Saturday, September 29, 2018

Solidarity among journalists matters because most people don't understand the work, session on paper shooting is told

An audience member asks a question as Gina Carvallo, Trif Alatzas, moderator Deborah Weiner and Bruce Shapiro listen.
No employee in the newsroom of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., has left since it was the scene of a mass shooting June 28, but some in the advertising department have, the publisher and editor-in-chief of the paper's parent company said in a discussion about the tragedy at the Excellence in Journalism conference in Baltimore on Saturday.

"People believe in what they do," said Trif Alatzas of the Baltimore Sun Media Group. "They really just believe in the mission, and they're very dedicated." Four news staffers and an advertising representative died at the hands of a man who apparently had a grudge against the paper for its coverage of his legal problems.

"That solidarity among journalists matters a lot," because most people don't understand how journalists view their work, Bruce Shapiro, executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, told the session via Skype.

"Journalism is a profession of passion," said Army magazine writer Gina Cavallaro. "You don't just do it to pay a mortgage, because it doesn't pay that well." She talked about the fatal shooting of a solider in Iraq as she walked next to him. "I think about it every single day. I didn't prepare for something like that," and neither did the people at the Capital Gazette, she said.

Alatzas said columnist Wendi Winters, one of those killed, had gone through an active-shooter drill at her church two weeks before the attack, and charged the shooter with recycling cans. "Wendy made a decision she was going to fight," Alatzas said. "Those moments provided time for the other six people [in the newsroom at the time] to survive."

Shapiro said, "I don't think we have ever contemplated an event such as a direct attack on a newsroom." He said harassment and threats to journalists are becoming more common, and "We need to create a culture of taking it seriously."

Friday, September 28, 2018

'Radically Rural' report: Local news outlets feel the 'fake news' heat, are turning to transparency to trump Trump

A sign directed people to sessions on journalism.
By Al Cross
Director and Professor, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky

KEENE, N.H. – Local news outlets are feeling the heat from President Trump's attacks on the news media, a veteran journalist said at a journalism session of "Radically Rural," the annual small-town business symposium in southwestern New Hampshire.

"The president has a bully pulpit," and has popularized the term "fake news," said Kathy Kiely, a University of Missouri journalism professor who once covered Washington and presidential politics. She said local politicians are using the term "to deride and discredit local news media," and journalists, especially high-profile television journalists, "are being exposed to violence."

Keene Sentinel Executive Editor Paul Miller said he hasn't seen the phenomenon in the town of 24,000 and surrounding Cheshire County, total population 77,000, but "We have to acknowledge that that term has great resonance."

Miller said his paper tries to be "a noncombatant" when covering issues but participated in The Boston Globe's effort to get newspapers to run editorials in mid-August objecting to Trump's attacks. "Doing our jobs is no longer enough," he said, referring to the oft-repeated advice of Washington Post Editor Martin Baron, who also likes to say of his staff, "We're not at war, we're at work."

Miller said he wasn't sure how effective the editorial effort was. "Our focus is on trying to be a more open entity," he said. To that end, today the paper sponsored “Building Today’s Newspaper: You be the Editor!,” giving participants a say in how to play certain stories, and how to disseminate information online.

Newspapers "need to rebuild trust" with their communities, and not just for their own interest, but for their community's interest, Sentinel Publisher Terry Williams, an organizer of Radically Rural, said in opening the journalism session at Keene State College. "Robust news organizations in small communities continue to be essential measures of those communities' health," Williams said.

"Radically Rural" has five tracks. The journalism track was sponsored by Filtrine Inc., a local manufacturer. "Why is a manufacturing company interested in journalism?" asked President Peter Hansel. He said the Sentinel is "kind of a glue for the fabric of our society," and the company does have an interest in having a vibrant community to recruit and retain employees. "A vibrant newspaper is certainly a very important part of that."

