Friday, January 21, 2022

Smaller communities worry they'll miss out on cybersecurity grant money from feds due to lack of expertise to ask for it

Many leaders of smaller city and county governments are excited about a new $1 billion federal cybersecurity grant program, but they're worried they'll miss out on the money because they don't have the resources or expertise to create proposals, Jenni Bergal reports for Stateline.

The funding comes from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law, and will be distributed to states over the next four years through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. States must ensure that 25 percent of the money goes to rural areas, and 80 percent overall to local governments, Bergal reports.

The need for funding is dire in rural areas. "Ransomware has wreaked havoc on local governments in the past several years. It typically spreads when hackers email malicious links or attachments that people unwittingly click on. Malware then hijacks the computer system and encrypts data, holding it hostage until victims either restore the system on their own or pay a ransom, usually in bitcoin, in exchange for a decryption key," Bergal reports. "Last year, there were at least 77 successful attacks on local and state governments and another 88 on school districts, colleges and universities."

Local governments, particularly in rural areas, are far less equipped to deal with a cyberattack. Their computer systems tend to be older, and their staff tend to have less training in how to deter such attacks, Bergal reports.

"In rural communities, the IT person, who is probably also the public works director or the city recorder, is expected to know what software they need to buy or how at risk they are," Brenda Wilson, executive director of the Lane Council of Governments in Oregon, told Bergal. "They just don’t know. How can they put together a plan to submit to the state?"

Poll shows mental-illness stigma starting to decline in rural America, but remains a significant barrier to getting help

Rural adults on whether the above factors are obstacles to seeking help or treatment on a mental-health condition. (American Farm Bureau Federation chart; click the image to enlarge it)

An American Farm Bureau Federation poll shows that the stigma surrounding mental health issues and getting help for them is declining in rural and farming areas, though it's still a significant obstacle. "AFBF conducted the survey of rural adults and farmers/farmworkers to measure changes and trends in stigma, personal experiences with mental health, awareness of information about mental health resources and comfort in talking about mental health with others," it says. "The poll results were compared with previous surveys AFBF conducted in 2019 and 2020 focusing on farmer mental health, and the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on farmer mental health, respectively."

Here are some of the top-line findings:

  • Rural stigma around seeking help or treatment for mental health has decreased over the past year, particularly in agriculture, but it's still an issue. Over the past year, there was a 4 percent decline in rural adults saying their friends and acquaintances attach stigma to such actions, and a 9% decline in saying people in their local community did so. But 59% of rural adults and 63% in farming communities say some stigma remains.
  • 83% of rural adults say they'd be comfortable talking about mental-health solutions with a friend or family member in need. And 92% of farmers or farmworkers say they'd be willing to do so—a 22% increase since April 2019.
  • 52% of rural adults and 61% are experiencing more stress and mental health challenges than they were a year ago, and many are seeking help for it. Younger rural adults are more likely to say they're experiencing mental health challenges, and they're more likely to seek help from a mental-health professional.
  • Rural adults cited cost as the biggest barrier to seeking help from a mental-health professional (see chart).

Pandemic roundup: Free N95 masks and at-home tests coming soon; rural hospitals overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients; rural kids have a harder time accessing vaccines

Here's a roundup of recent news stories about the pandemic and vaccination efforts:

Rural hospitals are struggling under influx of Covid-19 patients, and say they're having a hard time transferring critical patients to larger hospitals since those are also full. Read more here and here.

Labor and delivery services are already difficult to access for many rural Texans, but many hospitals are considering cutting those services because of staff shortages and exploding Covid-19 case counts. Read more here.

The White House will begin distributing 400 million free N95 masks starting next week. Read more here.

The U.S. Postal Service is taking orders for at-home coronavirus test kits. Each household can order up to four free rapid tests, which will be shipped for free in late January. Delivery will be prioritized to zip codes with high Covid infection and death rates. Read more here.

Rural kids can have a hard time accessing coronavirus vaccinations. Read more here.

