankle injury that needed surgery four weeks ago and caused him to miss a game and a half.

APR's Pat Duggins

The Alabama Crimson Tide's path to the playoffs appears uncertain following Saturday’s forty six to forty one loss to LSU. President Trump and the first lady watched the game from a skybox on the thirty five yard line. They witnessed what head coach Nick Saban called the worst first half for the Tide this season with blown coverage and dropped balls by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and kicker Ty Perine. Alabama Wide Receiver Henry Ruggs says having Trump in stands wasn’t a distraction in the Tide’s loss to LSU.

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TUSCALOOSA—

TODAY—CLOUDY WITH A HIGH AROUND EIGHTY. SLIGHT RAIN CHANCE

TONIGHT—CLOUDY WITH A LOW IN THE MID SIXTIES. SLIGHT RAIN CHANCE

MOBILE—

TODAY— CLOUDY WITH A HIGH IN THE MID EIGHTIES. SLIGHT RAIN CHANCE

TONIGHT—CLEAR WITH A LOW AROUND SEVENTY. SLIGHT RAIN CHANCE

HUNTSVILLE—

TODAY—RAINY WITH A HIGH IN THE UPPER SEVENTIES. SLIGHT RAIN CHANCE

TONIGHT—SOME RAIN WITH A LOW IN THE LOW SIXTIES. SLIGHT RAIN CHANCE

SELMA—

TODAY-- RAINY WITH A HIGH IN THE UPPER SEVENTIES. SLIGHT RAIN CHANCE

National Hurricane Center/NOAA

Tropical Storm Nestor is bearing down on the northern Gulf Coast with high winds, surging seas and heavy rains. Forecasters expect blustery winds and heavy rain in parts of Alabama, Georgia and northern Florida, reaching the Carolinas and Virginia by Sunday. The system is threatening to hit an area of the Florida Panhandle that was devastated one year ago by Hurricane Michael. That earlier storm left thousands of people homeless and nearly wiped the Panhandle city of Mexico Beach off the map. By contrast, Florida doesn’t appear to be bracing for a catastrophe.

The DCH Hospital system in west central Alabama may be accepting new patients as soon as Monday after resolving a ransomware attack. The Associated Press and the Tuscaloosa News report the three-hospital network paid a ransom to a hacker over the weekend to get a key to unlock its system. Since the Tuesday attack, DCH hospitals in Tuscaloosa, Northport, and Fayette had to resort to paper medical records. The hospitals also had to stop taking all but the most critically ill patients. Everyone else was funneled to hospitals in Birmingham and Mississippi.

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