ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
53°
Cloudy
H 70° L 55°
  • cloudy-day
    53°
    Current Conditions
    Cloudy. H 70° L 55°
  • cloudy-day
    72°
    Afternoon
    Cloudy. H 70° L 55°
  • cloudy-day
    70°
    Evening
    Cloudy. H 76° L 54°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

National
Jamie Dupree, silenced by illness, harvests a new voice from old tapes
Close

Jamie Dupree, silenced by illness, harvests a new voice from old tapes

WATCH: Radio Reporter Jamie Dupree Hears His Voice

Jamie Dupree, silenced by illness, harvests a new voice from old tapes

Radio reporter Jamie Dupree, 54, sat at a gate in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and downloaded his new voice.

Hampered for two years by a rare disease, unable to manage more than a few words at a time, he’d been waiting a long time to hear himself speak a full sentence. The executable program had been in his inbox all that day, but the day had been a busy one, having Botox injections in his tongue and the like.

Finally, as he waited for his flight back to Washington, he had a minute to himself.

He fired up his text-to-speech program, loaded the Jamie Dupree voice, and then stared at a blank screen.

“What do I type first?” he wondered.

“What do I want to hear me say first?

“So I simply wrote, ‘My name is Jamie Dupree. This is my new voice,’ and hit play.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Radio reporter Jamie Dupree, who has been covering Washington for 30 years, works at his tiny booth on the Senate side of Capitol Hill. PHOTO: COURTESY JAMIE DUPREE
Close

Jamie Dupree, silenced by illness, harvests a new voice from old tapes

Photo Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Radio reporter Jamie Dupree, who has been covering Washington for 30 years, works at his tiny booth on the Senate side of Capitol Hill. PHOTO: COURTESY JAMIE DUPREE

Waiting to speak

Dupree covers Capitol Hill for the Cox Media Group (which includes The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and is a part of Cox Enterprises). For 30 years Atlanta audiences have heard his voice on WSB radio, reporting on Washington politics.

In the spring of 2016, during the wildest presidential primary ride in recent history, Dupree came down with a stomach bug on a trip to England. His stomach recovered, but bizarre side-effects followed.

His voice became wheezy and high-pitched, and he struggled for words. Finally, he couldn’t speak at all. For a radio reporter, it was the worst handicap imaginable, during an incredible campaign season. “It was my Super Bowl, and I missed it,” he has written.

Though he continued to gather recorded interviews with lawmakers and posted regularly on his blog and social media, his voice disappeared from the airwaves.

Dupree launched a tour of hospitals, specialists and therapists from Atlanta to Baltimore to Cleveland, and a series of ineffective and sometimes painful treatments.

Doctors were baffled. They tried Botox injections to calm the muscles around his vocal cords.

“The needle was very long,” Dupree wrote in a text-only interview with the AJC. “The doctor manually moved my voice box to the side and slid a very long needle in there. My dad was with me, and his eyes grew very wide as he watched.”

Last year, a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic diagnosed his malady as tongue protrusion dystonia. It’s a neurological condition that causes the tongue to involuntarily protrude and the throat to close when the brain sends the signal to talk. The condition is vanishingly rare. There is little understanding of the cause and no known treatment. 

“He told me that no one treated what I had, and he had no idea how to help me,” wrote Dupree. “So, I drive home from Cleveland, knowing that I’ve just seen a big-time expert, and he has no idea what I should do.”

Building a voice

Dupree took to handing out cards that were printed: “I WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK WITH YOU, BUT … I am unable to TALK at this time.” The lawmakers he’d interviewed dozens of times took turns expressing their condolences, and late last year U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, of Miami, Fla., went to the House floor to explain Dupree’s plight and praise his work.

“Jamie’s valiant strength in the face of adversity is an inspiration to us all,” she wrote in a recent email to the AJC. “I took to the House floor to praise his determination while he faces dystonia, but this disease shouldn’t define him. Jamie is the same professional reporter with a penchant for finding truth that we have always known.”