For all the concern about Trump and transparency, Kiely said, "Donald Trump is not the biggest threat to journalism today. The biggest threat is commercial. . . . There is less money available for public-service journalism. . . . If we want credible journalism, we're going to have to pay for it." She cited the Institute for Rural Journalism's bumper sticker: "Support Democracy - Subscribe."

CJR profiles Maine newspaper owner Reade Brower: focused on profitability, not at newroom's expense

Reade Brower
Though 61-year-old Reade Brower is most known for his Maine newspaper empire, he said he wasn't always a fan of the industry. Its financial slump came from "what he saw as bad business practices and a failure to plan for the future," Casey Kelly reports for Columbia Journalism Review.

"In less than a decade, Brower has acquired six of Maine’s seven daily newspapers and 21 of just more than 30 weeklies—a degree of newspaper consolidation unmatched in any other state," Kelly reports. "Brower’s properties include the state’s largest paper, the Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram, as well as dailies in Lewiston, Waterville, Biddeford, Brunswick, and the state capital, Augusta. He provides printing services for the Bangor Daily News, the only daily he doesn’t own. His weeklies fill in the spread—ranging from the affluent coastal community of Camden, where Brower lives, to rural western Maine, which is dotted with economically depressed former mill towns."

Brower first got into the newspaper business as an advertising salesman, starting The Free Press, an alternative weekly in Rockland, as a vehicle for ads. But his friend Alice McFadden convinced him that good journalism was the key to selling ads, and he hired her as the paper's editor and publisher.

"Newspapers still present to you, both online and in print, a cohesive story," he told Kelly, adding that newspapers won't be sustainable if owners keep cutting editorial operations. That's perhaps the most succinct way to understand Brower: relentlessly focused on profitability, while protecting newsrooms.

That sounds good, but "It’s always a worry that these entrepreneurs are going to sell," Dan Kennedy, associate professor of journalism at Northeastern University and author of a book about modern newspaper moguls. "That’s why I hope Brower is turning a profit and is happy with that."

Tom Bell, a former reporter at the Press Herald, said Brower "has good intentions, but what happens in the next recession when revenues of all his newspapers are tanking all at once?"

John Christie, a former publisher of the Waterville Morning Sentinel and the Kennebec Journal, asked, "Is Reade Brower an angel or a devil?" He answered, "I think that he’s the only angel we’ve got, and we’ve just got to hope he doesn’t turn into a devil."

Cheap knock-offs of Juul e-cigarettes popular with teens; FDA promises 'additional action . . . very soon'

Using a Juul device (KentWired photo)
Cheap knock-offs of the Juul electronic cigarettes popular with teens have been showing up in stores and online, "despite a U.S. Food and Drug Administration rule banning the sale of new e-cigarette products after August 2016 without regulatory approval," Chris Kirkham reports for Reuters. "Start-ups and major tobacco firms have launched more than a dozen new high-nicotine devices with Juul-like designs since the FDA imposed the deadline, according to Reuters review' of the companies’ online advertisements, social media posts and public statements.

Earlier this month the FDA threatened to ban Juul and four other vaping-product companies unless they took steps to prevent use by minors, but other companies have meanwhile flooded the market with Juul copycats with no regulatory consequences, Kirkham reports. The FDA told Reuters that it planned to take "additional action on this front very soon" and would focus on products with high nicotine concentrations and flavors that apparently target youth.

GateHouse buys The Oklahoman, lays off 37

After employees of The Oklahoman Media Co. sat through a 35-minute presentation yesterday about the company's sale to GateHouse Media with GateHouse CEO Kirk Davis and Oklahoman Publisher Chris Reen, staffers were told to check their emails. Thirty-seven of them had been laid off, effective immediately; the sale is to be final Monday, Oct. 1.

One staffer said "It was kind of pandemonium, trying to see who was safe and who was gone." Fifteen of the layoffs were in the newsroom, though two of those newsroom staffers agreed to retire, Barbara Allen reports for the Poynter Institute. Davis told Allen that one of his most important goals is to quickly "stabilize the financial situation at the newspaper" in Oklahoma City.

