Saturday, June 04, 2022

Rural Covid-19 vaccination rate grew little in April and May

Coronavirus vaccination rates as of May 26, 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.

The rate of new coronavirus vaccinations in rural counties "grew by 0.4 percentage points from the last week of April to the last week of May. The rate grew by about that same amount from March to April," Tim Murphy and Tim Marema report for The Daily Yonder. "The pace of new vaccinations has slowed in both rural and metropolitan counties over the past several months. From December 2021 to January 2022, the rural vaccination rate grew by nearly 1.7 percentage points and the metropolitan rate grew by 2.2 points. As of May 26, 51% of the total rural population was completely vaccinated against Covid-19. In metropolitan counties, that rate is 65.4%."

Only 23.2% of people in rural U.S. counties have had at least one coronavirus booster shot, compared to 30.7% of the metro population, Murphy and Marema report.

Friday, June 03, 2022

Summit Fri. and Sat. asks: How do rural communities sustain local journalism that supports local democracy?

How do rural communities sustain local journalism that supports local democracy? That is the question before the National Summit on Journalism in Rural America, to be livestreamed on YouTube from 1:15 to 5 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. until late afternoon Saturday.

The summit will be held at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill near Harrodsburg, Ky., where the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues held the first summit 15 years ago. Two dozen invited speakers and a local audience will try to answer the question by exploring the current landscape of rural journalism and how rural news media are adapting to it, with revised business models and other innovations. All sessions will include a period for questions, answers and discussion among participants, and the YouTube audience can submit questions by email to

Following is the program, which has recently been revised. All times are Eastern.

Friday, June 3

1:15 Opening remarks: Why we’re doing this and what we hope to accomplish
Al Cross, director and professor, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, and Dr. Jennifer Greer, dean, College of Communication and Information, University of Kentucky

1:30 The state of America’s community newspapers and their journalism: Penelope Muse Abernathy, visiting professor, Northwestern University, will update her groundbreaking research.

2:15 Reports from leaders of the community newspaper industry: National Newspaper Association Executive Director Lynne Lance will join former NNA president Robert Williams Jr. and Tom Silvestri of The Relevance Project of the Newspaper Association Managers.

3:00 Putting local philanthropy in your business model: Nathan Payne of Kaiser Health News, recently editor of the Traverse City Record-Eagle, on how community foundations can help; Jody Lawrence-Turner of the Fund for Oregon Rural Journalism; and Dennis Brack of the Rappahannock News, Washington, Va., which uses local philanthropy for polling and reporting.

4:00 Converting your newspaper(s) to nonprofit status: Liz and Steve Parker, former owners and still operators of the New Jersey Hills Media Group, on their recent conversion to the nonprofit Corporation for New Jersey Local Media.

Saturday, June 4

9:00 National funders and supporters on help for rural journalism: Jason Alcorn, vice president for learning and impact, American Journalism Project; Jonathan Kealing, chief network officer at the Institute for Nonprofit News; and Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro, Columbia University, co-founder, National Trust for Local News.

10:00 Good journalism is good business, but how do we make people want local news? Editor-Publishers Marshall Helmberger of the Timberjay, Tower, Minn.; and Sharon Burton of the Adair County Community Voice, Columbia, Ky.

10:30 How two community newspapers are adapting to change: Publishers Bill Horner of the Chatham (N.C.) News+Record and Terry Williams of the Keene (N.H.) Sentinel discuss their work with Buck Ryan, associate professor of journalism at the University of Kentucky. 

11:15 Innovation at other community newspapers: Tony Baranowski, Iowa Falls Times-Citizen, with Jim Iovino, director, NewStart, West Virginia University.

12:00 Lunch session: A university-nonprofit team saves a weekly paper: Dink NeSmith of Community Newspapers Inc. and The Oglethorpe Echo, staffed by journalism students of the University of Georgia.

