Saturday, June 11, 2022

Campaigns find success in decreasing the stigma around substance abuse, which is greatest in rural communities

A campaign to reduce stigma associated with substance-use disorders has shown it can change attitudes and beliefs about people with drug addictions and increase support for harm-reduction strategies.

The campaign, "Life Unites Us," also found a need to target the campaign to health care workers who are often the first line of contact to offer treatment for substance-use disorder. 

The campaign in Pennsylvania is led by Shatterproof, a national nonprofit focused on ending the nation's SUD epidemic, The company has partnered with Kentucky officials on a similar campaign.

Findings from the first year of the Pennsylvania campaign, which started in 2020, were presented at the Rx and Illicit Drug Summit in Atlanta; Tom Valentino, digital managing editor for Addiction Professional, writes about some of those findings. 

The campaign was driven by Shatterproof's research that found seven of the nine main drivers of SUDs are driven by stigma, either entirely or at least in part, Valentino reports. 

The need to decrease stigma about SUD is especially important in rural areas, where research has found higher levels of stigma toward people who use opioids for nonmedical reasons, including a study by Oak Ridge Associated Universities.

The researchers measured the impact of their campaign in several ways, including statewide surveys and scheduled focus groups.

Shatterproof CEO Gary Mendell told Valentino that the survey found a willingness to live with someone with an opioid-use disorder or to continue a relationship with a friend struggling with an OUD; a higher willingness to provide the overdose-defeating drug naloxone to friends and family; and an openness to having treatment centers near their homes.

In addition, those who had viewed the campaign more often agreed that the opioid epidemic was a serious problem in their community, that medication assisted treatments for OUD are effective; and that they were more supported harm reduction strategies. 

Asked what they learned in the first year of the campaign, Mendell talked about the need to address stigma among health-care professionals.

"One thing we learned was that there was a need to target medical personnel and health-care providers, as they are often the first people a victim of an overdose will see," he told Valentino. "By better informing these health-care workers on the stigma that exists and the importance of encouraging treatment, we open the doors for an individual to get the help they need." Mendell said the campaign differs from others in that it prioritized including the recovery community in the decision-making; allowed for flexibility as the campaign evolved; and provided tools and resources for its participants to use to further reduce stigma in their local communities.

Shatterproof conducted the campaign in partnership with The Public Good Projects, the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs and Penn State. 

In partnership with Shatterproof, the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort of state government is doing a communications and behavior-change intervention aimed at reducing addiction-related stigma. It's called "Unshame KY."  

“Much like diabetes or heart disease, addiction is a chronic illness,” Eric Friedlander, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said in an e-mail. “Sadly, addiction often is looked upon as a moral failure and those suffering from the disease are labeled in ways that affect the way the public sees them, the way they see themselves, and their ability to seek care. 

"To change the course of the opioid epidemic in Kentucky, we must first eradicate the stigmas associated with addiction so that more individuals can move beyond these feelings of shame or hopelessness and toward a path that leads to longer, healthier lives.”

Research has found that addiction stigma is significantly reduced when individuals can put a face to the disease of addiction and also hear their stories of healing, remission, and recovery and that's what Kentucky's program is designed to do via social media and community outreach.

'Dopesick' movie wins a Peabody; author of book says her next one, about solutions to opioid crisis, will be out Aug. 15

"Dopesick" co-writers Ben Rubin, left, and Eoghan O’Donnell,
right, with star Michael Keaton and book author Beth Macy
"Dopesick," the streaming-video series starring Michael Keaton and based on the novel by Beth Macy of Roanoke, won the first Peabody Award announced this week the University of Georgia.

In accepting, Keaton said “Tackling such an important issue as the opioid crisis in America was not only daunting but well worth it. “To address the devastation that has been brought on by the Sackler family and big Pharma, and still honor the people in Appalachia, which in this case is what we chose as the location, and still show enormous respect for these people, all this is really gratifying for me.”

Meanwhile, Macy tells her readers via email, "My fourth book, Raising Lazarus: Hope, Justice, and the Future of America’s Overdose Crisis, will publish on Aug. 16, and it’s available for pre-order now. . . . If Dopesick was about the origins of the overdose crisis, Raising Lazarus is about the solutions—some of them quite surprising. The book features a fascinating chorus, from gritty activists willing to risk arrest to creative treatment providers, harm reductionists and peer specialists who are flat-out miracle workers. "

OPINION: Cattle farmer says 'corporate special interests' write the rules he has to follow and are planning his demise

By Darvin Bentlage

I love farming and have been doing it all my life, but I told my kids not to come back to the farm, because there’s no future in it. That’s the sad truth.