"Cuts were made across the organization, including the Oklahoman's digital marketing agency, BigWing, according to people inside the organization," Allen reports. Interim publisher Jim Hopson of GateHouse will take over at The Oklahoman, while Reen will remain employed with the paper's current owner The Anschutz Corp., the paper reports.

Appalachian health researchers advised to stop 'helicopter' research and truly engage with the region

"A big step toward improving health in Appalachia would be closer relationships between residents of the region and researchers -- who often drop in, gather data and leave," Melissa Patrick writes for Kentucky Health News. "That's what researchers were told last week as they gathered in Lexington to talk about their work in Appalachia, ranging from opioid disposal programs to air and water quality."
Joyce Bells-Berry of the Mayo Clinic, keynote at the
Appalachian Translational Research Network Summit

Joyce Bells-Berry of the Mayo Clinic said at the eighth annual Appalachian Translational Research Network Summit that it was time for Appalachian researchers to stop "helicopter" research and truly engage with communities in the region.

"Community engagement allows us to get to the why so that we can answer our research questions in a way that is pivotal for changing the lives of those around us, in a way that builds partnerships and mutual respect, while taking into consideration the needs of those around us, not just our needs as the academics," said Bells-Berry, a professor of epidemiology.

Scott Lockard, director of the Kentucky River Health Department, who is collaborating on a syringe-exchange project with the University of Kentucky, said he agreed. "We don't like helicopter researchers," Lockard said. "We've been studied enough."

Lockard said Appalachian Kentucky is "ripe for collaboration" with researchers who will come to the region to work with residents and help communities find their own solutions to health issues, and be prepared to answer this question: "At the end of the day, does our research improve the lives of everyday Kentuckians?"

And, for that matter, all Appalachians. The Appalachian Translational Research Network is nine institutions in the major Appalachian states (Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Tennessee) that collaborate to strengthen research and training efforts in the region. Its stated mission is to "catalyze translational research among partnering institutions serving Appalachian communities to synergistically improve the health of these communities."

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Volunteer firefighters and medics declining in rural areas

Rural communities depend on volunteer firefighters and paramedics, but their numbers have been dropping in recent years, Mary Cloud Taylor reports for the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Mont.

Gary Mahugh, fire chief of the Creston Fire Department (which serves 8,000 residents) in the northwestern corner of Montana, told Taylor: "In Creston, if we did not have volunteer firefighters, we would not have a fire department. . . . Or we would not have any kind of response in any kind of a timely fashion."

In 1974 when he first joined the department, Mahugh said there was never a shortage of volunteers. He thinks the decline in numbers is because of a societal shift in the community. Many employers won't allow employees to leave during the workday for fire or medical calls. And because most families today depend on two incomes, people work more hours and may not have as much time to volunteer, he said.

"The increasingly lower commitment levels from some volunteers means the department not only has fewer firefighters responding to each incident, but inconsistency over which volunteers, what level of training or how quick of a response to expect," Taylor reports. Some communities have wanted to compensate volunteer firefighters and medics, but financial stress in some rural areas makes that a difficult sell.

Census Bureau urges local leaders to tell constituents it's important to fill out the form; rural news media can help too

The Census Bureau has a homework assignment for state and county officials: make sure your constituents know it's important to fill out the 2020 census, Michael Grass reports for Route Fifty, which is aimed in large measure at such officials. "We would add rural news media to that list," said Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, publisher of The Rural Blog.

That's because some areas will likely be undercounted and will therefore lose federal funding that's awarded based on population. Those includes areas that are predominantly rural, tribal, and/or Spanish-speaking. The problem will likely be made worse since the bureau will try to get most people to fill out the census online; fewer people in those hard-to-count areas have access to high-speed internet, or internet service at all.

