Friday, February 12, 2016

Obama proclamation creates three national monuments on 1.8 million acres in Sonoran Desert

Times map: boundaries proposed by Sen. Feinstein
"President Obama designated three new national monuments in the California desert Thursday, expanding federal protection to 1.8 million acres of landscapes that have retained their natural beauty despite decades of heavy mining, cattle ranching and off-roading," Louis Sahagun reports for the Los Angeles Times.

Obama acted after Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was unable to get the designations made by legislation. "Much of the land was purchased more than a decade ago by private citizens and the Wildlands Conservancy, then donated to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in anticipation of its eventually receiving the protection of national monument status," Sahagun notes.

The Mojave Trails National Monument "protects wildlife corridors linking Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve," Sahagun writes. "Sand to Snow National Monument, about 45 miles east of Riverside, includes about 154,000 acres of federal land between Joshua Tree National Park and the San Bernardino National Forest in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. The area includes 24 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, an estimated 1,700 petroglyphs and Big Morongo Canyon, a bird-watching destination along a perennial stream designated a federal Area of Critical Environmental Concern in 1982."

The Castle Mountains National Monument "surrounds, but does not include, an open-pit mine at the southern end of the Castle Mountains owned by NewCastle Gold Ltd., of Canada, which has a permit allowing it to excavate nearly 10 million tons of ore through 2025. Mining at the site was suspended in 2001 because of low gold prices," Sahagun reports.

HIV outbreak in rural Ind., driven by intravenous drug use, puts other rural areas on notice

Last year's outbreak of HIV in rural Indiana—blamed on a rise in intravenous drug use—has put other rural areas on notice to look for warning signs to prevent a similar epidemic in their necks of the woods. The number of HIV cases in southeastern Indiana, mostly around Austin in Scott County, stands at 188, according to state data. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released in December said that rural areas lack prevention services for opiate addiction and HIV infections.

The Indiana epidemic has put Virginia officials on notice, Becca Pizmoht reports for the Madison County Eagle. While HIV rates remain stable statewide, "concern grows that rural counties are seeing a disproportionate number of new cases. Several factors are cited as possible causes, including lack of available education and testing and increased intravenous drug use in rural populations." Madison County (Family Search map), population of 13,000, has not had any reported HIV diagnoses since 2011, but adjoining Greene County (18,000) has had six and Orange County (34,000) eight.

Ann Rhoades, director of HIV Surveillance in Virginia, told Pizmoht, “After the Indiana outbreak we have been watching rural areas more closely. Urban areas have a lot of available testing and there are needle exchange and education programs in place. We need to have education and testing available to our rural populations because there is a stigma attached to HIV sometimes people in small communities aren’t willing to get tested.” (Read more)

Grant will fund crude-oil derailment training for 18,000 rural and remote emergency responders

A rise in train derailments carrying crude oil and other flammable materials through rural areas has caused concern that emergency responders in small communities are not trained to deal with such events. That's about to change. This year about 18,000 first responders in rural and remote areas will receive "specialized training at local fire stations for handling emergencies involving flammable liquids moved by rail," Mike Cook, executive director of Hazardous Materials Compliance and Training at the Transportation Technology Center, reports for the Daily Yonder. (American Association of Railroads photo: Firefighters training for an oil spill)

Training programs are part of a $2.4 million grant from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration that will send rail-safety experts from the Security and Emergency Response Training Center in Pueblo, Colo., around the country "instructing rural volunteer emergency responders about flammable liquids emergency response and rail incidents involving crude oil," Cook writes. The grant "will also fund the creation of a new web-based training program about flammable liquids moved by rail." (Read more)

Owner of coal mine where underground fire has burned for a year asks Ill. to approve expansion

The owner of a coal mine in Hillsboro, Ill. (Best Places map), "where an underground fire has smoldered for nearly a year, is asking state regulators to approve an expansion that some local residents fear could jeopardize public health and cause environmental damage," reports Alan Sher Zagier of The Associated Press. Deer Run Mine, located about 65 miles northeast of St. Louis, ceased production in January "after what it calls a 'combustion event' that elevated carbon monoxide levels below ground and kept out workers for most of the past 11 months."

Despite a lack of production Foresight Energy has asked "the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to approve a 7,731-acre expansion into areas unaffected by the fire," Zagier reports. "While such underground fires aren’t uncommon in mines, expansion opponents argue that the company’s inability to get it under control should give pause to the request." The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration says the fire poses no immediate threat.

"Deer Run, which opened in 2011, operates as a longwall mine, a mechanized process in which enormous shearers slice coal from earthen panels that can stretch for several miles," Zagier writes. "The technique allows for greater coal extraction with fewer workers than traditional 'room and pillar' mining while also causing the surface land above to sink by several feet." (Read more)

Nevada tourism campaign trying to entice urban residents to rural areas by suggesting they not go

Nevada tourism officials are getting creative to try to lure urban dwellers to visit rural attractions, Richard Velotta reports for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Only 6 percent of Nevada's urban residents visit rural sites, compared to 25 to 50 percent in most other states, said state tourism-commission Director Claudia Vecchio. (Review-Journal photo: Lake Mead)

The Discover Your Nevada program, which "has no advertising budget and most of the publicity is developed by the office's in-house public relations department," was created four years ago "to publicize rural destinations and events to urban audiences," Velotta writes. One new campaign idea is to attempt to use reverse psychology to get urban residents interested in visiting rural areas. "The marketing committee of the Nevada Commission on Tourism on Thursday said they could deliver a list of 15 reasons not to go to Lake Mead or Lake Tahoe, a strategy that could draw considerable attention but ultimately result in a higher level of interest." Commissioner Don Newman told Velotta, "It's a little dangerous at first glance."

