Thursday, July 19, 2018

Report: rural households spend more on energy bills

Households in rural areas and small towns at all income levels spend a disproportionately high percentage of income on energy bills (4.4 percent of income) compared to the nationwide average of 3.3 percent, according to a new study published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and Energy Efficiency for All.

The energy burden faced by rural residents varies across different areas and population groups; low-income, elderly, non-white, and renting households pay more, as do those living in multifamily or manufactured homes. 

Click here to download the report and related resources.

New EPA chief rolls back coal ash waste regulations

"As one of his first major acts as acting director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler signed and finalized new standards overseeing coal ash, the leftover waste created by power plants that burn coal. The new rules are a revision of 2015 regulations that were put into place by the Obama administration after two significant industrial coal ash spills," Nadia Kounang reports for CNN.

Under the new rules, which coal industry groups lobbied heavily for, states and the coal industry have more authority to regulate how they deal with waste. States can tailor disposal requirements to specific sites, for example. The EPA said more changes to the 2015 coal ash rules will be addressed later, Kounang reports.

Though some coal ash is recycled into construction materials, about 50 million tons of the 110 million tons generated in the U.S. each year must be disposed of. Power plants traditionally mixed the ash with water and put it in unlined pits, but it can contaminate drinking water. "According to the EPA, there are over 1,000 coal ash disposal sites across the country, many of them constructed in the 1950s and 1960s, well before any sort of regulations," Kounang reports.

Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist and attorney for Murray Energy, was the EPA's deputy administrator and gained the top post after Scott Pruitt resigned last week.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Bipartisan group of legislators go to bat for newspapers at newsprint International Trade Commission tariff hearing

At yesterday's U.S. International Trade Commission hearing, a bipartisan group of 19 legislators said the Commerce Department's tariffs on Canadian newsprint are hurting American newspapers. "The tariffs already substantially increase the cost of newsprint, leading newspapers to shrink the size of their pages and plan for job cuts in response, the lawmakers said. The tariffs would hasten the decline of local news, they said, harming journalists and communities served by small local publications rather than major newspapers," Jeff Cirillo reportshttp://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/lawmakers-across-the-aisle-fight-canadian-newsprint-tariffs for Roll Call.

The Trump administration imposed the tariffs in March after the North Pacific Paper Co. complained that Canadian manufacturers were selling newsprint at unfait prices. North Pacific, a company in Washington state with a single paper mill, was purchased in 2016 by a New York hedge fund. At the hearing, a NorPac representative said the tariffs have allowed paper mills to increase production and re-hire American workers.

"Speakers against the tariffs included House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Alaska and Democratic Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania," Cirillo reports. "The group comprised 13 Republicans, five Democrats and independent Maine Sen. Angus King."

Republican Rep. John Moolenaar of Michigan. “In these communities, there are no big newspapers to bring people their local news. These tariffs, if continued, would do lasting damage to these local institutions.” Some legislators have introduced bills to block the tariffs, which the ITC could block. Also, Commerce could change its mind.

Sept. summit in N.H. to explore rural journalism and more

Rural reporters, entrepreneurs and other rural leaders are invited to attend the "Radically Rural Summit" from Sept. 27-28 in locations throughout Keene, New Hampshire. Hosted by the Keene Sentinel and the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship, the summit is expected to attract more than 500 people across New England and beyond. "The event aims to explore the experience of living and working in a rural community and to create a space for innovation," Sierra Hubbard reports for the Sentinel.

Mary Ann Kristiansen, executive director of the Hannah Grimes Center, told Hubbard: "We’re hoping to see new connections made, new networks made . . . building a network of people who really care about rural. We want doers. We don’t necessarily want the usual crowd. We want people who are really out there doing it."

Attendees can choose from five tracks, each hosted by a different business or organization in the community: entrepreneurship, arts and culture, journalism, Main Street, and agriculture.   "Also featured at the summit, the Hannah Grimes Center recently launched its PitchFork Challenge, a competition with two tracks. Existing businesses can enter to win the $10,000 prize, and entrepreneurs with ideas for new businesses can compete for a $1,000 People’s Choice Award," Hubbard reports. Click here to learn more about the summit or register.