At the recent International City/County Management Association's annual meeting, bureau representative Philip Lutz told attendees that people often view federal efforts to stress the importance of the census with suspicion, and that local leaders can much better understand how to communicate with their people. "Lutz highlighted past successes of using local barbershops and beauty salons as venues to promote the census" and shared other suggestions, such as "hosting interfaith breakfasts and weekend events; incorporating census information in newsletters, social media posts, podcasts, mailings and websites; and helping recruit census workers when positions become available," Grass reports.

Brazil expected to buy 1 million tons of soy from U.S.

U.S. soy farmers have an unexpected customer: their number one global competitor. Brazil, the world's top soy exporter, is expected to import around 1 million tons of soybeans in the coming months, according to Brazilian grain trader Agribrasil.

"The deals will be necessary to supply Brazilian soy processors in the inter-crops period as most of the beans produced in Brazil in the last season have already been sold or are booked for exports," Roberto Samora reports for Reuters.

Here's why: when China mostly stopped buying soybeans from the U.S. because of the current trade war, it began buying far more from Brazil. Brazil wants to sell as much soy as possible to China, and so is buying the cheaper U.S. soy for domestic use, Samora reports.

Seven-decade old vision for America by 'philosopher of the New Deal' remains relevant today, ag columnists write

As negotiators wrangle over reconciling the Farm Bill, which Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, says won't be finished until after Election Day, a pair of longtime ag policy columnists consider some of the issues it tackles through the words of Henry A. Wallace, whom they call their intellectual mentor.

In his book 60 Million Jobs, Wallace "offers some principles to his 1945 audience that resonate today," Harwood D. Schaffer and Daryll E. Ray write for their Agricultural Policy Analysis Center column. Wallace was President Truman's secretary of commerce when the book was published, but had been Franklin D. Roosevelt's secretary of agriculture, then his, vice president, and was called "the philosopher of the New Deal."

Wallace argued that the U.S. needed to provide 60 million jobs by 1950 to transition the country from a wartime to a peacetime economy. Those jobs "produce 200 billion dollars’ worth of goods and services…with a distribution of wages that will leave no family and no individual beyond the benefits of this abundant national production," he wrote.

Wallace also argued that the U.S. must "squarely face the problem of racial and religious discrimination and propaganda-bred hatred" and acknowledge women's equality in the workplace in order to "attain full employment and lasting peace at home."

Though some things have changed in the U.S. since Wallace published his book, "his vision for an America in which all people share fully in its abundance is as relevant today as it was 73 years ago," Schaffer and Ray write.

Lee Enterprises backs off hire of GateHouse sales executive as regional publisher after questionable tweets come to light

Two days ago Lee Enterprises named GateHouse Media sales executive Paul McArthur as its regional publisher for western Montana, but reversed its decision yesterday after his past social media activity, some of which disparaged mainstream news coverage, came to light.

One of McArthur's tweets
"Within hours of news reports about McArthur's appointment Tuesday, his past tweets and Twitter 'likes' on topics ranging from the news media to Islam to the weight of flight attendants were being widely shared — and criticized — on social media," Tom Bauer reports for the Missoulian., a Lee daily. "McArthur 'liked' tweets posted by conservative commentators criticizing mainstream news coverage as unfair or inaccurate, including a quote from Dinesh D'Souza that 'the press isn’t so much the enemy of the people, more that it’s the enemy of the truth.'"

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

How well does your county run elections? Map shows local data that can form the basis for questions

This ProPublica map shows how much of the population is voting age. (Click here for the interactive version)
With Election Day looming, it's a good idea to learn more about how (and how well) your county handles elections. ProPublica teamed up with Electionland to create an interactive map showing the county-level data about average voting age, number of voters registered, voter roll purges, voters per polling place, poll workers per polling place, which voting system each county uses, and more.

Rural colleges get creative to attract students and faculty

Rural colleges are getting creative to attract students and faculty as the number of high-school graduates is falling in parts of the country and many don't want to consider moving to a rural area. "Rural colleges offer many advantages, among them safety and spectacular scenery. And these days, they’re not shy about promoting them," Kelly Field reports for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Many "now use location as a marketing tool, capable of drawing students and faculty members who seek a sense of community, affordable living, and outdoor adventure."

