A digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based at the University of Kentucky. Links may expire, require subscription or go behind pay walls. Please send news and knowledge you think would be useful to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter @RuralJournalism
Friday, June 13, 2008
Tim Russert: A role model for journalism's fundamental function, making democracy work
The end of anyone’s life should teach lessons. Tim Russert taught men how to be sons and fathers, and he was a father figure to his younger NBC colleagues, as they have testified today. For journalists, he was a role model for the fundamental function of our business: making democracy work. May we all try to remember that example, and follow it.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Ark.-based newspaper chain wants its classified ads taken off Wal-Mart's Web site
Wal-Mart put a "classifieds" link on the site in the last week of May "in what has been described by the Bentonville-based retailer as a test program," Stacey Roberts of WEHCO's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. "It takes visitors to lists of advertisements that can be searched according to location, product or service offered." The newspaper said its management was surprised. (Read more) For Roberts' latest update, via the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association Bulletin, click here.
"Wal-Mart noted that WEHCO's ads would be exposed to a larger audience, and it was possible to direct a inquiry back to the newspaper's Web site," the Bulletin reported earlier. "WEHCO noted that users could review the content of these ads on the W
Classified sites such as Craigslist and Career Builder, which is owned by major newspaper companies, have concentrated on larger markets. WEHCO is concerned that the move by Wal-Mart, which has most of its stores in rural areas, "could be a significant threat to sm
Rural Misses: Not as healthy as Mizzes, they say
“Being single may be associated with a greater degree of separation from usual health care, as many women gain insurance through a spouse or a former spouse. Lack of social support also may contribute to poor health among some single women,” said James Rohrer, Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic’s Department of Family Medicine and lead author of the study.
Rohrer said current economic difficulties may cause additional stress that can affect health. “Statistically, rural, unmarried women are more often economically depressed than their married counterparts,” he said. “If the economy worsens, we will see a significant impact on visits to primary care physicians and nurses. Medical providers are trained to focus on the biological and psychological. But economic causes of poor health? I don’t think that receives a lot of air time in medical school.” (Read more)
TV viewers say they can't find digital converter boxes before federal vouchers expire
"If you can't get a box within the 90 days, what good is this?" Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., said as he held up one of the vouchers, which "resemble plastic gift cards," The Associated Press reported. Each household is entitled to two coupons; a converter box is needed for each TV set.
"About 8.5 million households have requested 16 million coupons since the program started earlier this year, according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is overseeing the coupon program. Nearly 3 million coupons have been redeemed so far," AP reports. " Of the roughly 840,000 coupons that recently expired, 42 percent were redeemed, the agency said. Under current government rules, consumers with expired coupons cannot reapply for new ones." NTIA spokesman Todd Sedmak said the agency is considering changing the rules to allow reapplication. The agency's Web site has detailed information.
Flooding threatens economy of the Midwest
"Meat processor Tyson Foods Inc. is temporarily suspending work at two Iowa hog-slaughtering plants, while farm-equipment maker Deere & Co. was forced by rising rivers to evacuate a foundry in that state. A St. Louis-based riverboat casino on the Mississippi River closed, and a lake at a popular resort in Wisconsin emptied after an embankment burst. Towns across the region are confronting collapsed bridges and overflowing sewers. Further heavy rain may burst or overtop already stressed dams and levees in Wisconsin and Iowa." Southwest Indiana is also hard-hit, after 10 inches of rain.
Development of rural areas could be worsening the floods. "Large swaths of farm and forest land that had been soaking up excess water are now covered with concrete and asphalt for neighborhoods, shopping centers and parking lots, increasing water runoff into waterways," the Journal reports. "And local governments hungry for property-tax revenue have continued to allow construction in floodplains, according to a federally sponsored evaluation of the National Flood Insurance Program published in 2006." (Read more; subscription may be required)
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Gas prices pinching rural community colleges
"In large swaths of rural America, where a journey of 50 to 100 miles to reach a destination is the norm, some community-college officials say students are being forced to make tough decisions about what they can afford, given the added expense of fuel," Sander reports. "Some are dropping out. Others are turning to online classes for relief from the pump."