The program in the past "has incorporated online destination-popularity votes, geocache and scavenger hunts and road trips taken by Gov. Brian Sandoval and former Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki," Velotta writes. Hutchison, who chairs the tourism commission, told Velotta, "I think there are a lot of people in Nevada who don't even know about these places." (Read more)

Sexual assault victims in Minnesota's under-served areas often receive less care, study finds

Sexual assault victims in Minnesota's rural and underserved populations have limited resources and often receive less care than similar victims in urban areas, says a report by the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA). The study consisted of 139 respondents to a survey sent to health professionals who treat sexual assault victims. Only 42 percent of respondents said they feel there is an appropriate medical forensic response to victims from underserved populations in their area, 21 percent responded sometimes and 17 percent said they were unsure.
"Lack of a culturally responsive and appropriate approach creates additional barriers, injustices, and potential re-traumatization for victims from underserved populations," states the report. The main problem is not enough trained medical professionals in the area, said respondents. The current atmosphere also creates barriers, such as a lack of non-English speaking health professionals. Another problem in underserved areas is a lack of resources, which forces health professionals to send patients to other facilities. Overall, 52 percent of respondents estimated that between 90 to 100 percent of patients told to go to a different facility for their exam do not got, mainly because of transportation limits or higher costs. When patients are told they can be treated at a facility they often face long wait times.

While treatment is good in urban areas, "in most of rural Minnesota, she said, medical professionals lack training to administer physical sexual assault tests and help victims obtain a variety of types of help," Don Davis reports for the West Central Tribune in Willmar, Minn. "Kasey Baker of Willmar-based Safe Avenues said some rural hospitals without personnel trained in sexual assault cases may send victims to nearby hospitals, with large ambulance bills being sent to the victims." Baker told Davis, “The reality is that the current way in which exams are conducted in Minnesota can and have retraumatized victims.”

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Drug-overdose deaths spike in rural Colorado

Drug overdose rates in Colorado have hit record levels, increasing 68 percent from 2002-2014, with numbers especially high in rural Southern agricultural counties, says a report by the Colorado Health Institute. In 2002, the state had 9.7 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people. Deaths nearly doubled in 2014, up to 16.3 per every 100,000 residents, above the national average of 14.7 drug-related deaths per every 100,000 people. (Colorado Health Institute graphic: Drug overdose deaths in 2014)

Twelve counties had more than 20 overdose deaths per 100,000 people. Seven are located in rural areas, all in the southern half of the state. Baca County, near the Kansas border, had the biggest increase, going from 4.1 to more than 20 deaths per 100,000 in 2014. (Drug overdose deaths in 2002)

An influx of heroin to the state's poorest and least populated counties is one of the reasons for the increase, along with a rise in abuse of prescription drugs and methamphetamine. In 2012-13 Colorado ranked 12th nationally in non-medical use of opioid painkillers, with state statistics showing that 25 percent of state residents said they had used pain medications not prescribed by their doctor and 29 percent saying they had used pain medications prescribed for someone else.

Overall, 63 of Colorado's 64 counties experienced an increase in drug overdose deaths from 2002 to 2014, David Olinger reports for The Denver Post. Tamara Keeney, a policy analyst at the Colorado Health Institute, told Olinger, "We do know that heroin and prescription drugs are what's driving the increase across the board. Cocaine has actually decreased as a cause. It was surprising to us to see that it wasn't just the urban counties."

Bent County Coroner Dave Roberts, who said many of the deaths in his county are the result of prescription painkillers, said the average age of death is early 30s, Olinger writes. Roberts told him, "When I first started, there were hardly any overdoses. Now it's really prevalent... It's amazing the amount of meth that's in small counties."

Remaining occupiers at Oregon refuge surrender

The armed standoff at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural Harney County, Oregon came to a peaceful end today, Les Zaitz reports for The Oregonian: Cincinnati-area resident "David Fry was the last to surrender, finally emerging after an extended phone dialogue with supporters who tried for over an hour after the others left to get him to walk out. . . . The holdouts all face arrest on a federal charge of conspiracy for their roles in the armed occupation."

"FBI agents in armored vehicles had moved in Wednesday night on the four still at the refuge, hemming them into their camp and insisting they put down their guns and surrender," Zaitz reports. "Also Wednesday night, the FBI arrested Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy at Portland International Airport. He faces federal charges related to the 2014 standoff at his ranch."

Zaitz writes, "The surreal scene played out over social media . . . through an open phone line being streamed to YouTube. At one point, an estimated 60,000 people listened as the occupiers displayed anger and panic, prayed with those on the phone and yelled at the FBI agents surrounding them. They're the remainders of a group of anti-government militants who took over the wildlife refuge headquarters Jan. 2. The four have been on their own since Jan. 28—two days after the occupation leaders were arrested on a highway north of Burns and protest spokesman Robert 'LaVoy' Finicum was shot and killed."

Crowdfunding story leads Maine paper to examine ethical issues and develop an accountability policy

How should news media approach crowdfunding stories? What's the difference between a newsworthy story and shameless promotion? Those are some of the questions at the heart of a debate concerning a story by Jackie Farwell of the Bangor Daily News about a local woman who used crowdfunding to search for a kidney donor and raise money for expenses, Joseph Burns reports for the Association of Health Care Journalists. The newspaper has used the experience to begin developing a policy on crowdfunding. Farwell writes:
Jackie Farwell
"When Christine Royles painted a plea for a kidney donor on the rear window of her car, she had no idea of the ethical dilemma she was about to provoke. As we covered the hospital’s response to the crowdsourcing effort behind her surgery, I worked with Anthony Ronzio, the news and audience director at the BDN, to sort through the medical crowdfunding editorial policy questions inherent in medical crowdfunding. In so doing, we wrestled internally with the role of media coverage in Royles’ ultimately successful search for a donor.

"Many outlets reported on her plight, publicity that no doubt directed many dollars to the fundraising campaign for the man who agreed to donate his kidney to her. The outpouring of generosity threatened to derail the transplant, in part because the hospital was leery of federal regulations that prohibit individuals from profiting from the donation of an organ. Royles’ case, while unprecedented in Maine, raised questions about medical crowdfunding that we knew would persist with the popularity of websites such as GoFundMe and Indiegogo.

"We re-examined our coverage from a couple of vantage points: What did our audience need to know about this trend, and how should we cover individual crowdfunding campaigns in the future? We also set out to develop an editorial policy aimed at medical crowdfunding. Online fundraising for a honeymoon or a new car is one thing, but lives are often at stake when people turn to the Internet to pay for their health care. As we presented in the story, online crowdfunding raises ethical questions that set it apart from a spaghetti supper at the high school gym.