Northern Michigan University in Marquette (pop. 21,355) is a good example. After enrollment dropped nearly 20 percent over four years, in 2016 the school rolled out the nation's first four-year degree focusing on marijuana -- Medicinal Plant Chemistry -- which college president Fritz Erickson said is a "hardcore chemistry degree." The school later opened a forensic anthropology "body farm" to study how humans decompose, which has led to collaborations with medical schools, law enforcement and the FBI, Field reports.

NMU also made sure its brochures showed students enjoying nature in the Upper Peninsula with activities like skiing and mountain climbing. "So many college materials, you could just change the name on the cover," Erickson told Field. "Ours are very specific to our sense of place. We market a lifestyle . . . We’ve decided to embrace who we are."

Field offers seven tactics that rural colleges can use to bring in more students and faculty:
  • Differentiate a college by emphasizing its natural surroundings, creating signature programs or offering unusual extracurricular activities.
  • Collaborate with other small colleges and pool resources. In western Massachusetts, the Five College Consortium allows students to access classes at Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, or the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Faculty members can also access one another's research facilities or teach at other campuses. A free shuttle bus connects all five colleges.
  • Play up the quality of life and emphasize the benefits of living in a rural area. 
  • Challenge assumptions: prospective students and faculty members may not have a good mental image of rural America, so colleges should not only play up the quality of life, but show students how many opportunities a rural college has to work on important issues or emphasize how close the college is to an urban area.
  • Make a joke: The vice president of enrollment at Grinnell College in rural Iowa has so often joked that the college is "conveniently located halfway between New York City and Los Angeles" that the catchphrase was printed on a t-shirt sold in the college bookstore.
  • Own it: A growing number of rural colleges choose to highlight their rural location instead of downplaying it. 
  • Find the fit: Rural colleges should recognize that they're not for everyone and focus on attracting students and faculty who will do best there.

Inland Press Association contest winners announced

The Inland Press Association has announced the winners of its 2018 news and photography contests. Each contest was co-sponsored and judged by a university school of journalism. Here are some of the winners and finalists with a rural angle:

The Community Leadership Award recognizes newspapers that use their resources to make their communities better places in which to live and work. All circulation categories were combined during judging for this year's contest, which was sponsored and judged by the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri.

The staff at the Victoria Advocate in Texas won the top award for its "Understanding Harvey" series. After Hurricane Harvey hit Victoria, the Advocate staff covered not only the storm's impact on the town, but published watchdog stories that showed "the unpreparedness of the Red Cross and exposed those who claimed to be doing good but were taking advantage," one judge notes. Mounting public pressure after the stories and editorials were published led to elected officials finally releasing the town's secret 900-page emergency plan, which is now being updated. "The Advocate staff did what journalists do best. They thoroughly covered the disaster. They exposed wrongdoing. They provided community leadership. They opened records. They helped Victoria become a better place to live," the judge writes.

The General Excellence Award for newspapers with a circulation of under 50,000 went to The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y. "The paper did an excellent job covering breaking news with a mix of on the ground reporting, stark photographs and mix of social media. The clean design and layout makes it easy to read," a judge wrote. Second place went to Farm and Dairy in Salem, Ohio. In late 2017 the paper put out an impressive three-part series on the rural opioid epidemic that featured a special website with stories and information with audio and video. 

The Digital Journalism Award for Best Online Innovation (all circulation sizes) went to The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill., home of the University of Illinois, for its "UI at 150" package. A judge commented: "Innovative, interesting and inspired this creative multimedia project was also engaging, enlightening and fascinating. The depth in multimedia was unmatched in the category with more than 100 videos of first-person accounts and more than 1500 memories from distinguished representatives. The illustrations of famous and favorite spots added fun and dimension to an already comprehensive story. The robust and detailed reporting and data gathering in partnership with a print companions could be a model for future special projects.