U.S. needs to change approach to firefighting, expert says

Not all wildfires are the same; some are in rural areas, some in wildlands, some in exurbs, and one expert argues that the U.S. needs to stop trying to fight them the same way. "Every major fire rekindles another round of commentaries about 'America’s wildfire problem.' But the fact is that our nation does not have a fire problem. It has many fire problems, and they require different strategies. Some problem fires have technical solutions, some demand cultural calls. All are political," Stephen Pyne writes for The Conversation. Pyne is a professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University. "Here’s one idea: It’s time to rethink firefighting in the geekily labeled wildland-urban interface, or WUI – zones where human development intermingles with forests, grasslands and other feral vegetation."

In WUI zones, houses and natural vegetation intermix, giving wildfires more and different fuel to spread. WUI is a familiar term in the West, but some of the worst WUI risks are in the Southeast as evidenced by the 2016 fire in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Gatlinburg, Tenn. But urban/suburban firefighters control fires differently than firefighters in wild areas, Pyne writes. Urban firefighters are trained to stifle all fire to protect lives; wildlands firefighters try to mostly control fire with water and dirt, removing flammable vegetation so fires stay reasonably contained and the landscape stays healthy.

"The training that each group gets is largely worthless in the other’s setting," Pyne writes. "There are a few instances of cross-training, particularly in rural areas, but the prime example of a major agency that tries to cope with both types of threats is the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire. Its experience shows what fusing these two purposes can mean."

Cal Fire operates a little like urban fire services and a little like wildlands fire services: it aims to control fire mostly by reducing flammable material in such settings and controlling small burns. Suppressing all fires just creates conditions for worse wildfires, so the firefighters try to protect all lives and keep fires from spreading to other communities. 

But such a model is too expensive to be replicated on a national level, and Pyne notes that firefighting already takes up more than 50 percent of the U.S. Forest Service's annual budget. Instead, Pyne recommends that WUI communities try to improve their resilience to fires and be more careful about power lines, which cause a lot of fires.

Summer food programs face challenges in rural areas

"Participation in summer food programs for children increased nationwide by 30 percent from 2007 to 2016, but administrative headaches and transportation issues can make it difficult for smaller providers and rural communities to participate, experts said Tuesday" at a hearing the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, Kate Queram reports for Route Fifty.

According to Kathryn Larin, director of education, workforce and income security at the Government Accountability Office, availability of meal sites and peoples' awareness of such sites were a problem in most states. That goes especially for rural areas where low population density, lack of transportation to meal sites and fewer meal sites limit children's participation. Administrative and paperwork burdens can also be challenging for smaller food programs to cope with, she said.

"The summer food service program, administered by the Department of Agriculture, provides free meals to low-income children and teens when school is not in session. The program administered 149 million meals to children in fiscal year 2016, but participation numbers are unclear due to inconsistent reporting methods across state lines, according to a GAO report released in May," Queram reports. "Tuesday’s hearing addressed those reporting challenges, but focused mostly on innovative summer food programs at the state level."

Public-private partnerships with food programs are an important way of bridging service gaps in rural areas, according to Denise Ogilvie with Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, a ministry that serves 21 counties and served more than 15,000 meals at 32 food program sites last summer.

White-nose syndrome confirmed in S.D. for the first time

A bat with WNS in Great Smoky Mountains National
Park (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
White-nose syndrome has been confirmed in a bat in South Dakota for the first time, according to a joint release from several state and federal agencies.

Researchers observed wing lesions on a bat (believed to be of the long-legged bat species) earlier this summer near Jewel Cave National Monument in the Black Hills National Forest, and lab tests in June at the U.S. Geological Survey's Wildlife Health Center confirmed that the bat had white-nose syndrome, the Rapid City Journal reports. The fungus that causes the disease was confirmed the week before then at Badlands National Park in South Dakota and Laramie National Historic Site in eastern Wyoming.

The long-legged bat is the eleventh species confirmed with white-nose syndrome; in June the disease was found in a cave bat in Kansas and the fungus was found on a western small-footed bat in South Dakota--all three western species.