Officials are struggling to regulate pop-up coronavirus testing sites, and warn patients to beware of fraudsters. Read more here.

A new podcast from the News Literacy Project discusses the politicization of the pandemic. Listen to it here.

Don't just rely on rapid tests to gather safely. Read more here.

Though the Omicron variant is milder, it's still a huge threat to immunocompromised people. Read more here.

A rural Alabama pharmacy became a frontline in the fight against Covid-19. Read more here.

Quick hits: Carhartt faces boycott over vaccine mandate; lead ammo hurts bald eagles' comeback

Here's a roundup of stories with rural resonance; if you do or see similar work that should be shared on The Rural Blog, email

Popular rural brand Carhartt is facing a boycott after the CEO mandated that staff be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Read more here.

The pandemic has been especially devastating to migrant farmworkers. A new state program in North Carolina is trying to improve their broadband access so they can better access vaccines and other community support measures. Read more here.

Rural Californians confront growing risks from extreme weather. Read more here.

A new Slate podcast discusses how JD Vance's political aspirations typify a new strain of conservatism. Listen to it here.

Lead ammo hampers the bald eagle's rebound in the Northeast U.S. Read more here.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Exclusive data show rural Americans least likely to wear a mask, less likely to know which masks are most effective

Rural Americans are less likely than urban and suburban Americans to wear any kind of mask, less likely to understand what type of mask offers the most protection against coronavirus infection, and less likely to know what type of mask the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends, according to exclusive Covid States Project data provided to The Rural Blog.

The findings reflect rural Americans' overall more skeptical attitude about the pandemic and underscore the need for more public education about masking and other preventative measures (though lack of trust in the news media can make that more difficult).

Researchers surveyed over 17,000 individuals nationwide about their mask usage between Dec. 27, 2021 and Jan. 10, 2022. When asked what type of mask they wear, rural Americans—like all other population groups—were most likely to wear a cloth mask or other fabric barrier. But rural Americans were more than four times as likely as city dwellers to wear no mask at all.

Covid States Project charts here and below; click the image to enlarge it

Though 63% of rural Americans knew that N95 of equivalent masks offer more protection than cloth masks, that was the lowest percentage of any population group. Rural Americans were the most likely (29%) to be unsure about whether cloth masks or N95 masks offer more protection.

Rural Americans were the least likely (53%) to know that the CDC recommends an N95-type mask, but the most likely (16%) to believe the CDC recommends cloth masks and the most likely to be unsure of which type is recommended.

The Covid States Project is a joint effort of Harvard, Northeastern, Northwestern, and Rutgers universities. It receives support from the National Science Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and Amazon.

Jan. survey of rural Midwest bankers shows strong economy but worries about inflation, supply-chain problems

Creighton University chart compares current month to last month and year ago; click here to download it and chart below.
Rural bankers in 10 Midwestern states that rely on agriculture and energy saw the 14th straight month of positive economic growth in a monthly survey, though they voiced concerns about supply-chain problems and federal financial policy. The Rural Mainstreet Index polls bankers in about 200 rural places averaging 1,300 population in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

"Solid grain prices, the Federal Reserve’s record-low short-term interest rates, and growing agricultural exports have underpinned the Rural Mainstreet Economy," said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who compiles the index.

The overall Rural Mainstreet Index fell to 61.1 from December's 66.7; anything over 50 is above growth-neutral. However, the confidence index, which measures predictions of the area's economy six months out, rose from 55.2 to 61.1.

Bankers cited rising farm input prices as the greatest threat to the economy this year, followed by delivery disruptions of farm inputs, rising interest rates, a drop in federal financial support, tariffs and trade restrictions, and disrupted delivery of farm products.

Rural new-infection rate breaks records for second week

New coronavirus infections, in ranges by county, Jan. 9-15
Map by The Daily Yonder; click the image to enlarge it or click here for the interactive version.