The Editorial Excellence Award was sponsored and judged by the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas. In the "Under 10,000 Circulation" category, first place went to Brian Martin of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle in Cheyenne. The paper's editorials "provided concrete research — whether through quotes, financials or context — to support bold and unrelenting arguments about statewide or local issues," a judge commented.
Second place in that category went to Douglas Burns, who co-owns the Carroll Daily Times Herald in Iowa. Burns is known as an outspoken advocate for rural Iowa.

In the "10,000 to 49,999 Circulation" category of the Editorial Excellence Award, Corey Friedman of The Wilson Times in North Carolina claimed first place. "The Wilson Times stood out here for unearthing conflicts seldom (perhaps never?) covered elsewhere — while also leading the community towards solutions," a judge notes.

The Local News Writing Awards were sponsored and judged by the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky. For the Explanatory Reporting Award in the "Less than 10,000 Circulation" category, first place went to the Beloit Daily News in Wisconsin for Hillary Gavan's "Classrooms at a Crossroads" package. Second place went to the Index-Journal in Greenwood, South Carolina, for Adam Benson's "Oakland to Parkland" package. Third place went to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle in Cheyenne for Sarah Zoellick's "Wyoming Boot Camp: A path to success or a pipeline to prison?"

In the "10,000 to 49,999 Circulation" category of Explanatory Reporting, Farm and Dairy took first for their "Addiction: A Rural Reality" package. The Times-Tribune in Scranton, Pennsylvania came in second for "Outlook 2018: Change in store". And third place went to The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for their "Special Education" package.

In the "Under 10,000 Circulation" category of the Investigative Reporting Award, first place went to the Southeast Missourian in Cape Girardeau for Bob Miller's "Life Without." Second place also went to the Southeast Missourian for Mark Bliss and Bob Miller's "Pursuit of Proof: The Mischelle Lawless Murder." The Index-Journal in South Carolina took home third place for Damian Dominguez's "This chapter is closed."

In the "10,000 to 49,999 Circulation" category of the Investigative Reporting Award, The Times-Tribune in Scranton took first for its "Sign here" package.

Register for rural obesity webinar set for 2 p.m. Oct. 11

The Rural Health Information Hub will present a free webinar Thursday, Oct. 11, discussing how the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey assesses the health of adults and youth across the U.S. to create nationally representative estimates of obesity. Participants will also hear about the latest trends in obesity and severe obesity in rural areas.

The webinar will take approximately one hour and will begin at 2 p.m. ET. A recording will be available on the RHI website afterward. Though the webinar is free, advance registration is required. Click here to register or for more information.

Apply by Oct. 8 for paid D.C. fellowship to study pensions

The National Press Foundation invites journalists to apply for an all-expenses-paid fellowship to study pension issues. The fellowship will be held Dec. 2-5 in Washington, D.C., and will cover costs for airfare, ground transportation, hotels and most meals.

Topics to be covered include: the state of public and private pensions; pension investment and transparency; workforce and retirement issues; pension modernization and reforms; pension management and debt; and the impact of pension issues on retirees.

The fellowship is sponsored by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and the National Public Pension Coalition. The deadline to apply is Oct. 8. Click here to learn more or to apply.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Researchers urged to engage more with Appalachian communities, stop drop-in 'helicopter' research

Joyce Bells-Berry of the Mayo Clinic spoke at the Appalachian
Translational Research Network Summit. (Photo by Melissa Patrick)
"A big step toward improving health in Appalachia would be closer relationships between residents of the region and researchers — who often drop in, gather data and leave," Melissa Patrick reports for Kentucky Health News. "That’s what researchers were told last week as they gathered in Lexington to talk about their work in Appalachia, ranging from opioid disposal programs to air and water quality."