1:00 New business models for community newspapers, and a plan to test one: Dr. Teri Finneman, University of Kansas, who says many rural newspaper subscribers are willing to buy memberships and e-newsletters to keep their local papers healthy. (Read more)

2:00 What other research is needed to help community journalism? Bill Reader, Ohio University, and Clay Carey, Samford University, author of The News Untold: Community Journalism and the Failure to Confront Poverty in Appalachia.

3:00 Concluding roundtable, open-ended and led by Al Cross and Jennifer Greer.

Thursday, June 02, 2022

Some states are letting rural electric co-ops function as broadband providers in an effort to bridge the digital gap

In an effort to plug gaps and inadequacies in rural broadband service, some states are allowing rural electric cooperatives and other electric utilities to function as broadband providers, Susan Miller reports for Route Fifty.

"In Arkansas, more than a dozen electric cooperatives have partnered to form a new wholesale broadband provider that will leverage their fiber-optic networks to accelerate statewide broadband deployments," Miller reports. "Together, the electric co-ops will invest more than $1.66 billion in middle-mile fiber-optic networks that will serve nearly 600,000 potential customer locations."

In New York, a $1 billion initiative funded with public and private investments aims to bring affordable broadband to the whole state. As part of that initiative, the New York Power Authority will work with some rural electric cooperatives to use or install fiber-optic networks to reach more remote areas, Miller reports.

In Florida, Tri-County Electric Cooperative and local broadband provider Conexon Connect are teaming up on a $65 million project to build out a 2,400-mile fiber-optic network to homes within the next few years, Miller reports. Conexon partner Jonathan Chambers said co-ops own about half of the more than 5 million miles of electric distribution lines in the U.S. "To truly close the digital divide and not just wave at it, you’ve gotta get to the places no one else will build. Without co-ops I don’t think it would ever happen. With co-ops it’s got a fighting chance," Chambers said.

Rural electric cooperatives are one of the most promising possibilities for bridging the digital gap, according to reports from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Some states have barred rural electric co-ops and municipal utilities from providing broadband, at the behest of telecommunications companies, but now some states are letting rural electrics get into broadband while still blocking municipal utilities. Legal issues can make it tricky for co-ops to operate outside their service areas, and there have been concerns that low-income minorities may not be able to afford the broadband provided by co-ops.

The federal infrastructure bill signed in November has $45 billion to close the digital gap. $42.5 billion goes to a program to distribute grants and loans to states, $1 billion goes to a program funding the construction of so-called "middle mile" internet infrastructure (co-ops are eligible to apply), and $1.5 billion goes to a program that distributes grants for boosting broadband connection among underserved populations, including rural.

However, rural electric co-operatives may be at a disadvantage in applying for other federal broadband grants. In February the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association called on the federal government to establish more rural-friendly rules for broadband grants.

Tractors are the top cause of fatal injuries for farm children; one family tells their story

Jaxon Boomsma at his fifth birthday party. 
He often said he wanted to be a farmer
when he grew up. (Photo provided)
Farming families often allow young children to ride along with an older relative on a tractor, but tractors are the number one cause of fatal injuries to children on farms. 

That's how the Boomsma family in Yankton, S.D., lost their 7-year-old son Jaxon in 2017. His parents and close friends of the family recently told their story to the National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety in an effort to bring awareness to the dangers of allowing children on farming equipment. The family has also launched the "Keep His Smile Alive" agricultural safety campaign and is active on social media. 

"I know how hard it is to say no to a child, especially when it’s something they love to do, but we all have to learn to say 'no,'" Jaxon's dad, Troy, told Scott Heiberger. "My dad loved taking the kids around the farm and creating memories with them. He had said 'no' a thousand times before and did everything he could to make the farm a safe and fun experience for the kids. Sadly, it only takes one time."

Heiberger shares several safety resources for those looking to write about tractor safety, including the Keep Kids Away from Tractors campaign and the Cultivate Safety website, which has agricultural safety information and resources for farmers, ranchers, supervisers and reports.