"News outlets’ ability to convert readers into potential fundraisers has become more overt with the ease of online donation. We know our coverage can amplify a campaign’s reach, so we wanted guidelines for when and how to cover them.While we’re still in the process of developing a policy, here are the main points of discussion:
  • Individual campaigns must be unique to warrant coverage, whether in the amount of money raised, the public response, the personal story, or other factors. Royles’ case was unique in that it presented the hospital with unprecedented ethical and legal questions that delayed her transplant. 
  • We must confirm the facts of a campaign if we cover it. That could mean asking for medical records or interviews with doctors, a potentially challenging step when patients are in vulnerable and time-sensitive situations. 
  • In some stories, the campaign itself is the news hook. In others, the person’s health struggle is the focus, and the campaign is a secondary element. Are we obligated to do all or nothing, either agreeing to mention these campaigns or write no story at all? 
  • Do we link to the campaign? It seems like an obvious step and readers may want a link if they’re moved to donate or learn more. But should we consider omitting links to avoid the amplifying effect? We don’t want to set ourselves up to pick winners and losers. 
"We don’t have all the answers to these questions, but we’ll keep seeking them. We welcome any thoughts you’d like to share."

In rural Mardi Gras tradition, adults in white Cajun and black communities chase kids with switches

While Mardi Gras revelers flooded New Orleans, an obscure tradition continued in some rural isolated white Cajun and black communities that consists of masked adults chasing children with switches, reports The New York Times' Campbell Robertson, who is based in New Orleans. The children, who are prodded to taunt the adults, are eventually caught, whipped and forced to kneel and say prayers to repent for their sins. (NYT photo by William Widmer: A chase through the swamp in Choupic)

"Each of these small Catholic communities lies off the main arteries; each consists of a cluster of houses strung along a road passing roughly from a church to a sugar cane field," Robertson writes. "And though there is almost no communication among the communities, the Mardi Gras practices in them are the same in their essentials. Young men dressed in costumes and masks—calling themselves the Mardi Gras—roll down the main drag brandishing switches of peach or willow (the whip of choice in Gheens), bamboo (Promised Land), or broken fishing poles and golf club shafts (Choupic). Their targets are the children and young teenagers, who taunt and backtalk from the roadside but know that when the Mardi Gras jump out and the chase is on, no adult is a friend and any parent will sell out a son or daughter hiding in a back seat or under a bed."

"They almost always go easy, particularly on the younger children and the ones they do not recognize," Robertson write.s "A few light taps is all. This is the day and age we live in: A video could show up on YouTube, the elders warn the young maskers, or some parent could raise a stink and the whole tradition, dating back long past living memory, could be shut down." Mark Breaux, 57, of Gheens, told Robertson, “People have come here now that is not used to it and that don’t want their kids getting whipped. Our parents, they never minded it because they know what it’s about.”

"The whippings seem to get tougher and the chases get better as the memories go back farther," Robertson writes. "Way back when, the older men and women say, the Mardi Gras rode in on horses and carried bullwhips. The children really had to know their prayers back then and were not allowed to get away with saying their ABCs as they do now. In Promised Land you knew never to mess around with a certain Mardi Gras named Pokey, as he was capable of anything. That was when they would really hurt you."

The origin of the tradition is up for debate, Robertson writes. Barry Ancelet, a professor at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, said "similar practices can be found in the ancient pagan springtime festivals, in medieval European rites and in African-Creole rituals," but for most locals "they all just knew that where they lived, the roots went deep, back to parents of grandparents." (Read more)

Major media often overlook plight of rural schools

The struggles of rural schools are often overlooked by journalists who focus on urban schools, David Gutierrez writes for Harvard Political Review. "This disparity in media coverage is understandable — the crumbling infrastructure of cities, the poverty and segregation faced by inner-city students, and the presence of a school-to-prison pipeline are all serious problems that demand reforms. But in a media market where large newspapers and television stations now compete with international media outlets, rural educational issues can be forgotten in the commotion. Many rural school districts face concerns that stem from the current demographic and economic state of rural areas, the lack of technological infrastructure, and the difficulty of hiring and retaining teachers."

Rural schools sometimes face high levels of poverty, funding disparities, transportation burdens, teacher shortages and inferior technology, Gutierrez writes. "The current state of rural education is bleak, but with a renewed scrutiny on the American education system, it is time to address all underperforming schools, regardless of their location. While the problems rural schools face are connected with larger problems of economic development, there are some things that can be done to help them. These solutions will require a concerted effort to effect substantial change and to ensure that every child, urban or rural, receives an equal opportunity to succeed."

Supreme Court ruling won't stop the decline of coal in Central Appalachia, industry experts say

Despite coal backers celebrating the Supreme Court's order blocking the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, industry experts say it won't stop the ongoing decline of coal in Central Appalachia, Ken Ward reports for the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

"James Van Nostrand, director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development at the West Virginia University College of Law, noted that other factors are playing major roles in the coal downturn that has cost the industry a significant chunk of its market share and thousands of West Virginia miners their jobs," Ward writes. "Among those factors: plentiful and low-priced natural gas resources, decreasing costs of renewable energy sources like solar and wind; and, in Central Appalachia, cost challenges that make the region’s coal less competitive." Van Nostrand told Ward, “I don’t think the stay will reverse what is happening, but it may slow down the de-carbonizing of the country’s electric supply until the legal issues are resolved." (West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy graphic)
Morgantown environmental consultant Evan Hansen, a candidate for the state House, said the Clean Power Plan "is only one of many factors affecting West Virginia’s mining industry," Ward reports. Hansen told him, “The most important is simple economics—whether coal mined here can compete in the marketplace against coal mined in other parts of the country, natural gas and solar. It’s also a matter of geology, because so many of West Virginia’s thickest and easiest-to-access coal seams have been mined already.” That has helped make Central Appalachian coal the most expensive to mine.

Ten years ago, industry consultant Alan Stagg told the "Covering Coal" seminar of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues (publisher of The Rural Blog) that depletion of the resource in southern West Virginia had created a situation he'd never seen: production falling while prices and demand rose. After two years of increased production, the downward trend returned, and accelerated.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Sanders did better in rural N.H. than Clinton; rural vote helped Kasich get clear 2nd place in GOP race

Democratic winner Bernie Sanders and Republican runner-up John Kasich did better in the seven rural counties of New Hampshire than in the three metropolitan counties, the Daily Yonder reports in its analysis of the first presidential primary.

"The Ohio governor conducted over 100 town hall meetings in the state and maybe that paid off in rural communities," Tim Marema and Bill Bishop report. "Kasich won 13.5 percent of the vote in metropolitan New Hampshire, but notched about 17 percent in rural counties."