"The rapid spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in rural America abated a bit last week, but for the second week in a row, rural counties broke the record for the largest number of new cases in a seven-day period," Tim Marema reports for The Daily Yonder. From Jan. 9-15, "new infections in rural America grew by 36 percent, with 534,000 new cases being reported. Two weeks ago new rural infections grew by nearly 110%. This week’s lower rate of increase may indicate that rural counties are starting to recover from the Omicron surge." New infections in metropolitan counties grew only 2% last week, with 4.3 million new cases reported.

Covid-related deaths in rural counties—a trailing indicator—fell by about 8% last week to 2,090. "Metropolitan counties, which began seeing higher new infection rates about six weeks ago, had a 20% increase in deaths, to just over 10,000 for the week," Marema reports.

Click here for more charts, regional analysis, and county-level interactive maps from the Yonder.

Vilsack highlights record agriculture exports, climate-change mitigation efforts in report to House on the rural economy

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack testified today before the House Agriculture Committee about the state of the rural economy over the past year. He acknowledged pandemic-related supply-chain disruptions and said they're proof that the ag sector must be diversified; he noted that the Agriculture Department will disburse $1 billion from the American Rescue Plan to expand meat and poultry processing capacity, Jerry Hagstrom reports for DTN/The Progressive Farmer.

"On climate change, USDA pointed to a new ten-year strategy for forests to reduce fire risk. USDA also began the Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiative to finance 'climate-smart commodity production.' Vilsack also cited USDA had 'overhauled' the Conservation Reserve Program and enrolled 5.3 million acres, surpassing a goal of adding 4 million acres to the program," Hagstrom reports. "USDA's Risk Management Agency also offered more flexibility for producers with prevented planting coverage to hay and graze cover crops as well. USDA Rural Development also provided over $1.6 billion in various funds for renewable energy programs."

Kentucky farmers are increasingly caught up in a debate over a new use for farmland, solar energy 'farms'

"With the push for renewable energy and the increased federal funding available for it, many in Kentucky are concerned about an onslaught of solar power farms. Some county officials say 'big solar' is moving in, getting huge tax credits while taking some of the very best farmland due to the premium leases they can offer aging farmers," Bobbie Curd reports for The Farmer's Pride, the statewide agricultural newspaper. "But with many companies coming in from out of the country and expecting local county governments to issue millions in bonds for the projects, county officials are worried about taking high risks and believe the issue will divide communities."

Henry County Judge-Executive John Logan Brent told Curd that he doesn't oppose solar energy, but feels that rural areas should not have to sacrifice prime farmland and viewsheds. "I don’t know too many folks who truly value the beauty of the countryside who want to look out their front window and see several hundred acres of black panels," he said.

Though there isn't much planned solar buildout in his county yet, Brent worries that proposed projects will cause discord among locals. Farmers will likely be tempted by high offers for land, he said, but he believes international companies will put profit before the interests of the community, Curd reports. A proposal in Clark County, just west of Lexington, already has caused conflict.

Larry Foxworthy, the judge-executive in Fleming County, said the solar projects may be too big a financial risk. Solar companies want counties to issue revenue bonds to finance the solar farms, and say counties would not be liable if a project fails, he remains skeptical because of the lack of details or guarantee, Curd reports. He and others also worry that the projects won't really create new local jobs. The issue has already caused division in the county; its governing body, the Fiscal Court, has refused to issue the bonds, which has angered local farmers who want solar projects on their land.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

National News Literacy Week, Jan. 24-28, is needed more than ever; here are tools to help your newsroom participate

National News Literacy Week is Jan. 24-28 this year, an annual initiative that the News Literacy Project and E.W. Scripps Co. designed to raise awareness of the importance of news literacy for students and the general public. It differs from Media Literacy Week in October. 

From the website: "This annual event underscores the vital role of news literacy in a democracy and provides audiences with the knowledge, tools and abilities to become more news-literate. It also aims to inspire news consumers, educators and students to practice news literacy and to strengthen trust in news media by reinforcing the role of credible journalism."

The site has free ads and social-media graphics you can share with readers, along with a host of other resources for teachers, the news media, and the general public.