New Hampshire Public Radio journalist's home vandalized

Reporter and producer Lauren Chooljian's home was spray-painted. (Photo provided)

Since late April, vandalism has hit five homes tied to New Hampshire Public Radio journalist Lauren Chooljian. All five were "hit with the same two weapons: a brick and red spray paint. Targets included her former address, her boss’s place and her parents’ home, which was hit twice," Jonathan Edwards reports for The Washington Post. "Investigators are considering the possibility that the attacks are linked to Chooljian’s work as a senior reporter and producer for NHPR. The possible motive: revenge for stories she published in the past, intimidation to silence her in the future, or both.

The graffiti on Chooljian's home in suburban Melrose, Mass., had a warning: "JUST THE BEGINNING!" In a tweet, Chooljian said the graffiti also included graphic slurs.

Health department prevention specialist in Wyoming works to reduce rural stigma on seeking help for mental health

Johnson County in Wyoming (Google map)
On paper, Bill Hawley "is the 'prevention specialist' for the public health department in Johnson County, a plains-to-peaks frontier tract in Wyoming that is nearly the size of Connecticut but has a population of 8,600 residents. His official mandate is to connect people who struggle with alcohol and drug abuse, tobacco addiction, and suicidal impulses to the state’s limited social service programs. Part bureaucrat, part counselor, much of Bill’s life revolves around Zoom calls and subcommittees, government acronyms and grant applications," Jose Del Real reports for The Washington Post. "But his mission extends beyond the drab county building on Klondike Drive where he works. One Wyoming man at a time, he hopes to till soil for a new kind of American masculinity."

Hawley knows that men overall and rural men in particular face intense pressure to be stoic, that stigma of needing mental-health care often prevents them from seeking it. But men accounted for 79% of suicide deaths in the U.S. in 2020, and 70% were white men. Most of those suicides involved firearms, and often involved alcohol or drugs, Del Real reports. The phenomenon is particularly bad in Wyoming, which has the highest suicide rate per capita in the nation. 

Sociologists believe toxic masculinity may be to blame, and that rural stigma can make things even worse. Hawley, "who is 59 years old and White, is working out his own theory. It has to do with the gap between the expectations men have for their lives and the reality of their individual experiences, worsened by cultural norms that discourage them from expressing any emotions besides anger," Del Real reports. "Toxic masculinity often turns outward. But it also turns inward."

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Rural hospitals are still short of revenue to hire nurses as pandemic relief aid begins to run out

"Rural hospitals, already struggling with financial strains due to Covid-19, face an even more significant threat, experts said – the workforce shortage," Liz Carey reports for The Daily Yonder. "Hospitals say they are short on workers in all areas of the healthcare system, not just the clinical ones. According to the American Hospital Association, about 20 percent of all hospitals across the country expect worker shortages to reach dire levels."

In 2021, nearly 105,000 nurses in the U.S. left hospitals for one reason or another, including death and retirement; that was the largest drop in the nation's nursing workforce in history, according to Julia Harris, a senior policy analyst with the Bipartisan Policy Center. The pandemic "has really stressed the workforce in ways that we’re not going to recover from for decades," she told Carey.

"According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. health-care organizations will need to fill nearly 200,000 nursing positions every year from now until 2030," Carey reports. "Some studies even project that the country will face a shortage of more than 29,000 nurse practitioners by 2025."

Harris noted that workforce is the number one expense for most cash-strapped rural hospitals, and that those expenses have been even higher during the pandemic because rural hospitals are obliged to use travel nurses, who are typically paid at least twice as much as staff nurses, Carey reports.

Federal pandemic aid has helped rural hospitals afford travel nurses, but with that money drying up, hospitals are increasingly on the hook for those expenses, Carey reports. And hospitals need the help, because they're still getting plenty of Covid-19 patients. Hospitals saw an average of 3,628 Covid-related hospitalizations as of May 28, 2022. On the same date in 2021, it was 3,060, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The AHA is asking Congress for $1.51 billion to fund healthcare workforce development programs for the 2023 fiscal year’s budget, including $374 million for rural health programs," Carey reports. "The request represents an increase of $43 million over levels approved in 2022."