A growing number of community colleges are helping students by altering schedules and dropping one day of classes, which saves students a trip to campus each week, Mary Beth Marklein writes for USA Today. "The push to drop a day, usually Fridays, is rippling primarily through two-year colleges serving rural areas, where many students drive long distances and public transportation is harder to come by." Such policies have recently been announced at Eastern Kentucky University and LeTourneat University. Also, "Some universities are switching to a four-day work week this summer to allow employees to save gas costs, , insidehighered.com reports.
More and more students are are opting for online classes, which eliminates commutes to and from community colleges while reducing fuel costs. State colleges and universities in Tennessee have experienced a 29 percent increase in online registration this summer compared to last summer and face a 20 percent increase for the fall, Colby Sledge reports for The Tennessean of Nashville. Robbie Melton, associate vice chancellor for the state Board of Regents, identified a consistency among students signing up for online classes. "When they call, they keep saying, 'The gas prices, it's just unbelievable,'" he said. (Read more)
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Corn crop forecast down; bad news for economy
Monday, June 09, 2008
Appalachians more honest about race and votes?
Paul Harris, writing in "The Observer" column in The Guardian, a major British newspaper, reports from Williamson, W. Va., on the Kentucky border, and nearby Pikeville, Ky. He quotes Johnny Telvor of Williamson as saying Obama would make slaves of white people, and Stanley Little of Pikeville as saying he will vote Republican because "'McCain is one of us. Obama ain't."
Such stories imply that race was the main reason Obama lost the two main states of Central Appalachia. They ignore the fact that he made only one campaign stop in each of them, that Hillary Clinton's lunch-bucket speeches spoke more to local needs than Obama's high-flown rhetoric, and that the Clintons had strong followings in both states while Obama was not well known. As I said in my fortnightly column in The Courier-Journal yesterday, if Obama asked one of the black mayors of overwhelmingly white towns in Kentucky, "They might tell him that when folks know you, they're willing to vote for you. When you're a silhouette or a cartoon, they're not even listening."
Still, Harris and Emory University's Andra Gillespie, whom he calls "an expert on racial politics," make an interesting argument, that Appalachians are just being more honest about race than most other Americans. "The difficult truth is that Appalachia is unusual mostly because many people here are willing to openly talk about what some of their fellow citizens are secretly thinking," Harris writes, citing the exit polls of Edison Mitofsky Research. "West Virginia and Kentucky were just more honest than other parts of the country," Gillespie tells him. "A lot of other people know it's not socially acceptable to mention that sort of thing."
Harris calls Appalachia "Another America," and paints with the usual broad brush: "This is the America where outrageous rumours that Obama is a Muslim are readily believed. It is the America where Telvor is able to voice a sentiment that 'Obama might actually be the Antichrist' without apparent irony or fear of contradiction. It is a slice of America trapped in the dreadful history of race relations and the legacy of slavery and segregation. On the streets of towns such as Pikeville and Williamson, and in the minds of people like Little and Telvor, that past lives on. It is kept in the present by poverty, joblessness and a fear of the different. It is also a powerful force that should not be underestimated. It could even decide who will be the next President." (Read more)
UPDATE, June 20: Judy J. Owens, who spent a lot of time in Appalachia interviewing people for newspapers, thinks Telvor took Harris hunting for snipe, or for wampus cats. What's that? Read her piece in the Daily Yonder.
Rural America is where gasoline prices hit hardest
Americans spend about 4 percent of their take-home income on motor fuels, but "in some counties in the Mississippi Delta, that figure has surpassed 13 percent," Krauss reports. "The survey showed that of the 13 counties where people spent 13 percent or more of their family income on gasoline, 5 were located in Mississippi, 4 were in Alabama, 3 were in Kentucky and 1 was in West Virginia. (Click on Times map above for county-by-county comparisons of gas prices, median income and their intersection.)
The long-term picture is not good. "Sociologists and economists who study rural poverty say the gasoline crisis in the rural South, if it persists, could accelerate population loss and decrease the tax base in some areas as more people move closer to urban manufacturing jobs," Krauss reports. "They warn that the high cost of driving makes low-wage labor even less attractive to workers, especially those who also have to pay for child care and can live off welfare and food stamps." (Read more)
The data make localizing this story easy. Here's an example from the Lexington Herald-Leader.