Her announcement from the floor ended up putting Dupree together with Scotland-based tech company CereProc, which develops text-to-speech technology. Graham Leary, head of professional services, said for 500 pounds, his clients “can record 620 sentences in English, and we’ll build a voice for them,” phoneme by phoneme.

Dupree, of course, had already lost his voice. But he had hours of broadcasts that he’d saved. CereProc had everything they’d need.

Last month Dupree opened his laptop, and typed in his first sentence. His computer read it back in the voice of Jamie Dupree: “My name is Jamie Dupree. This is my new voice.”

A few of his colleagues have heard it since then.

“I had an emotional reaction when I first heard it,” said Rich Jones, host of the morning news show on Jacksonville, Fla.’s WOKV radio. “Heck! Jamie’s back!”

A few weeks ago, Dupree was honored with the Governor Cox Award by Alex Taylor, president and chief executive officer of Cox Enterprises, at a ceremony in front of other Cox Media Group employees. When it was time for Dupree to speak, he used his new cloned voice. 

Back on the air

Jamie’s back, though he really never left. Dupree still buttonholes legislators and asks them questions by scribbling on an LCD writing tablet called a Boogie Board, and he still feeds sound to his radio stations in Orlando, Jacksonville, Dayton, Tulsa and Athens.

“They have all kept promoting my reporting,” he writes. “They have all kept my name on the air. They feature my blog. I send them info and still do interviews with their local lawmakers, and get them background on the big stories.”

But he is stymied in one of the simplest pleasures of life: just chatting with his wife, Emily, and their three children, Elizabeth, Henry and Teddy.

“For whatever reason, I’ve been dealt this hand,” he writes. “There are so many things that I want to tell my kids, or my wife. But I can’t get them out.”

On the other hand, he writes, looking on the bright side, “I am not dying.”

Dupree has tried some homemade solutions. Holding a pen or a golf-tee in his mouth sometimes calms his tongue down. But he’s resigned to the prospect that his voice might never come back.

This month, Cox radio stations will be introducing the new voice of Jamie Dupree. They’re calling it Jamie Dupree 2.0.

His reports from Washington will be pronounced by the synthesized creation of CereProc. Dupree said the voice sounds slightly artificial but is still recognizable as his voice.

“Look, the voice is not perfect,” writes Dupree. “At times it sounds robotic… But I can hear myself in those words. And I think the listeners will be able to hear me as well.” 