Threat of medical debt is a top worry for most farming families, says study about household-level farming stressors

Farming families are famously tough and resilient, but they face a host of challenges and fears. One of their top worries is that one of them might suffer an illness or injury that leads to significant medical debt, a recent study found after surveying 900 farm households in 10 states. 

According to the study, recently published in Agriculture and Human Values, more than 90% of farming households had health insurance in 2016, but 55% said they weren't confident they could cope with a major illness or injury without going into debt. That wasn't an unfounded concern, since 20% of farming households surveyed had medical debt of at least $1,000. That indicates that inadequate insurance is a problem for many farming families, according to study co-author Florence Becot. 

"The Affordable Care Act, or ACA, helped make medical coverage available to more Americans and benefitted farmers," Scott Heiberger reports for the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute in Wisconsin. "A provision of the ACA uses income and not assets to determine Medicaid and Marketplace subsidy eligibility, which decouples the family from the assets of the enterprise and addresses the 'land rich, cash poor' conundrum farmers often face. This provision allowed farm families a wider array of health-insurance choices via public health insurance and marketplace options. However, choices in the insurance marketplace can be limited, and health-insurance plans are often confusing. So-called 'skinny' plans – those with lower premiums but very high deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses – offer a weak safety net as people might avoid going to the doctor to limit costs, and a major illness or injury can result in medical debt."

The study matters, Becot and co-author Shoshanah Inwood write, because research on resiliency among farmers mostly focuses on problems such as fires, droughts, or economic trends. Little has focused on family-level concerns such as major illness, divorce, or off-farm employment. It's important to understand those things too, the authors write, because those stressors can lead farmers to sell their land and quit farming, further depopulating rural communities.

Teletherapy is popular and effective, but post-pandemic funding reductions may reduce rural patients' access to it

Qualified mental-health care services can be hard to find in rural America, where 75 percent of counties have no or few providers. Teletherapy is one way to bridge the gap, and it works, writes freelance author Amy Ettinger in a guest op-ed for The Washington Post

After helping her husband through his own mental-health crisis, Ettinger increasingly realized she needed help herself. But she has long-standing anxiety about going into a doctor's office, a phobia often called "white-coat syndrome." She worried that she wouldn't feel a connection to her therapist when appointments were via Zoom meeting, but to her surprise, things went well.

"Right away, I began to notice the benefits," Ettinger writes. "For the first time in my life, I felt no anxiety before a therapy appointment. I found it comforting to talk to my counselor while wearing fuzzy house slippers. And to my surprise, I was able to share my emotions through a screen much more easily than I’ve ever been able to with an in-person psychotherapist."

Telehealth soared in popularity during the pandemic, jumping from about 7.1% of psychologists' appointments to 85.5%, and research shows it can be as effective as in-person therapy. However, Ettinger notes, some therapists and patients may not be able to continue the practice for long: "Emergency orders established by states as the pandemic took hold, which mandate coverage of telehealth visits and allow out-of-state providers to participate, are expiring. And some private insurance companies have begun rolling back telehealth coverage."

Proposed USDA rules aim to give contract poultry farmers more power against major meat processors

"The Agriculture Department proposed new rules on Thursday requiring poultry companies to be more transparent about how farmers are paid, part of the Biden administration’s broader push to tackle consolidation in the meatpacking industry," Patrick Thomas reports for The Wall Street Journal. "The White House has frequently accused the biggest U.S. meat companies of using their market power to increase prices for restaurants and supermarkets, while underpaying farmers. In January, the administration called for $1 billion to be dedicated to expanding independent meat processing to foster more competition in the industry, where the four largest companies control an estimated 85% of beef production and 54% of poultry, according to the White House."

Under the proposed rule, processors would have to tell farmers how they calculate pay, how many supplies are provided to growers, and how farmers rank in the performance-based "tournament system" that forces farmers to compete against each other to determine payment. The practice has been long criticized as abusive and opaque. "The department also said it planned to investigate whether certain companies should be more stringently regulated, and it announced $200 million in funding for independent meat processors to increase capacity at slaughterhouses," Linda Qiu reports for The New York Times.