The need for news literacy has never been greater. Only 29% of Americans said they trust the news, dead last among the 46 counties surveyed for a 2021 Reuters Institute report. Finland, which has dedicated considerable resources to increasing news literacy, had the highest percentage of news consumers who trust the press.

Conservative Americans were by far the most likely to mistrust mainstream news coverage in the study, with 75% who identified as conservative saying they believed coverage of their views was unfair. A recent study from Columbia University's Tow Center for Digital Journalism sought to better understand, through focus groups and interviews, about conservatives' disproportionate mistrust of the news media, especially regarding pandemic coverage. Researchers found that the mistrust was "fueled by misinformation or fostered by insular media echo chambers." Even participants who were exposed to accurate information did not believe it because they were primed to view it with suspicion.

Webinar at 2 p.m. ET today to discuss how real or perceived biased news coverage can mislead the public

Just in time for National News Literacy Week next week, the News Literacy Project is hosting a free webinar at 2 p.m. ET today to discuss the effects of bias in news coverage and how it can mislead and misinform the public. Hosts John Silva and Elizabeth Price will also discuss how unfounded perceptions of bias can cause people to dismiss credible reporting or mistrust established news media outlets altogether. From the website: "This session will help you think more clearly about what causes bias in reporting, what it looks like in coverage and what you can do when you encounter it in your news diet."

The webinar is the final in a series of four webinars called "Understanding Misinformation and How to Talk to People Who Believe It," aimed at fostering more productive, fact-based conversations among friends and family members. The series is meant to "help participants understand what misinformation is, how people come to believe it and how to effectively and compassionately communicate and debunk those beliefs. While older adults play a critical role in sorting fact from fiction and helping others to do so, everyone can benefit from resources and support to help prevent harm from mis- and disinformation."

Recordings of the first three webinars in the series are available on the website. They are:

  • The Misinformation Landscape, which discusses how to move beyond the unhelpful term 'fake news' to more precisely identify the many types of misleading, inaccurate and false information that we encounter regularly. The session explores how propagators of misinformation use our emotions and cognitive biases to manipulate us.
  • Essential Fact-Checking Skills shares tools and skills needed to fact-check and verify information.
  • Productive Conversations Without Confrontation discusses the skills needed to have a productive, non-confrontational conversation with someone whose beliefs are fueled by misinformation.

Growth in rural Covid-19 vaccination rate has slowed in the past month, even as new infections have skyrocketed

Vaccination rates as of Jan. 13, compared to national average and adjusted to account for vaccinations
not assigned to a county. Map by The Daily Yonder; click the image to enlarge it or click here for the interactive version.

Even as new coronavirus infections have skyrocketed over the past month, "The number of rural Americans newly vaccinated for Covid-19 fell to its lowest level since vaccines became broadly available to the public in spring 2021," report Tim Murphy and Tim Marema of The Daily Yonder. "Since mid-December, an additional 500,000 rural residents completed their vaccination regimen for Covid-19. That’s a weekly average of 125,000 newly completed vaccinations. Previously, rural counties logged their smallest number of vaccinations the week before Thanksgiving 2021, when about 144,000 rural people completed their vaccination."

The metropolitan vaccination rate also fell, but not as much. As of Jan. 13, about 48 percent of rural Americans were vaccinated against the coronavirus, compared to about 61% in metro counties. "That makes the rural rate about 22% lower than the urban rate (on a percentage-point basis, the difference is 13.2 points)," Murphy and Marema report. "Currently, the death rate from Covid-19 is about 30% higher in rural counties than in metropolitan counties, according to a Daily Yonder analysis. The rate of new infections is about 25% lower in rural counties compared to metropolitan ones."

Click here for more charts, regional analysis, and county-level interactive maps from the Yonder.