Bats play an important role in ecosystems and contribute at least $3 billion annually to the U.S. agriculture economy by pollinating crops, dispersing seeds and keeping insect populations down. But white-nose has decimated bat populations in at least 33 states and experts say some bat species may go extinct because of it.

The press release asks the public to take the following steps to limit the spread of white-nose syndrome:
  • Stay out of caves, mines, and areas that are closed.
  • Decontaminate your caving and hiking gear and boots. Do not reuse gear that has been used in WNS-affected areas. Visit www.whitenosesyndrome.org for more information.
  • Contact your state wildlife agency or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service immediately if you suspect you have seen bats with WNS, or if you see bats flying outside during freezing temperatures.
  • Do not touch live or dead bats.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Tests come back positive for Asian carp in East Tennessee

Asian carp are moving up the Tennessee River.
(Map adapted from Sperling's Best Places)
"Tests show one of 50 biological samples researchers took below Watts Bar Dam north of Dayton, Tenn., earlier this year came back positive for bighead carp, a species of Asian carp that can be detrimental to the local ecosystem," Mark Pace reports for the Times Free Press in Chattanooga.

There have been no sightings or reports of the fish so far, but the test means a few fish could be in the region, according to Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency fishery boss Frank Fiss, speaking at a meeting of the agency's board last week.

Image from WatershedCouncil.org
Fiss said he wants to "get ahead of this" so the fish don't become a problem in East Tennessee. Asian carp have caused huge headaches throughout the South and Midwest, and for good reason: the voracious invasive species can decimate freshwater aquatic ecosystems, outcompeting native species for food. The carp can grow to 100 pounds and leap when frightened, making them a danger to boaters.

"The agency's plan is fourfold: prevent the further movement of carp, remove carp from existing populations, monitor abundance and movements, and communication to inform and request help," Pace reports. The fish are moving up the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers from the lower Ohio River; they first found a home in the lower Mississippi River after escaping from fish farms (where they were used for cleaning) but are now threatening to invade the Great Lakes via a Chicago canal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has put more money into an appropriations bill to fight the invasion.

Food banks bring mobile pantries to rural food deserts

Food pantries and soup kitchens tend to be in urban areas, but rural areas need help too: Though rural counties make up 63 percent of the U.S., they make up 79 percent of counties with the highest rates of food insecurity, according to food bank network Feeding America. "Hunger has decreased somewhat in urban settings since the Great Recession, but it remains stubborn in rural areas." Elaine Povich reports for Stateline, a news service for the Pew Charitable Trusts. "Rural poverty levels have exceeded urban poverty for decades, according to a 2017 U.S. Department of Agriculture report. In the South, nearly 22 percent of residents who don’t live in metropolitan areas are in poor households. Over 15 percent of rural counties are 'persistently poor,' compared with just 4 percent of urban counties."

Even when rural residents have Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, getting access to affordable food -- especially fresh food -- can be difficult. That's why some food banks are bringing their services to rural areas with mobile food pantries.

The West Alabama Food Bank, for example, recently received a $47,150 state grant to retrofit a 28-foot trailer to bring fresh, frozen and refrigerated foods to residents in nine rural counties near the Mississippi border. WAFB Executive Director Jean Rykaczewski said that people in their service area often lack transportation to get to grocery stores and instead have to go to convenience stores with inflated prices and poor selection. The new mobile food market will give people more control over what they eat and enable them to get food for free or below cost, she told Povich.

FCC chair announces 'serious concerns' about Sinclair-Tribune merger; could signal death knell for deal

"FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced Monday he has "serious concerns" about Sinclair Broadcast Group's acquisition of Tribune Media, saying he would send the transaction through a lengthy administrative process often viewed as a deal-killer," Margaret McGill reports for Politico.

Sinclair is already the nation's largest owner of television stations, and with the $3.9 billion purchase of 42 Tribune stations, would add to its existing 173 stations to give the company access to almost three-quarters of U.S. households. The company owns many small-market stations.

Sinclair has offered to sell 21 stations to gain government approval, but the proposed sales would still have allowed Sinclair to maintain some control over the stations' revenue and programming. Pai said in a statement that that was a problem for the FCC: "Based on a thorough review of the record, I have serious concerns about the Sinclair/Tribune transaction . . . The evidence we’ve received suggests that certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law."

