In 1996, the then-St. Petersburg Times ran a gripping series by staff writer Roy Peter Clark called Three Little Words. Over 29 days, Clark told the story of Mick and Jane Morse, married with children and hiding what was then a shameful family secret. Mick revealed he'd been living a double life, and one day told Jane, “I have AIDS.” The challenges the Morse faced captivated and sometimes reviled readers, raising awareness of a disease that was still largely a mystery at the time. Now, 25 years later, Times audio producer Austin Fast revisited both the Morse family and the AIDS epidemic in a five-part podcast to examine what has changed — and what remains strikingly similar.
Jane Morse loved her husband Mick, even though he could be a bit distant. Then Jane's world turned upside down when Mick said three little words. A story that shocked and captivated Tampa Bay Times audiences 25 years ago gets an update, checking in on the Morse family and taking inventory of how AIDS affects America today.
As a terrifying new disease grips the world, Jane Morse’s husband utters three little words she can’t believe: “I have AIDS.” Then, three more words complicate everything: “Keep it secret.”
The Morses live in paradise, but Jane is frustrated with her husband Mick. He dotes on their kids and his students, but their marital distance grows even more obvious when surrounded by the sensuality of Brazilian culture.
Mick finally spills his secret, and Jane worries how she’ll provide for three teenagers alone. When Jane moves to Florida, she discovers a second epidemic just as serious as HIV: the fear of people with AIDS.
Jane decides to share their story with a St. Petersburg Times reporter to help other families, sparking passionate responses from readers. While Mick had few medical options in the ‘90s, today’s treatments make HIV practically untransmittable.
Jane’s daughter does something her father Mick likely never imagined would be possible. LGBTQ+ rights have shifted dramatically since 1996, but more work remains in the fight against AIDS and its stigma, particularly among people of color and the transgender community.
Follow Roy Peter Clark's narrative as it originally appeared in the St. Petersburg Times in 1996.
Podcast reported, written and produced by Austin Fast
Original newspaper serial reported and written by Roy Peter Clark, with editing by Richard Bockman
Script supervision and editing by Joshua Gillin and Maria Carrillo
Digital design by Martin Frobisher
Bonus content and archives organized and edited by Martin Frobisher, Austin Fast, Justinian Hatfield, Jennifer Glenfield and Joshua Gillin
Engagement strategy by Rachel Adamson and Joshua Gillin
Music provided by Artlist
Hosting services provided by Acast