Wireless carriers delay 5G rollout near airports amid safety concerns; smaller airports could be more susceptible

AT&T and Verizon are launching their 5G (fifth generation) cellular service today, but have agreed to delay the rollout near some airports amid concerns that the new technology could interfere with some airplanes' navigational systems. Smaller and rural airports may be disproportionately affected, since 5G tech is more likely to interfere with old altimeters in the smaller planes that use them, CBS News reports. Other nations have rolled out 5G networks without issue, but 5G towers in the rural U.S. are permitted to emit stronger signals than those in other countries.

The Federal Aviation Administration and major airlines have repeatedly warned wireless carriers that 5G signals could interfere with older altimeters, critical instruments that measure a plane's altitude. AT&T and Verizon delayed the rollout twice in the past month or so, but said that regulators and airlines have had years to prepare for 5G, Niraj Chokshi and David McCabe report for The New York Times.

The FAA will allow planes with newer, more accurate altimeters to operate around 5G, but planes with older altimeters won't be allowed to make landings under low-visibility conditions. Airlines canceled or delayed flights at dozens of U.S. airports today in response to the rollout, CBS reports. Reuters has an excellent explainer on 5G and whether it threatens airline safety.

Retaliatory tariffs during trade war led to $27 billion in lost agricultural exports by end of 2019, USDA report concludes

Percent share of estimated annual losses caused by
retaliatory tariffs, by commodity. (USDA chart)
The Trump administration's trade wars with China and other nations led to a significant reduction in U.S. agricultural exports, a loss of more than $27 billion from 2018 through the end of 2019, according to a new report from the Agriculture Department's Economic Research Service.

The federal government tried to make up for the loses with $28 billion in payments, but the payouts weren't always equitable; corn farmers were paid too much, the Government Accountability Office concluded. Yet, soybeans were the hardest-hit commodity, accounting for nearly 71% of losses, or $9.4 billion annually, the ERS report says. The next largest annualized losses came from sorghum ($854 million), and pork ($646 million).

China accounted for about 95 percent of the losses, or $25.7 billion, followed by the European Union ($0.6 billion), and Mexico ($0.5 billion). Tariffs from Canada, Turkey and India accounted for smaller losses. The U.S. and China signed a trade agreement in January 2020, but China did not fulfill its commitment to buy $80 billion in U.S. agriculture, seafood and other food exports by the end of 2021. Through November 2021, China had only purchased $56.3 billion.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Indigenous newsrooms, nonprofits, bring deeper coverage of Native American news

"Native American communities have seen more robust news coverage in recent years, in part because of an increase in Indigenous affairs reporting positions at U.S. newsrooms and financial support from foundations," Katie Oyan reports for The Associated Press. "Journalism-focused philanthropy quadrupled from 2009 to 2019 as traditional newspaper revenue shrank, according to a Media Impact Funders report. At the same time, an increasingly diverse population and a renewed focus on social injustice have commanded greater media attention."

Nonprofit news organizations have been leading the way with an increased focus on Indigenous affairs, and some newsrooms are entirely dedicated to Indigenous affairs. "Colorado-based High Country News created an Indigenous affairs desk in 2017 that has published dozens of stories from journalists, authors and experts across Indian Country. Other non-Native outlets followed with new beats and staff," Oyan reports. "National service program Report for America provides funding to many outlets, including The Associated Press, and is helping finance temporary Indigenous affairs reporting positions at 10 U.S. newsrooms. They’re part of a corps of journalists the organization established in recent years to bolster coverage of underserved communities."

The increased focus is helping build trust with Indigenous communities that have historically had poor relationships with the news media after being ignored or misrepresented for years. "Despite the growing interest, advocates say much more needs to happen. Many mainstream news organizations still lack Indigenous affairs reporting positions, including some of the country’s largest," Oyan reports. "And there have been missteps. In 2020, CNN received backlash for an elections graphic that displayed returns by race as white, Latino, Black, Asian and 'something else' — a label that outraged many Native Americans."

Advocates also note that tribal media needs more attention and protection, since many such newsrooms are owned by their tribes and don't have free press protections, Oyan reports.