Pai's move is not just a significant blow for Sinclair, but a surprising move for the Trump-appointed FCC chair. Sinclair has been criticized by Democrats for requiring stations to run editorial content favoring President Trump. And Pai had previous indicated a willingness to smooth the way for the Sinclair merger, reviving a regulatory loophole known as the UHF discount that would have allowed Sinclair to duck federal limits on media ownership.

Two rural communities, one in Mass., one in Eastern Ky., try to bridge the political divide with meetings, visits

Kentucky and Massachusetts residents participated in the first session in October in Leverett, Mass. (Photo provided)
The political divide in America may seem insurmountable, but two rural communities, one liberal and one conservative, are trying to bridge that gap with an ongoing outreach project to better understand one another.

Hands Across the Hills was launched by 18 liberal residents of Leverett, Mass., just after the 2016 election; they reached out to residents of Whitesburg, Ky., because they wanted to better understand not just how people could have voted for President Trump, but Appalachian culture overall, Richie Davis writes for The Daily Yonder (published by the Center for Rural Strategies, based in Whitesburg).

Led by Paula Green, who has led similar cross-cultural efforts for decades in war-torn areas like Bosnia and Rwanda, the project kicked off with a four-day visit in Leverett last October and continued with a visit to Whitesburg this April. "The exchange included home stays with participants and a 'show and tell' of the cultural treasures of each group — like a visit to a . . . coal mine and a bakery to rehabilitate former inmates in the community," Davis writes. "The dialogues, deeply personal and direct, featured one Kentucky woman’s emotional sharing regret over an abortion she’d experienced and stories of family members who’d died in mining accidents, while some Leverett members recounted stories of relatives who had died in or fled the European Holocaust — the first immigrant stories some Kentucky guests had encountered.

Though the groups disagreed on some issues, like guns and Trump, they found common ground in the opioid crisis and worries about the nation's future. "Their dialogue continues online, with monthly calls on follow-up projects: a conversation over guns, a discussion with two African American communities, and even working to nudge their diametrically opposed senators toward dialogue as well," Davis writes. "Critics and cynics may see this work as starry-eyed futility. Yet in the long run, there’s really no alternative if we’re to heal deepening divisions and weave together a United States again."

Monday, July 16, 2018

Trade war splits Missouri county into winners and losers

New Madrid County (Wikipedia map)
The fallout from the U.S. trade war with China is evident in a rural county in the Missouri Bootheel where about 70 percent of the voters in 2016 chose President Trump.

Specifically, farmers in New Madrid County are "delaying equipment purchases, renting their land to hunters and pre-selling crops before harvest - locking in today’s prices for fear they will fall," because of the tariffs on soybeans, P.J. Huffstutter reports for Reuters. Meanwhile, the tariffs on steel and aluminum lured new owners to buy and reopen the Noranda Aluminum smelting plant that has been closed since 2016.

Neil Priggel sees both sides of it, since he was a smelter employee and also runs his family's 4,000-acre farm. He said he was glad the smelter came back, but worries about his farm, Huffstutter reports. Some farmers told Huffstetter they planned to sell their farms and work at the smelter if soybean prices continue to drop.

Reuters chart; click on the image to view a larger version.

House passes legislation to increase local control of fishing

The U.S. House recently passed, mostly along party lines, legislation to change a 1976 fishing law to give local groups more control in developing recovery plans when fishing stocks get too low. As it stands now, regional councils decide fishing seasons and set catch limits to prevent overfishing.

"Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who sponsored both this recent bill and the original 1976 law, said the update ensures 'a proper balance between the biological needs of fish stocks and the economic needs of fishermen'," Dino Grandoni reports for The Washington Post.

Environmentalists are leery of the change, worrying that it could trigger overfishing. But critics of the current system say it doesn't account for the amount of time it takes to replenish different kinds of fish--some more quickly than others.

Partisan sentiment is new in such matters. "The Magnuson-Stevens Act was amended and reauthorized in 1996 and then again 10 years later, each time largely with bipartisan support," Grandoni reports. "What’s atypical is how partisan this has become," said Meredith Moore, director of the fish conservation program at the Ocean Conservancy.