Over the last year on Capitol Hill, there have been multiple hearings and bills and even an executive order to address what is going on out here in rural America, but little to nothing is getting done. For the last three decades, roughly 40 U.S. family cattle operations have gone out of business every day. It’s time to end the talk and campaigning and actually fix the problem.

Darvin Bentlage
I’m 66, and a fourth-generation cattle and grain farmer from southwest Missouri. Even though it’s sometimes difficult and dangerous work, I’ve always loved raising cattle and crops and making the land better for the next generation — and better for my kids and grandkids to come back to.

But, things have changed, and not for the better. They aren’t changing because of inevitability or technological efficiency. There’s a very large “elephant in the room” that’s making it worse for all of us.

The predominant system of agriculture I am working in now has been intentionally set up against me and current and future farming generations. Today’s corporate controlled system is bad for farmers, bad for consumers, bad for rural and urban communities and economies, bad for our environment and our climate, and bad for democracy.

We are in this position because the rules (laws, policies and regulations) have been written, and lobbied and paid for by corporate special interests. We are in this position because of corporate-written, bad Farm Bills and bad trade agreements (the main drivers of our farm and food system).

We are here because many of our elected “representatives” don’t really represent us, their constituents or the vast majority of Americans. We’re here because we have a democratic process controlled by that “elephant in the room” – billion dollar multinational corporations.

They are planning and implementing our demise. It’s their business model. Without competition, they can push everyone else out of the market, then they win and take all the wealth (and land).

Some of the results: In 30 years, the U.S. has 25% fewer cattle farmers. In 30 years, nearly 90% of U.S. hog farmers were put out of business. And, the average age of a farmer is nearing 60.

We’re importing billions of pounds of beef from around the world, and consumers are paying record high prices, while cattle farmers struggle. In 2021, the U.S. imported 3.35 billion pounds (with a “b”) of beef and 1.8 million live cattle.

Here are a few glaring results of corporate agriculture’s stranglehold on farmers, consumers, our food system, economies and democratic process: In 2021, JBS’s (a Brazilian corporation and the world’s biggest meatpacker) net revenue was $71 billion and their U.S. beef division reported a net revenue of $27.18 billion; Tyson had a net profit of $3.05 billion, up $1 billion from 2020; Cargill reported its biggest profit in its 156-year history, netting almost $5 billion; the WH Group, the Chinese corporation that owns Smithfield Foods, reported $27.29 billion in revenue, up 6.7%.

The fact is, during these challenging and unprecedented times, the few corporations that control our food system are raking in record profits. Consumers are paying record high prices, inflation is raging, family farmers are struggling to stay in business, and our economies (urban and rural) are becoming more and more impoverished.

What can we do? We need to demand that our elected representatives and our democracy represent us and not corporate special interests.

Within our food system, we need to demand laws that: decentralize control of our food, curb the undue economic and political power of multinational agribusiness corporations that aim to replace independent family farms with industrial factory farms, strengthen and enforce antitrust laws, stop public taxpayer dollars from funding corporate factory farms, restore supply management programs, grain reserves and price floors set at the cost of production, and ban meatpacker ownership of livestock and their use of “captive supplies.”

A food system controlled by us, farmers and consumers, would not be putting multinational corporate profits over people, the environment and our national security. We’d be able to respond and help when things get hard, instead of seeing pandemics and war as opportunities for corporations to get rich.

We can and must do better — for farmers, rural communities, consumers and our country.

Darvin Bentlage is a fourth-generation cattle and grain farmer from Barton County, Missouri, and a member of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center.

U.S. mine-safety agency says it will ramp up enforcement of limits on silica; another Labor Dept. unit calls for lower limit

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration says it will inspect underground mines more frequently for silica dust and make them reduce its levels below federal limits while it keeps working on a new standard for silica.

Research has shown that prolonged exposure to silica dust causes pneumoconiosis, or black lung disease. Exposure to silica has increased as thinner coal seams are mined, raising the ratio of silica to coal dust in the process, especially in Central Appalachia.

MSHA said it would make spot inspections at mines with histories of miners being repeatedly overexposed to silica, and if mines have not "timely abated" the hazard, they will be shut down.