Trucking companies trying to attract young, new drivers, but they must be 21; infrastructure package funding could help

Truck drivers have been in short supply for years, "but the situation has exacerbated supply chain disruptions during the pandemic, resulting in congested ports and empty shelves at stores," Amanda Perez Pintado writes for the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. "The American Trucking Associations estimated that the U.S. is short 80,000 drivers, a record high, and the number could surpass 160,000 by 2030." That's partly because it's a demanding job, and partly because of an aging workforce. The average truck driver in 2019 was 46, and many retired at the beginning of the pandemic.

Trucking companies bumping up wages to attract and retain more drivers. The median pay for semi drivers in 2020 was $47,130, Pintado reports. But higher pay "increases the cost to the employer, and they have no choice but to pass along those costs to both consumers and small businesses," said Illinois Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Maisch. 

Companies are also trying to attract younger, more diverse workers who might not have considered truck driving as a career, Pintado reports. But, as the International Foodservice Distributors Association noted in a statement, "A key barrier to developing a pipeline of young professional drivers is that high-school graduates cannot immediately pursue a trucking career due to the federal regulations that prohibit them from operating across state lines or in interstate commerce until they turn 21."

The $1 trillion infrastructure package President Biden signed in November could help bring in younger drivers. "The package establishes a three-year pilot apprenticeship program allowing commercial truck drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 to drive across state lines. Though people under 21 can receive a commercial driver’s license in most states, federal regulations prohibit them from driving commercially across state lines," Pintado reports. "The White House in December announced a series of actions intended to recruit new drivers to bolster the trucking industry. The Truck Action Plan includes expediting the commercial driver’s license, a 90-day challenge to expand registered apprenticeships, and outreach and recruitment focused on veterans."

Survivors of mass killing at Capital Gazette were called journalism heroes, then the buyouts came; most are gone

Three and a half years ago, reporters at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, became First Amendment heroes after putting out the newspaper on its regular schedule the same day five staff members were killed by a gunman who was upset with the paper. Today, their collective and individual stories echo the challenges to local journalism, which seem greater than ever.

"In the years since the shooting, these journalists had become family — and not just because of what they had survived," write Emily Davies and Elahe Izadi of The Washington Post. "They had helped each other through a series of attacks: the physical one in their newsroom and the PTSD that made it hard to get through each day. And together they had faced the existential threat to their industry that compelled longtime colleagues to take buyouts, permanently shuttered their newsroom and, finally, led to their newspaper’s acquisition by a hedge fund with a reputation for deep cost-cutting."

Former reporter Selene San Felice, who had hidden under a desk during the attack, told the Post, “It felt like death all over again in a lot of ways when people would leave to take buyouts. We could feel each other being ripped apart when all we wanted to do was stay.”

"The survivors have confronted these intersecting traumas daily," the Post reports, but perhaps never as directly as throughout the criminal responsibility trial of Jarrod Ramos, which took place in Annapolis three years after he attacked their newsroom and days after Alden Global Capital acquired their paper. . . . The reporters who have stayed at the paper continue to struggle. Rachael Pacella, an education reporter who survived the shooting, had to take a second job at a restaurant in Baltimore to make ends meet. She said she is one of nine full-time newsroom employees left." She told the Post, "That number is so close to how many people died. If five people were gone today from the Capital, there is no way it would be able to move forward."

Alden's reply to the Post was a single sentence: 'The Capital Gazette is a prized jewel in American journalism and we are proud supporters and owners of its critical mission to provide valued local news and information that subscribers rely on.'"

Army Corps of Engineers announces it won't use relaxed Trump-era waters definition when making permit decisions

"The Biden administration last week quietly and abruptly announced that developers can no longer rely on decisions made under a high-profile Trump-era Clean Water Act rule about which waters are federally protected to obtain new permits," Hannah Northey reports for Energy & Environment News. "Legal experts say the move could have far-reaching effects throughout the building, mining and agricultural sectors."