Joyce Bells-Berry of the Mayo Clinic, the keynote speaker at the eighth annual Appalachian Translational Research Network Summit, said Appalachian researchers should stop "helicopter" research: "Community engagement allows us to get to the 'why' so that we can answer our research questions in a way that is pivotal for changing the lives of those around us, in a way that builds partnerships and mutual respect, while taking into consideration the needs of those around us, not just our needs as the academics."

The ATRN comprises nine universities in Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Tennessee that work together to improve research and training efforts in Appalachia, in hopes of improving health in those communities.

Scott Lockard, director of the Kentucky River Health Department, said Appalachian Kentucky is "ripe for collaboration" with researchers whose work will improve the lives of everyday Kentuckians, Patrick reports. Read here for more about the summit.

Senate Ag Committee chairman says new Farm Bill won't likely pass before election day; current law expires Sept. 30

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, said Monday that Congress won't likely pass a new Farm Bill before the current one expires on Sept. 30, and said it will be tough to get it done before the Nov. 6 election. He also said he doesn't want to talk about extending the current bill because that would shift focus to the old bill instead of the new one, which wouldn't help the top four negotiators reach a final agreement, Ryan McCrimmon reports for Politico

Roberts said he and ranking committee member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., along with their House counterparts Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Collin Peterson, D-Minn., "have found a way to reconcile differences in the commodity title, which includes programs like agriculture risk coverage and price loss coverage," McCrimmon reports. But they have yet to agree on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. The House wants work requirements for able-bodied adults participating in the program, and its bill would overturn a court ruling that allows the public to see how much SNAP revenue a retailer gets each year. Grocers had lobbied for the provision, saying such information hurts them with competitors. The Senate version does not include work requirements, McCrimmon reports.

"I think if we could get the waiver challenge behind us, working with the administration, that would be very helpful. If we do that, I think we could get ourselves to a Farm Bill," Roberts said.

Judge blocks Yellowstone grizzly hunt, says feds shouldn't have taken the bears off the endangered species list

"The Matriarch" is Thomas Mangelsen's
most famous photo of Grizzly No. 399.
On Monday a federal judge in Montana reversed a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to allow the hunting of grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park. "The order, issued by U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen, effectively cancels what was to be the first bear hunt in the lower 48 states since 1991," Tim Stelloh reports for NBC News. "Christensen temporarily blocked the planned hunt in Wyoming and Idaho last month, two days before the season’s opening day."

Ruling in lawsuits filed by Native American tribes and wildlife advocates, Christensen wrote that her decision wasn't about the "ethics of hunting," but because she believed the FWS "failed to make a reasoned decision" in deciding Yellowstone grizzlies were no longer an endangered species. She also wrote that the agency didn't consider the impact hunting Yellowstone grizzlies would have on five other bear populations in the U.S., which it was required to do, and that its analysis of threats to the roughly 700 Yellowstone grizzlies was "arbitrary and capricious."

Wyoming issued 22 hunting permits and Idaho issued one for the anticipated hunt. Some of those hunters had their sights on Grizzly No. 399, made iconic by acclaimed wildlife photographer Thomas Mangelsen. On 60 Minutes Sunday night, Mangelsen talked about how he had documented almost every facet of No. 399's life for more than a decade, including her giving birth to three sets of triplets and two sets of twins. He said, "There's people here who have said that they can't wait for a season to open so they can shoot 399 because that would be the biggest prize, the biggest trophy."

More than 7,000 people entered a lottery to receive one of the 22 hunting permits in Wyoming. Mangelsen put his name in and, against the odds, snagged one. He said that if the hunt were allowed to proceed, he would only shoot with a camera.

Increased soy sales to E.U. bring some relief to U.S. farmers, but can't make up for loss of Chinese buyers

The U.S. recently passed Brazil to become the top seller of soybeans to the European Union, but that "doesn’t come close to replacing the business with China that U.S. soybean growers have lost due to retaliatory tariffs," Ryan McCrimmon reports for Politico. "The U.S. exported about $587 million worth of soybeans to Europe over the 12-week period, which is roughly $2.5 billion on an annualized basis. China, the world’s largest importer of soybeans, bought up $12.3 billion worth of U.S. soybeans in 2017 — that’s 60 percent of all U.S. soy exports."