USDA and Univ. of Ky. community-development program release digital placemaking toolkit for rural communities

A new digital toolkit aims to help rural leaders build sustainable economic-development projects best suited to their community's capacity. The tool was created by the Agriculture Department's Rural Development programs and the University of Kentucky’s Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky, which held a Placemaking in Small and Rural Communities Conference last week. 

CEDIK released a similar toolkit then that identifies different resources rural communities can access, but the new toolkit differs in that its interactive features can help guide leaders to identify which projects are right for their area. Read more here.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Weekday circulation of audited, locally focused newspapers held steady in 2020; picture is less clear for smaller dailies

Pew Research Center graph shows total weekday circulation of audited newspapers in 2020 was 8,323,635.

Have newspapers hit bottom? That is suggested by a graph in the latest Pew Research Center Local Newspapers Fact Sheet. One shows total weekday circulation of locally focused (not national) newspapers was 8,323,635, up 0.5 percent from the 8,280,161 in 2019. However, the figures include only 500-plus papers that underwent circulation audits, which are becoming less frequent, says Penelope Muse Abernathy, visiting journalism professor at Northwestern University. Abernathy told The Rural Blog that most newspapers that once had their circulation audited annually by the Alliance for Audited Media have gone to two- or three-year cycles because of the cost.

Pew graph based on filings by publicly traded newspaper firms
The good news in the Pew report, Abernathy said, is that larger daily papers are showing more ability to convert print subscribers to digital, and continue to show growth in digital advertising revenue. That's a must because print advertising revenue continues to plummet, to the point that total ad revenue of publicly traded newspaper companies was less than circulation revenue for the first time in 2020.

The picture is less clear for daily newspapers that are not audited and not publicly traded, and that are likely to be smaller papers serving more rural areas. "We've been struggling to get good circulation figures," said Abernathy, a former news executive whose work focuses on studying newspaper economics. She will be the leadoff speaker at the National Summit on Journalism in Rural America at 1:15 p.m. ET Friday, to be telecast on YouTube at Several publishers and editors of small dailies will also speak at the Summit, which will run through Saturday afternoon. The Summit is sponsored by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, which publishes The Rural Blog, and the University of Kentucky College of Communication and Information.

Many seniors may still lack transport despite $2 billion investment; Rural Transit Fact Book has much local data

Estimated percentage of county population aged 65 or older in 2019
(Rural Transit Fact Book map from Census Bureau's American Community Survey data)

"Millions of older adults living in rural America no longer drive and don’t have adequate access to alternative transportation that can assist them with rides to banks, pharmacies and other important places, "Deon Hampton reports for NBC News. "President Joe Biden’s infrastructure law is set to unlock $2 billion in federal money for various rural transit projects. But it still may not be enough to solve the seemingly intractable problem of inadequate transportation for rural older adults."

An estimated 3 to 9 million rural Americans depend on transit programs to get around; they're disproportionately senior citizens, people with disabilities, Appalachians, and/or people living in low-income households, Hampton reports. Some can't drive anymore, some don't want to drive, and some can't afford their own vehicle, according to the Rural Transit Fact Book published earlier this year by the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute's Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility at North Dakota State University. (The report has a wealth of maps and county- and state-level data.)

Lack of access to mass transit can exacerbate food insecurity and make it harder for vulnerable populations to access health care, especially during the pandemic. Rather than the buses and subways that characterize urban mass-transit services, rural services tend to rely on volunteers driving vans or small buses that pick up riders on-demand rather than operating on a fixed route. Such rural transit services could get a share of the transportation funding, but much will likely go to infrastructure projects such as highways, bridges and dams. "The Transportation Department will award up to $300 million in grants this year and $2 billion over the next five years as part of the program," Hampton reports.