Read More

The Latest News Headlines

  • After yet another day which featured no hints of progress in ending a funding fight that has to a partial government shutdown taking paychecks away from over 800,000 federal workers, President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday evening that he would make a ‘major announcement’ on Saturday about his push to get money to build a wall along the Mexican border, which has led to an ongoing standoff with Democrats in Congress. “I will be making a major announcement concerning the Humanitarian Crisis on our Southern Border, and the Shutdown,” the President wrote on Twitter, giving no details about what he might announce. With no indications that Democrats in Congress are ready to give in on their opposition to a border wall, some Republicans have continued to urge the President to declare a ‘national emergency’ under existing laws, and move money around in the military’s budget to build a wall. I will be making a major announcement concerning the Humanitarian Crisis on our Southern Border, and the Shutdown, tomorrow afternoon at 3 P.M., live from the @WhiteHouse. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2019 “He ought to go ahead and declare an emergency, and it would be over,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK). “I don’t know why he is reluctant to do that.” Inhofe – who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee – said Thursday that he would not oppose the President dipping into military construction funds to build the wall, though other Republicans have publicly opposed the idea. Democrats on Friday also pressed the Department of Homeland Security on another front – using eminent domain to take land away from landowners, in order to build the way – focusing on a case involving the Catholic Church in Texas, which owns land that the Trump Administration wants. “The federal government must exercise extreme caution when seizing private property,” wrote Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer to the Homeland Security Secretary. To @SecNielsen: The Trump Administration’s lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, raises important questions on the exercise of eminent domain to build a border wall. We ask you to respond to these questions by January 31: pic.twitter.com/MXcfoQib9E — Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 18, 2019 The President has asked for $5.7 billion in border security money for both fencing and a wall; Democrats in Congress have offered $1.6 billion – the original requests of the Trump Administration and Republicans – but Democrats want none of that to go to the wall.
  • Florida schools are seeing a critical shortage of certified science, English and math teachers. A new report by the Florida Department of Education says those subjects are among areas where substantial proportions of teachers who are not certified in the appropriate field are being hired to teach those courses. “We have a shortage because people aren’t entering the teaching profession like they used to because there’s no security in teaching,” Renna Lee Paiva said. Paiva is president of the Clay County Education Association. She said those who have been in the education field for years are extremely concerned about the teacher shortage. In Duval County, a district spokesperson said there are 146 total vacancies at schools, with 21 open positions in math and four in science. In St. Johns County, the district had 28 unfilled positions as of Jan. 7, including four in math and science. Clay County Schools says it has 14 vacancies overall, with five in math and science. “We start to see fewer freshman coming in and saying, ‘I want to be an elementary teacher or I want to be a biology teacher,’” Paul Parkison, chair of the University of North Florida’s childhood education program, said. He told Action News Jax that the university starts recruitment early, educating incoming freshman about teaching opportunities. “We didn’t used to have to have those conversations, we’d have freshman coming in that were already excited about being teachers,” he said. “We actually initiated a couple programs that are targeted toward particularly the secondary, our UNF graduates who didn’t consider teacher as their primary major. Maybe they’re a history major or a biology major.” Local education experts, including Jacksonville Public Education Fund President Rachel Tutwiler Fortune, said the focus needs to be on higher pay. “There are many potential solutions, including higher pay and more career advancement opportunities,” she said in a statement. “Our pay scales, our benefits is all in jeopardy and it’s up to the legislators to fix it so we can give quality education to our kids -- which is our primary goal,” Paiva said. Full statement from JPEF: “The teacher shortage is a problem in Duval County as well as across our state and the nation, and there are many potential solutions, including higher pay and more career advancement opportunities. The Duval County School Board recently discussed one of these promising solutions -- creating a program to help public high students work toward a degree in education, in order to increase the number of aspiring teachers. This would be a win for Duval County students now and in the future, and we applaud Duval County Public Schools for exploring how we could adopt this innovative model -- known as 'grow your own teacher' -- in Jacksonville.”
  • You've been hearing the buzz about autonomous vehicles for a while, now lawmakers in Florida are discussing the possibility of making the futuristic form of transportation a reality. A state representative from Duval County has filed legislation to allow the development and deployment of those autonomous vehicles.  State Rep. Jason Fischer (R-Jacksonville) says as an engineer by trade, he understands the benefits autonomous vehicles would bring with them. He says if Florida were to ban those types of vehicles, it would stunt the state's potential for growth.  'Those engineers aren't going to move here. Those planners aren't going to move here. Those are high paying jobs,' Fischer says.  He says he can imagine Jacksonville as a place where football fans will be able to hop on driverless vehicles to take them to Jaguars games at TIAA Bank Field. He says the Skyway, linking one side of the St. Johns River to the other in downtown, is a prime example of something that could be updated if his bill goes through.  'We have a public transportation component that's already looking to go that way,' he says. 'My legislation would help enable them to move in that direction.'  Fischer says autonomous vehicles would also be a major help to the blind community. Both AARP Florida and the Florida Council of the Blind have offered their support for the legislation, saying their members will have more mobility opportunities if the bill goes through.  “For blind people, people living with disabilities and some senior citizens, self-driving cars will mean greater independence,” President of the Florida Council of the Blind Sheila Young says in a statement.  Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) is sponsoring the companion measure in the Florida Senate. Fischer says he thinks the legislation should make it to the governor's desk within a couple months.