The Yonder was among those noting that Hillary Clinton's 39 percent "share of the statewide vote was comparable to the last time she ran in the New Hampshire primary – in 2008 against Barack Obama and John Edwards. . . . This year, the same percentage of the vote handed her a 29-point loss. Turnout was down 10 percent for Democrats from 2008, while Republicans saw about a 20 percent increase in voters over 2008."

High court blocks power-plant rules while legal battle goes on; rural electric co-ops cheer

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan "until a lower court has resolved the legal case against it," Curtis Tate reports for McClatchy Newspapers. "Under the plan, states would have to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by a third by 2030. But states that rely heavily on coal to produce electricity, including Kentucky and West Virginia, had argued that the plan was unconstitutional." West Virginia and Kentucky are second and third to Wyoming in coal production and get the vast majority of their electricity from coal.

The court's order means that the states that sued to stop the rules, which are aimed at greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, won't have to comply while the legal battle is being fought in a lower appellate court. The ruling was good news for rural electric co-ops, which also rely heavily on coal. Chris Perry, president and CEO of the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives, said in a press release, "Without this stay, co-ops would have been forced to take expensive and irreversible actions to comply with the rule."

(Climate Desk graphic: States suing over the rules, ranked by percent of their electricity that comes from coal, as of Oct. 23, 2015)
Production of Central Appalachian coal—produced mainly in West Virginia and Kentucky—was 40 percent below average between 2010 and 2014, and a decline in coal jobs has led West Virginia to have the negative distinction of being the only state in the U.S. where more than half of adults are out of work. Coal was also an issue in the November election in Kentucky, where Republicans tied Democrats to Obama's energy policies, Tate writes. Since Obama took office in 2008, "Republicans have shut Democrats out of the governor’s mansion, both U.S. Senate seats and five of the state’s six House seats."

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey told The Associated Press, "We are thrilled that the Supreme Court realized the rule’s immediate impact and froze its implementation, protecting workers and saving countless dollars as our fight against its legality continues." Wyoming’s Gov. Matt Mead also applauded the decision, AP reports: “This is a big win for Wyoming and the nation. It puts on hold this very bad policy based on a deeply flawed process while the legal issues are being addressed. I couldn’t be happier.”

For a legal analysis from Case Western Reserve University law professor Jonathan Adler, in The Washington Post, click here.

Resource offers journalists tips for questioning federal candidates about open government

The American Society of News Editors and have created a government transparency resource to assist journalists in interviewing candidates running for federal jobs. The groups "have drafted open-government-related questions" in the hope that "they will be used broadly, by editorial boards, reporters covering the 2016 campaigns and interested members of the public who have an opportunity to speak with candidates. ... Transparency is vital for public accountability, and it needs to be a part of the greater conversation on democracy and open government."

Question topics center on federal open-government issues such as: Transparent policing and accountable law enforcement; the Freedom of Information Act; communications surveillance transparency; secrecy surrounding the drone-strikes programs; electronic records management; whistleblowers; open government collaborations between government and non-governmental organizations; and campaign finance.

“It’s important for the news media to remind federal officials and candidates that we care about open government," said Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, which publishes The Rural Blog.

Rural college president fires tenured professor and student newspaper adviser for lack of 'loyalty'

A college president in rural Maryland has fired two faculty members, one who criticized him and the other an adviser for the student newspaper, which published unflattering quotes from the president on his attempts to dismiss 20 to 25 first-year students to improve retention rates. Simon Newman, president of Mount St. Mary's college in Emmitsburg (Best Places map), reportedly told faculty members last month about struggling students: "This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t. You just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads," Rebecca Schisler and Ryan Golden reported for The Mountain Echo, the school paper.

Thane Naberhaus, a tenured professor who had objected to the president’s policies, and Ed Egan, a law professor and former trustee who worked with journalism students, were fired Monday effective immediately and without severance, Susan Svrluga reports for The Washington Post. "A few days earlier, David Rehm, who had raised several concerns about the president’s retention plan, was removed from his position as provost. He remains on the faculty."

"Professors from universities across the country—from Stanford to North Carolina Central to the University of Nebraska to Harvard—signed a petition Tuesday calling on the Mount St. Mary’s University administration to reinstate professors who had been fired," Svrluga writes. Within hours, the petition had more than 2,400 digital signatures.

A termination letter from Newman to Naberhaus "said that he 'owes a duty of loyalty to [the university]' and he should 'act in a manner consistent with that duty'," Jeremy Bauer-Wolf reports for The Frederick News-Post. Michelle Cooper, president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, said the idea that Naberhaus was fired for a lack of loyalty raises red flags. Cooper told Bauer-Wolf, “What is concerning me is that a lot of what is occurring at the Mount is unprecedented. … A lack of loyalty does not present as a just case for a firing. What does that mean, loyalty? It’s just so subjective.”

Bauer-Wolf reports, "The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, known as FIRE, released a statement Tuesday criticizing the firings of the professors. FIRE connects students and faculty whose rights might have been violated to a network of pro bono attorneys. The organization publicly advocates for students and faculty."

Actress Jennifer Garner lobbies Ky. lawmakers for Save the Children work in Appalachia

Jennifer Garner (Courier-Journal
photo by Matt Herp)
Actress Jennifer Garner told Kentucky legislators Tuesday that once she became a Hollywood star with the ability to be a philanthropist, "I knew exactly what I wanted it to be. I knew it had to be kids in rural America."

Garner, who grew up in West Virginia, asked lawmakers "to preserve $1 million in funding for Save the Children’s early childhood and literacy programs that serve more than 12,000 Kentucky children," Valarie Honeycutt Spears reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. "She joined Save the Children Action Network President Mark Shriver at Senate and House committee meetings to discuss the value of high-quality early learning."

Shriver and Garner, who is on the organization's board, had breakfast with new Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. Bevin has proposed a 9 percent budget cut for most agencies, including preschool services, but his plan has $941,400 for the Save the Children program, and Senate President Robert Stivers, "who held a news conference with Shriver later Tuesday, said, 'I think there is a high likelihood that it would survive' through the legislature's budget process," Tom Loftus of The Courier-Journal reports. "Save the Children programs have shown stronger results in Kentucky than in any other state in helping kids from birth through the third grade, Shriver said."