Analysis: Rural chronic-illness patients face four broad barriers to treatment that go beyond doctor shortages

Rural residents are more likely to have a chronic illness and more likely to die from it than their suburban and urban peers, in large part because of lack of access to health care. The longstanding shortage of doctors and nurses is partly to blame, but so are widespread barriers to access. A new analysis of 62 studies, recently published in the Annals of Family Medicine, identifies four broad barriers to access rural patients with chronic illnesses face:

  • Navigating the rural environment. This includes the financial and physical costs of living far from medical care. Some patients found it difficult to stay in the car for long distances, and some said the cost of gas was prohibitive. Some patients said caregivers weren't able to drive them so far, or that they felt too guilty about the time and cost to ask for a ride. But patients and caregivers in nearly half the studies surveyed said they were willing to drive further away for care because locally available services weren't good enough.
  • Navigating the health-care system. Some patients and caregivers described delays in obtaining care because there weren't enough local clinicians. Many also said it was difficult to maintain continuity of care with certain doctors or organizations because of high turnover. And many said they were frustrated with clinics' inflexible scheduling and long wait times while in the clinic (on top of the long drive there and back) that made it difficult to fit a visit into the patients' schedules.
  • Financing chronic disease management. Half of the studies analyzed cited patient complaints that health-care was too expensive, when factoring in rural price hikes, the already high cost of health care, hotel and transportation costs, childcare, and time spent away from work. Participants in nearly half of studies citied competing financial priorities such as bills, childcare and other household expenses, and some patients simply accepted that they couldn't afford treatment because of the cost. Many patients who said they couldn't afford treatment said they lived in communities marked by "widespread poverty, a lack of employment opportunities, and a general sense of being 'forgotten' by policy makers." Some subgroups, especially Native Americans relying on the Indian Health Service, said lack of health-insurance coverage made treatment too expensive.
  • Rural life. Many participants cited tight-knit rural communities as a positive aspect, but that can be a "double-edged sword" for those with highly stigmatized chronic illnesses such as HIV or mental-health disorders. Participants in 13 studies said worries about gossip and lack of privacy kept them from accessing care. Participants in about one-third of studies said that rural values of self-sufficiency and stoicism made them reluctant to seek treatment. And some patients said they felt belittled or stereotyped for being rural. Indigenous patients described western clinicians as often "paternalistic, condescending, and openly skeptical of tribal healing practices" and "inadequately versed in tribal health-related beliefs, communication preferences, and social norms"

The researchers undertook the analysis because these barriers to access haven't been well represented in studies. That's partly because it's harder to recruit and retain rural student participants, and partly because studies about rural health-care access sometimes overgeneralize about rural living, ignoring the wide variance in rural settings and lifestyles.

New coronavirus cases in rural counties up for sixth week, longest continuing increase since Delta surge last summer

New coronavirus infections, in ranges by county, May 16-22
Map by The Daily Yonder; click on the image to enlarge it or click here for the interactive version.

Rural counties reported 53,000 new coronavirus infections during the week of May 16-22, about 20 percent up from the previous week. That's the sixth straight week of climbing infection rates, and marks "the longest continuous increase in new cases since the Delta surge in summer 2021," Tim Marema reports for The Daily Yonder. "The current uptick in new cases has already lasted longer than the Omicron surge in December and January, during which new infections climbed to record-breaking rates in both rural and metropolitan counties." The new infection rate in metro counties is about twice as high as the rural rate because it's been on the rise for a few weeks longer.

Epidemiologists warn that the number of infections in rural and metro counties is likely much higher than the official count, since many people diagnoses themselves with at-home tests and self-isolate without needing medical attention, Marema reports. However, hospitalizations are only about 15% as high as those during the peak of the Omicron surge in January. That's because more people have some immunity through vaccination or previous infection, which tends to make for milder cases.

"The Covid death rate declined slightly in rural counties last week. Rural counties reported 390 deaths last week, down about 6% from two weeks ago," Marema reports. "In metropolitan counties, Covid-related deaths increased about 7%, to 1,716. The rural death rate of 0.61 deaths per 100,000 residents was about 40% higher than the metropolitan death rate last week."