Feds propose paying doctors more for care via tele-health

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services last week proposed to pay doctors more for tele-health appointments, which should increase the use of the tool that brings better care to rural areas. "In a lengthy proposed rule, the agency said it would pay doctors for their time when they reach out to beneficiaries via telephone or other telecommunications devices to decide whether an office visit or other service is needed," Virgil Dickson reports for Modern Healthcare. "In addition, the CMS also proposed paying for the time it takes physicians to review a video or image sent by a patient seeking care or diagnosis for an ailment."

CMS also wants to eliminate the requirement for doctors to justify the medical necessity of a home visit instead of an office visit, and may eliminate a policy that prevents payment for same-day visits with several practitioners with the same specialty in a group practice. For rural patients who have a hard time getting to the doctor, all those proposals could help with accessing better care.

"Elsewhere in the rule, the agency plans to continue a controversial site-neutral policy launched in 2018. For the second year in the row, off-campus facilities built after Nov. 2, 2015, will be paid 40 percent of the outpatient rates for the services they provide," Dickson reports. But CMS wants to include some changes to the policy, such as "letting physicians decide whether they want to opt in if they have a low volume of Medicare Part B enrollees or reimbursements and offering a waiver for clinicians who participate in a new Medicare Advantage demonstration."

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Retired Vt. editor wins ISWNE's Cervi Award for being a watchdog, a public servant and an exemplary journalist

Ross Connelly (Associated Press photo by Toby Talbot)
Ross Connelly may be most widely known as the editor-publisher who tried to sell his weekly newspaper through an essay contest. But he had a great career as a leader in rural journalism, and now he is the winner of the Eugene Cervi Award from the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, presented Saturday night at the ISWNE conference in Portland, Oregon.

The award is named for a crusading Colorado editor who died in 1970. It honors editors who consistently act with the conviction that good journalism begets good government, have a career of outstanding public service through community journalism, hold to the highest standards of the craft with Cervi's deep reverence for the English language, and consistently and aggressively report on and interpret government at the grassroots level.

Connelly owned The Hardwick Gazette in northern Vermont from 1986 to 2017. He founded the Vermont Coalition for Open Government and was president of the Vermont Press Association and the New England Press Association. "Vermont went from what many considered the worst public record access to one of the best" thanks in part to Connelly, wrote Jack Authulet, the 1998 Cervi winner and former Society of Professional Journalists Sunshine Chair for Massachusetts. He was among the nominators.

"He brought big thinking to his small-town market in remote and rural Vermont," wrote nominator Link McKie, publication manager of the New England press group. "He also brought courage to take editorial positions he deemed important and proper for the public welfare, even when they were not popular. He took the time, despite his intensive long hours leading his newspaper, to join fights on behalf of the First Amendment, locally and beyond."

Connelly's "influence locally, statewide, and regionally cannot be overstated," wrote Johnson State College journalism professor Tyrone Shaw, a nominator and former weekly editor. "Simply put, Ross is the exemplar of the ideal journalist, combining the unwavering advocacy of the watchdog, with a deep, compassionate understanding of the communities he served." Connelly helped create the college’s Community Journalism Project, which deploys students to cover annual town meetings on the first Tuesday of March for the Gazette.

Nominator John S. McCright, news editor of the Addison Independent in Middlebury, recalled big stories he pursued as a reporter with Connelly. "The most notable was a scandal involving auctioneers of dairy cows who also happened to be presidents of three local banks and, as it turns out, first-class crooks. While these weren’t elected officials, Ross knew they were just as important in their roles as keepers of the public trust; and he and I reported the story well beyond the borders of the newspaper’s coverage area up until the disgraced bankers went to jail."

Connelly has won many awards for his reporting and editorial writing. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Howard University and master's degrees from the University of Michigan and Boston University. To sell the paper, he ran an entry-fee contest for the best essay on "why they wanted to run a community newspaper."