At issue is how regulations define the Clean Water Act's definition of "waters of the United States," those regulated by the act. The Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama had expanded that term to include intermittent and seasonal waterways. Farmers and developers were unhappy with the move, saying it was government overreach and unnecessarily burdensome. The Trump administration scaled back the WOTUS definition but a federal judge tossed it on the grounds that it could harm the environment. "Notably, some argue the rule is still in effect until EPA completes the regulatory process of replacing the Trump rule with pre-2015 regulations updated to reflect consideration of Supreme Court decisions," Northey reports.

Conflicting rulings in federal district courts have sown confusion, so on Jan. 5 the Army Corps of Engineers posted on its website a new rule meant to clarify the matter. "Going forward, the Army Corps in its announcement explains that it will make new permit decisions based on the pre-2015 regulatory regime — not the Trump rule — and that the agency will talk to applicants about any pending or future permit action that relies on an approved jurisdictional determination made under the Trump rule," Northey reports. "Specifically, the Army Corps said they would talk to applicants about whether they want to receive a new determination based on pre-2015 regulations or proceed with a preliminary determination or none at all, according to the post."

The new policy could affect people who were told they had no WOTUS jurisdictional areas on their land. It could also affect developers. "Ellen Gilinsky, a former wetlands consultant and associate deputy assistant administrator for water at EPA under the Obama administration, said the Army Corps’ decision could affect anyone who had an approved jurisdictional determination under the Trump rule but figured they had five years to apply for a permit using that decision," Northey reports. "Developers that fit into that bucket, she said, are going to be surprised when they go in for a permit and are told their development plans are going to have to change."

Developers, mining companies, and farmers have objected to the Jan. 5 policy update; several legal experts told Northey the change will likely lead to multiple lawsuits. Meanwhile, EPA and the Army Corps are seeking farmers' input on a new rewrite of the definition.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Jenay Tate, who was the 'tough as nails' publisher of The Coalfield Progress in southwest Va., dies of cancer at 64

Jenay Tate (File photo)
Jenay Tate, the last journalist in an entrepreneurial newspapering family that told the stories of southwest Virginia for 95 years, died Saturday after a two-year battle with lung cancer. She was 64.

Until 2019, Tate was publisher of The Coalfield Progress in Norton, a title held by her grandfather, Kentucky native Presley Thornton "Pres" Adkins, and her father, Carroll Tate. Under her leadership, the twice-weekly paper was a frequent winner of awards from the Virginia Press Association, which honored her with its D. Latham Mims Award for editorial leadership in 1988. She was a founding member of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government and a graduate of the University of Kentucky journalism school.

Tate stayed with the newspaper for 40 years despite numerous adversities. At her younger brother Michael's behest, the siblings sold the Progress to Tennessee-based American Hometown Publishing Co. in 2005, but she continued with the paper as both editor and publisher, also holding the latter title with other papers the family had owned, The Post of Big Stone Gap and The Dickenson Star. When AHP liquidated in 2019, the papers were bought by Missouri-based Lewis County Press, which eliminated her position two months later. "Tate said she was stunned . . . but she admitted she had struggled with and objected to some of the new company's direction so, in the end, should not have been entirely surprised," the Progress reported at the time.

"Simply put, newspapering was her life," her obituary says. "She wrote extensively about the coal industry, including the historic regional coal camps, and the importance of coal to the local economy. She professed the value of higher education through her coverage of happenings at regional colleges. She built contacts and sources and friendships across countless industries and experiences. And she advocated for the region with leaders and elected officials for 40 years. . . . She loved being involved in her community, defending its interests, and telling the important stories of the region." Her longtime friend Joyce Payne said, "She was tough as nails in searching the truth for a story and managing the paper, but she had a soft gold of heart for her friends."

Tate was preceded in death by her parents and her brother, and is survived by a sister, a niece and three nephews. Her visitation and funeral will be held Thursday at Hagy & Fawbush Funeral Home in Norton. Memorial gifts may be made to PAWS of SWVA, PO Box 576, Coeburn VA 24230.