Bird flu fades in May after death toll of nearly 38 million birds, but USDA doubles funding to animal-health agency

Highly pathogenic avian influenza has resulted in the deaths of nearly 38 million domestic birds, mostly egg layers, since February; Agriculture Department data for May suggest the pandemic is dying down. "Losses for the month were on track to be the smallest of the year. A viral disease that spreads best in cold conditions, bird flu typically dissipates with the arrival of consistently warm weather," Chuck Abbott reports for the Food & Environment Reporting Network. "All the same, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack transferred an additional $400 million to the USDA agency responsible for protecting animal health on Friday. The transfer doubled, to nearly $800 million, the money available for fighting HPAI and indemnifying owners of commercial flocks."

About 780,000 commercial birds died from bird flu or were culled preventively in May, far fewer than the 14.7 million in April, 21 million in March and 1.5 million in February. Overall this year, "Egg-laying hens, 28.8 million in all, accounted for three of every four losses to HPAI," Abbott reports. "The number of layers in the U.S. flock was down by 6 percent compared to a year ago because of bird flu. Often volatile, egg prices at the wholesale level soared to nearly $3 for a dozen Large eggs in the week before Easter, double their price at that point in 2021, but were trending downward. The nationwide wholesale average price was $2.48 last week."

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Donations and grants are playing a major role in sustaining local journalism in New Hampshire, its newspapers report

Lauren McKown, vice president of development for The GroundTruth
, home of Report for America, keynoted the event. (YouTube)
Philanthropy is playing a leading role in sustaining journalism in the Granite State, it was made clear this month at the New Hampshire News Philanthropy Summit at Saint Anselm College.

"Many news organizations are forging partnerships with community donors in order to sustain local journalism into the future and underwrite in-depth coverage of important issues facing our communities and the state," reports Roberta Baker of the Concord Monitor, which pays two its five reporters through donations. Her publisher, Steve Leone, vice president of Newspapers of New England, said at the summit, “I believe developing new ways to fund journalism will be key to ensuring its sustainability.”

Funding from grants and donors has enabled the Granite State News Collaborative, a collection of freelancers about 20 news outlets, to produce about 650 in-depth, investigative, solutions-focused stories since March 2020, said its director, Melanie Plenda. “Media outlets across the state that used to compete with each other for ads and eyeballs are now actually co-reporting and sharing articles with each other for distribution, all so that our communities have more of what they need.”

News outlets are getting grants with the help of The Loeb School, a Manchester-based non-profit dedicated to preserving freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Examples include the Monadnock Region Health Reporting Lab at the Keene Sentinel and “The Sunshine Project” and “Voices” at the Laconia Daily Sun. “A lot of us have built (grant funding) into our business model,” said Mike Cote, managing editor for news and business at the Manchester Union Leader, which has six reporters. “The hardest part is keeping the momentum going. A lot of people don’t realize how small our newsrooms have become.”

Terrence Williams
Sentinel CEO Terrence Williams said it’s important to have reporting address community needs and find funders with “unity of purpose.” Sentinel listening sessions identified problems with health-care access, costs and depth of care, sparking creation of the Health Lab and defining its coverage, he said. "The Sentinel recently hired a statehouse reporter through crowd funding," Baker reports. "Two more philanthropy-supported reporters are starting at the end of May." Williams will be among the speakers at the National Summit on Journalism in Rural America, to be telecast on You Tube June 3 and 4.

Journalists and funders said the pandemic and the divisive political climate boosted demand for trustworthy coverage, Baker reports from the May 12 event, which can be viewed here on YouTube.

Publisher of Uvalde weekly explores two big unanswered questions about the massacre, and one with no answer

Two of the major unanswered questions about the massacre of 19 young students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, is how and why a door to Robb Elementary School was left open, allowing the killer in, and why police delayed confronting him. Craig Garnett, owner and publisher of the twice-weekly Uvalde Leader-News, answers the first and explores the second in his column in Sunday's paper:

"Why Uvalde? We are not bad people. Even with the partisan rancor that has cleaved our nation, our residents have always been ready to help others without regard to politics. . . . Why wasn't the west door locked at Robb Elementary? Because we are that community described above. We come and go to serve our children, not to do them harm. In the end an unguarded door, even though locked, buys what? The minute it takes for the shooter with a high-powered rifle to blow out the mechanism."