And U.S. farmers are dealing with a double whammy: not only is the E.U. not buying as much soy as China did, but slumping U.S. soy prices mean those sales aren't going as far, McCrimmon notes. Still, the uptick in E.U. sales does blunt the impact of Chinese tariffs for American farmers. Chad Hart, an associate economics professor at Iowa State University, told McCrimmon, "Europe is a sizable market, so growth (hopefully sustained) helps ... but compared to China, this is only a partial offset."

Get ready for National Newspaper Week, Oct. 7-13

With President Trump calling the news media "enemies of the people," it's more important than ever to remind the public about the importance of newspapers. That's why the theme for the 78th annual National Newspaper Week is "Journalism matters. NOW more than ever."

Observance of National Newspaper Week will be held Oct. 7-13. It is sponsored by Newspaper Association Managers, the consortium of North American trade associations representing newspapers on the state, regional and national level.

To help your paper observe the week, organizers have published a content kit with editorials, editorial cartoons, promotional ads and more. All materials are free for download by any daily or non-daily North American newspaper. Learn more here.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Crop bailouts may not be enough to keep farmers' votes

U.S. farmers will soon begin receiving bailout funds from the government designed to help insulate them from the ongoing trade war with China, but some think the payments may not be enough to help, and may sway farmers to vote for Democrats in the midterm elections. “Corn farmers get the smallest slice of the aid pie,” Juliet Linderman reports for The Associated Press. “Corn groups estimate a loss of 44 cents per bushel, but they're poised to receive just a single penny per bushel.”

Kevin Skunes, a corn and soybean grower from Arthur, N.D., and president of the National Corn Growers Association, told Linderman: "It's pretty obvious that the rural agriculture communities helped elect this administration, but the way things are going I believe farmers are going to have to vote with their checkbook when it comes time.”

FactCheck Monday: Trump and Clinton claims fall short of reality

Last Monday The Rural Blog began a weekly series that will continue until Election Day, in which we list a few of the most relevant items from It's a well-sourced, non-partisan service run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. We encourage you to subscribe to their alerts, which you can do here, and republish their findings, which you can do for free with credit to them.

President Trump has said that Medicare has become "stronger" during his administration; in one instance he said "Medicare will be $700 billion stronger over the next decade thanks to our growth." However, Medicare's finances have gotten worse since his inauguration, its current model is unsustainable, and economists don't expect growth to help the program as much as he claims, Eugene Kiely writes. The Medicare Part A trust fund, which covers hospital payments, is projected to run out of money by 2026, three years sooner than last year's projection, partly because last year's tax cut reduced revenues and increased expenses. Meanwhile, "the annual cost for all four parts of Medicare — including physician payments and prescription drugs — is expected to more than double from $710 billion in 2017 to $1.44 trillion in 2027, and general revenues will increase as a share of Medicare financing from 41 percent in 2017 to 49 percent in 2032," Kiely reports. And though Trump said Medicare tax revenue would increase $700 billion over the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office estimated in April that economic growth would increase payroll tax revenues for all programs (including Social Security) by only $92 billion.

In a recent op-ed for The Atlantic, Hillary Clinton said President Trump has shown a "complete unwillingness to stop" Russian interference in U.S. elections. That's not true, Robert Farley writes. Though the effectiveness and thoroughness of the Trump administration's actions is debatable, it has taken several steps against foreign interference. The Department of Homeland Security is working with state and local election officials in every state, providing technology assistance and vulnerability assessments. Also, the FBI has been sharing specific threat indicators and social-media account information with social-media and tech companies to help them thwart influence campaigns such as the one Russia carried out before the 2016 election. President Trump expanded sanctions against some Russians who interfered in that election, and signed an executive order that will give the president discretion to impose sanctions on countries that interfere in U.S. elections.