Iowa moves closer to raising rural speed limits; state official says it would lead to more fatalities

Iowa lawmakers have advanced a bill to raise speed limits on rural two-lane paved roads, despite a warning from a state Department of Transportation official that higher speeds would lead to an increase in fatal crashes, Brianne Pfannenstiel reports for The Des Moines Register. "A three-person subcommittee passed two versions of the legislation—one bill that would increase the speed limit from 55 miles per hour to 60 miles per hour and another that would increase it to 65 miles per hour."

Steve Gent, director of the Office of Traffic and Safety, told the committee, “Pretty much every place that has increased their speed limits has seen an increase in fatalities.” Pfannenstiel reports, "Gent said the department estimates that a 5-mile-an-hour increase could lead to an additional five to 15 fatal accidents each year and a 10-mile-an-hour increase could lead to 10 to 25 additional fatalities." (Read more)

Tiny school district in rural Texas becomes first in state to switch to four-day weeks

One of the smallest and most rural school districts in Texas will become the state's first to transition to a four-day week this fall, under a new law allowing schools more flexibility in setting calendars, Madlin Mekelburn reports for The Texas Tribune. The move will allow the 56-student, K-8 Olfen Independent School District in Runnels County (Wikipedia map) to offer more opportunities for tutoring on optional Fridays.

That's especially important for students who live as far as 35 miles from campus. Olfen Superintendent Gabriel Zamora "Zamora said the schedule is compatible with the unique needs of his rural district, where only one student lives within the district boundary," Mekelburn reports. The district would need to create additional bus routes for students who chose after-school tutoring.

While Monday through Thursday will be mandatory and Friday mostly optional, "students who do not receive passing marks on progress reports will be required to attend school on Fridays to receive tutoring, while passing students will have the choice to stay home," Mekelburn writes. "A handful of weeks during the year will have a full five days of instruction."

Zamora told Mekelburn, "We think this is going to be something great for our students and something that can also benefit a lot of parents out there. I just saw the possibility, once the law was passed and everything. I never thought I would be in the district that had the right circumstances." (Read more)

Study: Rural Western counties with most federal land are in better economic shape than rural peers

Rural counties in the West with more federal or protected land are in much better economic shape than rural counties in the region with less federal and protected land, says a report by Montana non-profit Headwaters Economics. The study, which looked at data from 1970 to 2014, found that rural counties with more federal and protected land "on average had faster population, employment, personal income and per capita income growth than their peers with the lowest share" of federal and protected lands.

From 1970 to 2014, rural counties in the top 25 percentile with federal land saw a population growth of 124 percent, compared to a 26 percent growth in the counties in the bottom 25 percent. Employment in the top counties increased 242 percent, compared to 73 percent in the bottom counties and personal income increased 333 percent in the top 25, compared to 122 percent in the bottom 25. Per capital income was much closer, with an 81 percent increase in the top 25, compared to a 78 percent increase in the bottom 25.
Differences were similar for counties with protected land. Population grew 122 percent in the top 25, compared to 47 percent in the bottom 25. Employment increased 263 percent in the top 25, compared to 98 percent in the bottom 25, personal income increased 380 percent in the top 25, compared to 154 percent in the bottom 25 and per capita income increased 97 percent in the top 25, compared to 78 percent in the bottom 25.
"The study looked at all 276 Western counties without a city of 50,000 or more or with population density below 1,000 people per square mile, designated as 'non-metro' by the U.S. Census Bureau," Krista Langlois reports for High Country News. "To be fair, the overall gains are thus skewed by a few very wealthy counties, like Colorado’s Summit County (home to ritzy ski resorts) and Teton County, Wyoming (home to Jackson Hole), which had personal income growth of 2,757 and 2,253 percent, respectively." Study author Megan Lawson "says that when she took the top 5 percent—the Vails and Aspens—out of the equation, the difference in economic growth between counties with the highest and lowest protected federal land decreased by about 16 percent. But the overall gains were still significant."

Lawson told Langlois, “We’re data-driven, and our reflex to hearing (recent anti-public lands) rhetoric is to look at the data. There are certainly rural places that are struggling, but that’s not the primary story we’re seeing across the West.”

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Study identifies virus killing honeybees in tandem with Varroa mites and human transport

A Varroa mite, the size and shape of a pinhead, on a bee
A virus that is decimating bee populations is emanating from Europe and spreading worldwide, says a study published in the journal Science by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Exeter, a public research university in the United Kingdom. "The European honeybee Apis mellifera is overwhelmingly the source of cases of the Deformed Wing Virus infecting hives worldwide," Exeter reports. "The finding suggests that the pandemic is man-made rather than naturally occurring, with human trade and transportation of bees for crop pollination driving the spread." Bees are responsible for more than $15 billion in increased U.S. crop value each year.

"Although separately they are not major threats to bee populations, when the Varroa mite carries the disease, the combination is deadly, and has wiped out millions of honeybees over recent decades," reports Exeter. "Varroa feed on bee larvae while the Deformed Wing Virus kills off bees, a devastating double blow to colonies. The situation is adding to fears over the future of global bee populations, with major implications for biodiversity, agricultural biosecurity, global economies, and human health."

"Researchers analysed sequence data of Deformed Wing Virus samples across the globe from honeybees and Varroa mites, as well as the occurrence of Varroa," reports Exeter. "They used the information to reconstruct the spread of Deformed Wing Virus and found that the epidemic largely spread from Europe to North America, Australia and New Zealand. . . . The team also looked at samples from other species suspected of transmitting the disease, including different species of honeybee, mite and bumblebees, but concluded that the European honeybee was the key transmitter."

Lead author Dr. Lena Wilfert said in a statment: “This is the first study to conclude that Europe is the backbone of the global spread of the bee killing combination of Deformed Wing Virus and Varroa. ... This significantly strengthens the theory that human transportation of bees is responsible for the spread of this devastating disease. We must now maintain strict limits on the movement of bees, whether they are known to carry Varroa or not. It’s also really important that beekeepers at all levels take steps to control Varroa in their hives, as this viral disease can also affect wild pollinators.” (Read more)

As N.H. likely votes for a Vt. senator for president, remember that the states are different

Americans unfamiliar with the Northeast often confuse Vermont and New Hampshire, two adjoining, wedge-shaped states where more than half of residents are rural. Despite their border and similar inverted shapes—each state claims the other one is upside down—the states are decidedly different, Kit Seelye reports for The New York Times. Even though Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is projected to win tonight's Democratic primary in New Hampshire, "natives of New Hampshire and Vermont are quick to note, if Sanders wins New Hampshire, it may be in spite of his coming from Vermont, not because of it."