"In his efforts to sell The Hardwick Gazette, Ross was committed to finding a new owner who recognized the importance of community journalism," wrote nominator Mike Donoghue, executive director of the Vermont Press Association. "He was committed to finding a person who would maintain the newspaper as the important 128-year-old institution it is rather than viewing it as a commodity to be exploited for a return on investment. The essay contest . . . brought attention to the reality that weekly newspapers are and remain a critical part of democracy. While the contest did not draw enough entries, it did attract a New England couple interested in carrying on the tradition that Ross and his wife did for several decades."

Editorial decrying closure of Iowa gun-permit records, while reaching out to readers, wins top prize from weekly editors

The Golden Dozen, the winners of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors' editorial contest, are always a marvelous collection of advocacy and public service. This year's top winner, for work published in 2017, earned ISWNE's Golden Quill award with an editorial that made readers think about a new Iowa law making secret the records of permits to carry guns.

Mark Ridolfi
In his 1,200-word piece, North Scott Press Assistant Editor Mark Ridolfi wrote, "Exercising the regulated right to bear and carry firearms, in my view, seems neither an embarrassment to be covered up, nor a benefit to be automatically pushed into print or online. It simply creates a publicly managed record. And publicly managed records, in my view, should be public. Those wanting secrecy say public gun records can be a road map for thieves. But the state’s new stand-your-ground law pretty much assures a grim end to crooks who use that map."

Ridolfi recounted stories that he had done about the records, including one revealing that one in five residents of the Scott County town of McCausland had a permit to carry a concealed firearm. "Now the public records are inaccessible," he wrote. "No one but law-enforcement professionals can look to determine if permits are being issued in accordance with the statewide standard. No one can discern why individuals have been turned down. No one will know if a thrice-denied applicant gets his or her fourth request granted."

The secrecy raises questions that may never be answered, and Ridolfi ticked off several: "Which teachers hold carry permits? Might they be useful in improving school safety? How many private security guards have been denied carry permit requests because of prior offenses? Who has been wrongly denied a carry permit? Who might have been recklessly granted a permit? Are there Iowa permit holders with undisclosed Illinois offenses that should prohibit their use of guns? Or vice versa? Are women denied more frequently than men? Blacks more than whites? Now, only those managing the permits will know."

Ridolfi concluded by noting that the paper had gotten a database of the permit records shortly before they were made inaccessible, and asked readers in the county just north of Davenport some questions: "How would you like to see that record used? Should it be used? Or should the public’s First Amendment rights necessarily defer to its Second?" He pointed out that the First Amendment not only protects freedom of the press, but the right to petition for redress of grievances: "How does the public discern a grievance without access to public records?"

In an editor's note in the latest edition of ISWNE's Grassroots Editor, Ridolfi wrote that "readers bent my ear on the subject. Some acknowledged the value of transparency, even as they flinched about having their own carry permits disclosed. I hope more of my commentary starts discussions, not ends them. I hope it shows our newspaper cognizant not only of press rights prescribed by the First Amendment, but also of press responsibilities, which most readers know little about. . . . We need to remind them over and over that one business in town has their backs. By including details about our reporting activities, we affirm that local news isn’t a collection of thoughts, feelings, philosophies and impressions. It’s about legwork. It’s about triple checking. It’s about afternoons in a courthouse basement plugging through boxes of index cards that reveal who gets guns and who doesn’t. Our news businesses fail when we aim to appeal only to customers who agree with us. We’re unstoppable when supported by readers who respect us."

Others in the latest Golden Dozen are Melissa Hale-Spencer of The Altamont Enterprise in New York; Brian J. Hunhoff of the Yankton County Observer in South Dakota; Mike Buffington of The Jackson Herald in Jefferson, Ga.; Abigail Whitehouse of The Interior Journal in Stanford, Ky.; Brian Wilson of The Star News in Medford, Wis.; Steve Bonspiel of The Eastern Door in Khanawake, Quebec; Donald Dodd of The Salem News in Missouri; Sarah Kessinger of The Marysville Advocate in Kansas; Paul Fletcher of Virginia Lawyers Weekly; William F. Schanen III of the Ozaukee Press in Port Washington, Wis.; and Brenda P. Schimke of the East Central Alberta Review in Coronation.