Pat Murray: Skywriter pushes toward the future

Murray describes what a normal TV Skywriter set looks like when she has guests on the show. (Staff photo by Sarah Kaylan Butler)


When people ask Pat Murray what she does, she says, “I’m all about community media.”

Murray never studied journalism as a student, but began writing as a part of Chicago’s radio and newspaper media.

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Durham Skywriter, Pat Murray, poses in front of her painted canvas backdrop and explains she’s excited to serve the community by providing access to information. (Staff photo by Sarah Kaylan Butler)

Murray has lived in Durham for 14 years and publishes the Durham Skywriter, an online community media outlet, as a positive news source for a community since most large publications write many negative stories about the city.

She said she realized to reach her audience that “online was the way to go.”

Murray moved to the Bull City to care for aunt, who had Alzheimer’s. Since then, her aunt has passed away and it shocks Murray that Durham has been her home for so long.

Murray says, as a publisher and interviewer, she’s still evolving.

“The Durham Skywriter will probably evolve until I stop,” Murray says. “Which hopefully will not be until I die or something, but I don’t plan to ever sell it. No way — this is my baby!”

If you’ve read the Durham Skywriter, watched TV Skywriter, listened to Radio Skywriter or listened to Deejay Piddipat on WNCU, then you’ve come in contact with her work.

These days, she says she serves the community by using new technology to tell Durham’s positive stories.

Periscope, a video live-streaming app, allows users to “see the world through someone else’s eyes,” as the website says. Murray says she uses it to show off Durham.

 Durham Skywriter, Pat Murray, poses in front of her painted canvas backdrop and explains she’s excided to serve her community by providing access to information. (Staff photo by Sarah Kaylan Butler)

Murray describes what her normal set looks like when she records TV Skywriter and has guests on her show. (Staff photo by Sarah Kaylan Butler)

“Anythony Wilson (of ABC 11) was the first person I saw using Periscope,” she said. “And so, I was like, ‘oh, what’s this!’”

She says Periscope can be misused but, if used properly, it can be wonderful for news. It allows users to virtually visit anywhere in the world.

“I’ve been to Paris. I’ve been to Tehran. I’ve been to Morocco,” she said. “I attended the Chicago Jazz Festival. I just saw Al Strong last night in concert — all on Periscope.”

She said since Periscope is still new, not too many “Durhamites” use it yet, but she’s trying to stay ahead of the curve by using the platform for her morning announcement of Durham happenings she calls the Bull City Notes.

While Murray’s previous publication, The Woodlawn Scoop, was printed as a physical copy, she says the advance in technology has helped the Durham Skywriter grow.

“I went from having a newspaper that could not be touched for a month because it was in print, to something where I can do stuff right there at the scene, at the moment,” she said. “That’s quite an evolution. And it’s all due to technology, which is free.”

Tania Dautlick, executive director of Keep Durham Beautiful, said the Durham Skywriter’s focus on Durham sets it apart from other media sources. She says her experience with the publication has been positive.

“I was interviewed on the radio show as a spokesperson for Keep Durham Beautiful last year,” Dautlick said. “and thought that our mission and story was covered thoroughly and in an interesting manner.”

Andrew Doll, coordinator for the Durham Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA), a support organization for sexual assault offenders, said he has tuned in to Radio Skywriter.

“Patricia has such interesting people on her program,” Doll said. “I really like the long-form interviews. You get more than the short sound bites. She also interviews people that I wouldn’t normally run across.”

Doll said he originally heard about the Skywriter through a word of mouth recommendation.

The last Radio Skywriter was recorded in December 2014. Murray said she made the switch to TV Skywriter because her guests preferred it and she said, “It was just time to go.”

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Murray demonstrates how to use a bottle launcher she makes for her toy business, Piddipat Crafts. (Staff photo by Sarah Kaylan Butler)

Murray’s evolution as an entrepreneur now includes toy making. Her new toy business, Piddipat Crafts, makes toys for children out of PVC pipe and other durable, safe materials.

Murray’s full name is Patricia and her father gave her the nickname Piddipat as a child. Now she’s making music for everyone and toys for children under the name to honor her late father.

The toys can be purchased directly from Murray, but they can also be found at Playhouse Toy Store on 9th Street.

“(It’s) a lot of fun and something I never knew I could do until the opportunity just came to me,” she said.

The Durham Skywriter is available at durhamskywriter.com. The weekly TV Skywriter airs live on Sundays, 7pm EST, on YouTube and Google+ at the “Patricia A Murray” pages. DeeJay Piddipat can be booked at djpiddipat.com. Piddipat Crafts can be found at piddipatcrafts.weebly.com.

Sarah Kaylan Butler of Fayetteville, a senior reporting major at UNC-CH, she served as a writer-photographer for the VOICE during the fall 2015 semester. She is now serving as the editor at large for the Durham VOICE and the Carrboro Commons.