John Gregg, news editor of The Valley News in West Lebanon, N.H., and across the Connecticut River from White River Junction, Vt., told The Rural Blog that Seeyle "nailed it." The newspaper's logo, right, indicates its coverage area and even reflects the names of the states.

The states "sprang from different geological forces that produced the soft rolling Green Mountains of Vermont and the rugged, angular White Mountains of New Hampshire," Seelye writes. "The differences run through their colonial histories and are evident today in their cultures, politics and certainly in their state mottos: Vermont’s feel-good 'Freedom and Unity' shrinks before New Hampshire’s stark ultimatum to 'Live Free or Die.' While the Vermont electorate is liberal and its ethos collectivist, the New Hampshire ethos is fiercely libertarian. New Hampshire is the only state that does not ticket adults if they are not wearing a seatbelt."

"But theirs is not a classic rivalry," Seeyle writes. "New Hampshire, which has more than twice the population of Vermont, tends to ignore its neighbor to the west, turning its gaze instead toward Massachusetts and Maine; people in Vermont simply feel superior, in a laid-back kind of way."

"Vermont was once the most Republican state in the country and is now among the most liberal, thanks in part to an influx starting in the 1960s that included people like Sanders, although local politics had already started trending Democratic," she writes. "New Hampshire has no sales tax and no general income tax. Money for schools and other services is raised mostly through property taxes, but services are minimal. The University of New Hampshire is the most expensive public four-year college in the country because the state’s rate of support for higher education is the nation’s lowest."

Residents of both states are quick to take jabs at the other one, Seelye writes. David Briggs, a civil engineer, hotel owner and lifelong Vermonter, told her, “Those mottos tell you everything you need to know. Ours is about individualism, but the ‘Unity’ reminds us we’re interdependent. Now, ‘Live Free or Die’—that’s almost jihadist.” Jere R. Daniell, a retired historian at New Hampshire's Dartmouth College, told her, "The essential difference between Vermont and New Hampshire is in their degree of commitment to state authority," which "manifested itself some years ago in the phone book, he said, when listings for the Vermont state government took up 62 inches, while New Hampshire’s took up eight."

Willem Lange, a longtime New England storyteller who lived half of his life in New Hampshire until he decided the property taxes were too high, and then moved to Vermont, told Seelye, “The people reflect the geology. New Hampshire humor is a little grimmer, a little bitter. Its default mode is grumpy. Vermont is boring. There are so damn many liberals. I can never win an argument.”

Rebecca Rule, a New Hampshire humorist and storyteller, told Seelye, "When I cross the river into Vermont, I can see the difference and feel the difference. The fields open up, it’s more rural, there are more farms and more cows. Vermont is a gentler place. New Hampshire is more hard-edged. You don’t see that as much in New Hampshire."

Becker's Hospital Review names its 50 rural hospital CEOs to know

Becker's Hospital Review this week announced its list of 50 rural hospital CEOs to know. "These 50 presidents and CEOs have demonstrated dedication to providing high-quality, accessible care to their communities," Shannon Barnet and Kelly Gooch report for Becker's. "Many of the executives have either received rural healthcare accolades or led their organization to a status worthy of awards and recognition."

"For this list, 'rural' was defined as being located outside a major metropolitan area or healthcare hub," Barnet and Gooch write. "Leaders were selected based on rural healthcare awards received, rural healthcare committee and board involvement, regional and national leadership positions held and organizational performance. Nominations were also considered." To see the list click here.

How two of the nation's poorest rural counties got connected to one of the nation's fastest networks

Two of the nation's poorest rural counties share one of the nation's fastest Internet connections, Tim Marema reports for the Daily Yonder. Jackson and Owsley counties in southeastern Kentucky—Jackson County has a 26.8 percent poverty rate and Owsley County a 45.1 percent poverty rate, according to 2014 data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture—"are not the first counties that come to mind when you think of ubiquitous access to fiber-optic cable – the fastest conduit for digital communication. The counties are part of the Kentucky Fifth District, the most rural congressional district in the U.S. But an innovative approach, a can-do spirit, and a financial package that combined local capital with federal loans and grants have made the network possible."

The fiber network for Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative, which serves the two counties, was funded through loans from the agriculture department's Rural Utilities Service, grants from the the 2009 economic-stimulus packag, and PRTC’s own funds. Marema reports: "The total project cost was about $50 million. The project will receive indirect support from the Universal Service Fund, which provides telecommunications subsidies for areas that are hard to serve. PRTC received about $5 million in USF support last year. ... USF is financed by a monthly fee on consumers’ telephone bills." (Jackson and Owsley counties are highlighted on the map)
Co-op CEO Keith Gabbard said the company's fiber network "is available to all the co-operative’s 7,000 customers," Marema writes. "About two-thirds of customers subscribe to Internet services now, Gabbard said." Despite decreases in population in the two counties, the number of broadband customers increased by 150 last year. "PRTC has an average of only seven customers per mile of service line. Thirty percent of the service area is national forest. About half of Jackson County residents who work commute outside the county to their jobs."

High-speed Internet has also helped 150 people in Jackson County find jobs through the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, which "teaches trainees how to work remotely from home," Marema writes. "With a high-speed connection now available, trainees are able to find work as call-center or customer-service representatives for companies like U-Haul, Apple, and firms that contract with hotels and retailers for customer service." Jeff Whitehead, executive director of the program, told Marema. “What that means is, estimating conservatively, that $3 million in wages are coming into this county from companies that are away from here." (Read more)

Insurance companies say they want to increase focus on child safety in farming

Three-fourths of insurance companies say they want to increase their company's focus on child safety in agriculture, according to a National Children's Center survey of 97 control specialists, underwriters, managers and supervisors at the 2015 National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies’ Agricultural Risk Inspection School, reports the National Children's Center in its quarterly magazine Nurture. The survey also found that 85 percent of respondents said they communicate safety messages with farmers and 83 percent adjust premiums based on loss-control surveys.

The Childhood Agricultural Safety Network has archived three recent webinars on child safety in agriculture. Two of those webinars, presented by the Grain Handling Safety Coalition, introduced
a curriculum "explained how it can be used to empower young workers" and educate parents, employers and community members. Another webinar, “It’s harvest season: Are the children safe?” describes "actual childhood injury incidents, previewed an injury news clippings website and offered proven safety strategies and resources that farmers, parents and employers are encouraged to use to keep children safe."