  • Two Florida fifth-graders are accused of plotting to kill an 11-year-old classmate and escape in a golf cart last month. The plot unraveled Dec. 14 at Roberts Elementary School in Tallahassee, where the alleged victim and the accused students, ages 10 and 11, all attend school. A 32-page police report obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat details the plot, which resulted in both students’ suspension and civil citations for conspiracy to commit battery and bringing weapons on school grounds.  The students are also being recommended for expulsion, the Democrat reported.  “This obviously is a very serious matter,” Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna said in a statement. “There is zero tolerance in our school system for violence or threats of violence. The individuals who participate in these types of behavior will suffer severe consequences, as (will) these two young boys.” The school’s principal, Kim McFarland, told investigators that the boys “planned and put into effect” a plot to kill their classmate, the Democrat reported.  >> Read more trending news According to the timeline laid out in the police report, one of the accused boys threatened the victim Dec. 10, telling him they would kill him. A few days later, a female classmate told the victim a secret and then went to the two suspected plotters and claimed the victim was spreading rumors about her.  The plotters again threatened the boy, saying they would “take care of him and kill him,” the Democrat reported.  Another student later told police investigators the boys drew a map of where on campus they would take the victim -- an area without security cameras, the newspaper reported. They ultimately changed their mind and planned to take the boy to the school’s garden instead, the police report said.  The day of the planned attack, one of the boys brought a backpack to school with what investigators believe was a murder kit: a wrench, adjustable clamp pliers, a multitool with a 3-inch blade on it and baseball batting gloves. According to police, the student showed the tools to classmates and one of the pair told them “snitches get stitches.” They also told at least one classmate they had the gloves so they would not leave fingerprints, the Democrat reported. They planned to use some of the tools to bust through a gate and flee on a golf cart.  During an after-school program on campus, the boys approached the alleged victim and asked if he wanted to go to the “secret hideout in the garden,” the police report said. He told investigators he refused because other students had told him the boys wanted to hurt him.  The alleged victim went to a teacher supervising the after-school program and told what the boys had planned, the newspaper reported. The boys were taken to the principal, who searched the backpack and found the tools, including the knife. The boys denied wanting to kill the victim, but admitted they planned to beat him up, the Democrat reported.  After the incident, McFarland sent parents an email, which was obtained by WCTV in Tallahassee. “Last Friday there was an incident, with alleged intent to harm a fellow student, that occurred in the afterschool program with a group of 5th grade students who had been developing a plan over a series of days,” McFarland said. “Some of you have reached out with concerns and questions. At this time, I cannot share details, but I can assure that your children are safe and the situation is being handled.” McFarland wrote that she met with the school’s fifth graders to discuss the importance of “see something, say something.”   “Many fifth grade students knew of the potential incident but did not tell teachers or their parents,” the principal said. “We discussed the importance of alerting adults when there is any concern for safety for themselves or their fellow students. Please discuss this with your children. It is imperative they learn this valuable skill now.”
  • The Clay County Sheriff's Office is inviting the community to a fundraiser next month called 'Shootin' with the Sheriffs.' Chris Padgett, the Public Information Officer with CCSO, says the event will essentially be a clay-shoot competition featuring Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels and other law enforcement members and the community.  Padgett says proceeds from the event will allow them to send about 30 people from their honor guard and members of their traffic section to Washington D.C., later this year for the police memorial service to honor one of their own.  '...In August 2018, one of our very close friends and deputies, Deputy Ben Zirbel, was tragically killed in a traffic crash on Blanding Boulevard. With that, his name will be getting placed on the law enforcement memorial's wall. And we want to make the sure the members of his direct team and the members of our honor guards go there and partake in that event,' says Padgett.  Padgett says it's important to send a team to be there to represent Zirbel's legacy and represent his wife and his child.  'And that is just so important to us, because they're [Zirbel’s family] going through some extreme hardships and there is one way we can help elevate them and be there as a support element,' says Padgett.  Padgett says the 'Shootin' with the Sheriffs' event will be family-friendly and everyone's invited to either watch or take part.  The event will be held February 25th, from 9 AM- 2 PM, at the Saltwaters Shooting Club located at 900 Big Oak Road in St. Augustine.  To register or help sponsor the event, you can contact Jimmy Stalnaker at (904) 813-9554 or by email at jstalnaker@claysheriff.com. You can also contact Charlie Goldsmith at (904) 838-3350 or by email at cgoldsmith@claysheriff.com.  You can also contact either of them to make a cash donation if you can’t make it out that day, but still want to help.

The Latest News Videos