As for the delay in confronting the shooter, Garnett writes that a regional police official "could not answer why it took an hour to end the attack" and quotes him; "It is a complex situation. They are measuring; they are measuring."

"The question is how much measuring is permissible, while children are being murdered. Or perhaps they were already gone," Garnett writes. "It pains to write these words of criticism about law enforcement, but parents and the community have the right to know. They must be told why police, whom parents at the scene begged to go in and save their children, failed to act. They have to know, to ever begin to heal."

Garnett concludes, "There is a final question that no one will ever adequately answer. It came on Thursday in the form of a text message form our reporter, Kimberly Rubio, whose fourth-grader Lexi did not come home that day: 'Why would someone hurt my baby, Craig?'"

In Uvalde, some who own guns favor a higher legal age to buy them, and other measures; so does the local weekly

Front page of today's twice-weekly Uvalde Leader-News
"An anguished soul-searching over Texas’ gun culture and permissive gun laws is unfolding across the latest community to be shattered by a shooter’s rampage," Jack Healy and Nicole Kitroeff of The New York Times write from Uvalde, Texas.

"Uvalde, a largely Mexican American city of 15,200 near the U.S. southern border, is a far different place from Parkland, Fla., or Newtown, Conn., which became centers of grass-roots gun control activism in the aftermath of the school shootings there," the Times notes. "Gun ownership is threaded into life here in a county that has elected conservative Democrats and twice supported former President Donald J. Trump. Several relatives of victims count themselves among Texas’ more than one million gun owners. Some grew up hunting and shooting. Others say they own multiple guns for protection."

Healy and Kitroeff cite examples to illustrate the divided opinion in families and residents' own minds: "The grandfather of one boy killed on Tuesday said he always keeps a gun under the seat of his truck to protect his family; the boy’s grandmother now wants to limit gun access," and rancher Trey LaBorde, "who believes 'all these teachers should be armed' but he also wants more limits on gun access," including an assault-weapons ban. He told the Times, “I don’t think they should be sold. . . . Nobody hunts with those types of rifles. . . . I don’t think that anybody should be able to buy a gun unless they’re 25.”

And this, from the father of a victim: "Javier Cazares, whose daughter Jacklyn was killed inside Robb Elementary, carries a gun and fully supports the Second Amendment, having learned how to fire semiautomatic rifles at 18 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army. But he said the killing of Jacklyn and so many of her fourth-grade friends should force politicians into tightening gun measures." He told the Times, “There should be a lot stricter laws. To buy a weapon at 18 — it’s kind of ridiculous.”

An editorial in Sunday's Uvalde Leader-News makes the same point: "Why does an 18-year-old get to buy a semi-automatic rifle with high-capacity magazines when the legal age for acquiring a handgun is 21?" The editorial also criticized Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for saying gun violence in states with "real gun control" showed that it is not the answer: "If our governor and members of the U.S. Congress are waiting to hit upon a 'real solution,' school children will continue to die. There is no 'real solution,' no magic wand . . . There are, however, incremental solutions that when bound together form a more meaningful plan." Those include "universal background checks and /or waiting periods" for gun purchases, "hardening schools, identifying and treating mental health issues."

"Arming teachers, a popular solution in some circles, is as fatuous as it is dangerous," the editorial continues. It concludes, "Guns alone do not kill, but the culture the industry fosters in selling rapid-fire weapons with high-capacity magazines is designed to attract people who may feel threatened by an imagined enemy. These are not hunting or sporting arms, which are used respectfully by many of us in southwest Texas. These are killing machines, and the enemy too often has become our children. Our hearts bleed for the slain students and their families. We will remain Uvalde strong, for as long as it takes to ensure that Americans get to hug their kids at the end of each school day."
Back page of the front section and front page of the second section, with editorial and letters