Scholarship application deadline Feb. 18 for Appalachian Studies Association annual conference

The Appalachian Studies Association is accepting scholarship applications through Feb. 18 for people who need financial aid to attend its annual conference March 18-20 at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va. While funds are limited, most people who have applied for scholarships in the past have been awarded one, ASA says. Scholarships include admission to the conference and ASA membership for 2016.

This year's conference is titled "Voices from the Misty Mountains: Diversity and Unity, a New Appalachia." Poet Frank X. Walker of the University of Kentucky will deliver the keynote address. The conference includes: individual scholarly research papers and sessions; formed sessions; poster sessions presenting scholarly research or documenting community work; panels and community presentations; performance or sharing of films, documentaries, videos, poetry, music, plays, art, and writing; roundtable conversations on contemporary issues and activism in the region; professional development and a newcomer’s orientation to Appalachian studies. (Read more)

Monday, February 08, 2016

Sanders backers going to rural places no campaign has gone before, to win New Hampshire big

Sanders (Getty Images photo by Andrew Burton)
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is taking rural to the extreme in preparation for Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, where Sanders, a senator from adjoining Vermont, is the clear favorite over Hillary Clinton. "We are knocking doors in places where people have never gotten their door knocked before—and the experience is so unexpected that people are calling the police because a stranger is showing up their door," so the campaign has started calling police in such towns to they can reassure callers, Sanders' state primary director, Julia Barnes, told Sasha Issenberg of Bloomberg News.

"Much of New Hampshire is considered difficult to canvass, given the sparse population in the northern half of the state and the mountainous terrain that mottles it throughout," Issenberg reports. "A surfeit of Sanders volunteers is pushing into parts of the state past campaigns would have considered inefficient to walk—even recruiting so-called driving teams of up to four people to team up on rural roads and snowy driveways."

It's difficult to reach New Hampshire voters by phone, Issenberg writes. "Over the week of Jan. 25, Sanders volunteers completed 11,000 phone conversations out of 250,000 calls placed—and 15,000 face-to-face conversations out of 60,000 attempted doorstep visits. The problem is particularly acute for Sanders, whose young get-out-the-vote targets often lack landlines and have not provided the campaign other methods of reaching them. Within that group, Sanders is making a concerted effort to mobilize those who would register for the first time on Tuesday, in line with New Hampshire’s same-day registration rules, meaning that there is not yet any trace of them on voter rolls."

Fresh off a narrow loss to Clinton at the Iowa caucuses, Sanders is looking to reach as much of the state as possible in an attempt to score a big victory. Polls have Sanders leading Clinton in New Hampshire by anywhere from seven to 23 points, according to RealClear Politics.

Gay-Straight Alliance at rural Tenn. school draws criticism; local newspaper supports it editorially

Critics of a newly-formed Gay-Straight Alliance at a rural Tennessee high school say the club could open the door for other students to create terrorism groups, Brian Wilson reports for The (Nashville) Tennessean. Students at Franklin County High School said the group provides weekly meetings for all students to come together to talk about issues. Student Allie Faxon, who created the group, told Wilson, “We all have common troubles. By having the club, even people who aren’t out can come and have a place to be themselves.”

The club has drawn criticism from residents in the Southern Tennessee community, with a social media page created last month calling "for members of the Franklin County School Board to move the club off campus because of its controversial nature." Critics say clubs that discuss religion or sexuality should not be organized on school campus.

Local resident John Wimley, who organized a Facebook page in protest of the alliance, posted that if "a group like that could be admitted without community knowledge, one like 'Future ISIS Members of America' could be formed as well. His comment used the hashtag '#putgodinschoolsplease.'" Wimley, who said his comment "was misconstrued by others who believe he was comparing the GSA to ISIS," told Wilson, “Maybe it was a mistake. But it was a statement that needed to be made.”

At least two people have filed paperwork to speak at tonight's meeting of the Franklin County School Board, which GSA advocates and critics, including the Middle Tennessee chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, are expected to attend, Wilson writes.

Franklin County, Tenn. (Wikipedia map)
The club, which, is holding a rally before tonight's meeting, "is in compliance with the Equal Access Act of 1984," Brian Justice, editor of the local Winchester Herald Chronicle, writes in an editorial supporting the rally. The law, sought by Christian groups that wanted students to be able to hold Bible study groups during lunch and after school, "passed in 1984 to compel federally funded secondary schools to provide equal access to extracurricular clubs," Justice notes.

"The act provides that if a school receives federal aid and has a 'limited open forum,' or at least one student-led non-curriculum club that meets outside of class time, it must allow additional such clubs to be organized and must give them equal access to meeting spaces and school publications," Justice writes for the Lakeway Publishers twice-weekly. "Exceptions can be made for groups that 'materially and substantially interfere with the orderly conduct of educational activities within the school,' and a school can technically 'opt out' of the act by prohibiting all non-curriculum clubs."

Dr. Amie Lonas, Franklin County Schools director, told Justice, "We have been advised by legal counsel not to deny the club the right to meet if they followed the board policy for establishment. If we choose not to allow this club to be established, then we would be required to prohibit all non-curriculum clubs or give up federal funding. All clubs meet outside the instructional hours of 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., and attendance is voluntary for students."

Rural N.D. lacks dentists; ADA's chief economist says some rural residents don't see a need for care

While a 2014 report from the Center for Rural Health highlights a serious shortage of dentists in North Dakota's rural, under-served and Native American communities, some health professionals deny there is a problem or blame rural residents for lack of care, John Hageman reports for the Grand Forks Herald. The report found that 67 percent of all North Dakota dentists practiced in the state's four most-populated counties, where about 52 percent of the state's people live. That meant that in 2014, 12 of the 53 counties did not have a dentist, nine had only one and nine had two (data were unavailable for five counties). North Dakota ranks 48th in population but 19th in land area, making it difficult for many rural residents to travel to see a dentist.

Rob Lauf, a dentist in Mayville in rural Traill County, just outside Grand Forks, said he doesn't consider the eastern part of the state to have a dental shortage, Hageman writes. Lauf told him, "Either way, you have to have a full schedule. There are some counties that don't have a dentist, but they also don't have the population to support a dentist." The eastern part of the state includes two rural counties adjacent to Grand Forks and Traill counties—Nelson and Steele—that do not have a dentist, according to the Center for Rural Health report. (Center for Rural Health map: Dentists in North Dakota in 2014)
At the same time, an "American Dental Association survey showed that less than 10 percent of general and specialist dentists in North Dakota reported they are not busy enough and could see more patients in 2013, which was the lowest percentage of the 36 states included on the survey and well below the national average of roughly 35 percent," Hageman writes. Marko Vujicic, chief economist with the American Dental Association, "said the main reasons people don't seek dental care are cost and 'a perceived lack of need' rather than an inability to get a dental appointment scheduled."

North Dakota, which lacks a state dental school, has tried to recruit recent college graduates with loan repayment programs, Hageman writes. Legislation proposed last year allowing certified advanced dental hygienists to perform some procedures now done by dentists, a move designed to increase dental care needs in rural and Native Americans, was opposed by the North Dakota Dental Association and ultimately did not become law.

Migrant workers in China flocking back to rural areas for better quality of life, lower costs of living

A faltering Chinese economy, high costs of living and high rates of air pollution are leading migrant city workers to head back home to rural areas, where the quality of life is better, Frank Sieren reports for Deutsche Welle, Germany's state-owned international broadcaster. In China, where the economy grew by 6.9 percent last year and is expected to grow 6.5 percent this year, slower rates than in recent years, manufacturing jobs "are becoming scarcer" and highly-skilled workers "are less inclined to work in factories or on construction sites." Also, younger rural workers are more reluctant to tackle the physically demanding jobs their parents worked.

"While 40 years ago, not even 20 percent of Chinese citizens lived in the city, today the number has risen to 50 percent. By 2020, it is expected to rise to 60 percent," Sieren writes. "For the first time in 30 years, the number of internal migrants in China sank last year—by about six million. To a certain extent, this is due to the country's demographic development—there are simply fewer migrant workers because of lower birthrates. In addition to this, the Chinese government has also acknowledged that a two-class society has emerged in the huge metropolises of China because of the hukou system which requires each citizen to be registered in a family register and makes moving within China illegal. A sort of caste system has come about in cities, turning internal migrants into second-class citizens who often have no access to social services, healthcare or schools for their children." (Advisor Perspectives graphic)
Another reason for rural migration is that the government has made a conscious effort to support "development of rural infrastructure and rural investment loans," Sieren writes. "This year, per capita income in rural areas is expected to exceed 10,000 yuan ($1,500) for the first time—a faster increase than urban per capita income. Many people are returning to rural regions because of cheaper rents, proximity to relatives, as well as access to unadulterated, unspoiled food."

In Western China, the central government "is supporting the idea of 'rural start-ups' more than ever," Sieren writes. "Some 40,000 people returning to the southwestern province of Sichuan have registered new businesses. This is not a bad means of opening up new growth opportunities for the Chinese economy and strengthen domestic growth."

Bayer refuses to pull insecticide from U.S. market

Bayer CropScience, the agricultural unit of German chemicals company Bayer AG, on Friday rejected a request from the Environmental Protection Agency "to pull one of its insecticides from the marketplace amid concerns that it could harm organisms in streams and ponds," Karl Plume reports for Reuters. "Bayer CropScience will instead ask for an administrative law hearing from the EPA's Office of General Counsel to review the registration of flubendiamide, the active ingredient in Bayer's Belt pesticide." EPA said the registration, granted in 2008, "was a limited-time conditional registration that could be canceled if additional studies found the chemical to be damaging."

"Flubendiamide products are used to control yield-damaging moths and worms in more than 200 crops including almonds, oranges and soybeans," Plume writes. "Bayer's own tests have found that the pesticide is toxic in high doses to invertebrates in river and pond sediment. The organisms can be an important food source for fish. However, the company's field studies showed that doses in waters near agricultural fields never reached high enough levels to be toxic." EPA said it will issue a formal request to cancel the pesticide's registration. The product will remain on shelves until the process pending the outcome of the process. (Read more)

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association annual conference is this weekend in Granville, Ohio

The 37th Annual Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association Conference will be held Saturday and Sunday in Granville, Ohio. Billed as Ohio's largest sustainable agriculture event, the conference consists of nearly 100 workshops on sustainable farming, gardening, homesteading, cooking and livestock, including conferences specifically designed for kids and teens.

Keynote speakers are John Ikerd, author and agricultural economics expert, and Lindsey Lusher Shute, executive director and co-founder of the National Young Farmers Coalition, which represents, mobilizes and engages young farmers to ensure their success. The conference also features: A trade show with dozens of businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies offering an array of food, information, products and services; In-depth pre-conference sessions on Friday; Meals prepared from locally sourced and organic ingredients; and childcare. For more information or to register click here.

Deadline for Scripps Howard Awards is Wednesday; includes Community Journalism category

The deadline to submit entries to the annual Scripps Howard Awards is Wednesday. For the last several years the awards have included a category called Community Journalism, partly to recognize strong journalistic efforts by smaller media outlets that deserve recognition but might not be competitive with larger ones in national competitions.

The awards are open to journalists and news organizations whose work was distributed by U.S.-based media outlets. There is a $50 entry fee (with the exception of First Amendment and Administrator/Teacher of the Year). Winners will be announced in March, share $180,000 in cash prizes and be recognized at an April 28 dinner in Phoenix.

Besides Community Journalism, categories include: Top Story of the Year; Opinion; Breaking News; Business/Economics Reporting; Digital Innovation; Environmental Reporting; First Amendment; Human Interest Storytelling; Investigative Reporting; Photojournalism; Public Service Reporting; Radio/Audio In-Depth Reporting; TV/Cable Local Coverage; TV/Cable National/International Coverage; Journalism School Administrator of the Year; and Journalism Teacher of the Year.

The first winner of the Community Journalism prize was Daniel Gilbert, then of the Bristol Herald Courier and now of The Seattle Times, whose same work went on to win the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. He donated his $10,000 cash prize from the Scripps contest to the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues (publisher of the Rural Blog) to create a fellowship program for rural journalists to gain the same sort of computer-assisted reporting skills that enabled him to expose mismanagement of coalfield energy royalties in southwest Virginia. The fellowships send rural journalists to the computer-assisted reporting boot camp of Investigative Reporters and Editors.