“For coal mines, the agency will encourage changes to dust control and ventilation plans to address known health hazards,” MSHA said in a press release. It said it will “focus on sampling during periods of the mining process that present the highest risk of silica exposure for miners.”

"Mine safety advocates want MSHA to cut the amount of silica dust allowed in mines in half, to match what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration allows in other workplaces," notes Curtis Tate of West Virginia Public Broadcasting. The change has been recommended by the Office of Inspector General in the Labor Department, which includes OSHA and MSHA.

"An NPR investigation in 2018 found that exposure to high amounts of silica dust put miners, especially younger ones, at increased risk of developing black lung disease and dying of it," Tate notes.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Summit on rural journalism explores ways philanthropy can support local news media, individually and collectively

Fifh in a series of reports on the National Summit on Journalism in Rural America, held June 3-4 by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and the College of Communication and Information at the University of Kentucky. Previous articles were on the state of rural journalism, the Summit-driven effort for sustainability in rural journalism, nonprofit models and help from higher-education journalism programs

By Al Cross
Director and professor, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky

Philanthropy is becoming part of the business model at many American newspapers, but not so much among rural weeklies and dailies. Rural philanthropy has always been something of an oxymoron, with most of the big money staying in big places. The National Summit on Journalism in Rural America explored how philanthropy can help rural news outlets.

Editors and publishers at chain-owned rural papers may think that their ownership model precludes asking for philanthropic help from individuals and institutions, but one of the better examples of philanthropy helping a non-metropolitan paper is at the Traverse City Record-Eagle in Michigan, a daily owned by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. 

Nathan Payne
Nathan Payne, who recently moved from the editorship of the Record-Eagle to be the rural team editor for Kaiser Health News, discussed at the Summit how he raised support through the local community foundation, a type of philanthropy that is becoming more common in rural areas. 

When Payne needed matching money to get a reporter from Report for America two years ago, he got more and different help than he expected from the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation. He said people in Traverse City see the value of "20 professional skeptics all over the community, turning over rocks" but they didn't really know the state of local journalism. He said involving the community foundation added a trust factor to a chain paper asking for money.

The philanthropy has put $10,000 into a community news fund that helps the Record-Eagle, but that hasn’t meant as much as the help it has given the paper with fund-raising. Payne and Publisher Paul Heidbreder got guidance and support from a retired journalist in the community who was interested in the paper’s future, and their meetings with the foundation's executive director helped Payne frame his case for financial support from others. Last year, he ran a crowdfunding campaign that raised about $8,500 and an end-of-year email campaign that produced $5,550. This year, the paper has $15,000 from foundations, and it has expanded its coverage area to include more rural counties, a rarity today.

An RFA report said some foundation board members were reluctant to fund journalism or a for-profit business, but Executive Director Dave Mengebier said he persuaded the board and the local funding community that “If you want to have healthy, resilient, thriving communities, which is part of our vision statement, then there are certain institutions that are really important to exist in your community. This includes having a newspaper, you know, along with things like having a community library, and, and a vibrant arts-and-culture community.”

Dennis Brack
A similarly enlightened community is Rappahannock County, Virginia, pop. 7,400, where the weekly Rappahannock News has added muscle to its newsroom with the help of Foothills Forum, a local philanthropy that was created specifically to help the independently owned paper. The county "has tradition of deep civic engagement," Publisher Dennis Brack said at the Summit. He acknowledged later that its proximity to Washington, D.C., 90 miles to the east, and the presence of many retirees from D.C., also help.

The first funded project was a poll of the county, to which 42 percent of residents responded. "The findings themselves made news," Brack said; residents said what mattered most to them was privacy, beauty, family farms, and internet and cell service. So the next funded project, using freelance journalists, was on the "digital dilemma;" the second was on land use, always a major issue in exurban counties, then housing. In the pandemic, the News produced a daily newsletter.

Brack said the paper and Foothills Forum are independently operated, with an operating agreement that is public, along with the names of donors, but are "highly collaborative." The only direct subsidies have been sharing the match for RFA reporter and picking up the pay for a part-timer during the pandemic.

Jody Lawrence-Turner
At least one philanthropy has been created specifically for rural news: the Fund for Oregon Rural Journalism, headed by Jody Lawrence-Turner, who is also project editor at The Bulletin in Bend, whose owners founded the philanthropy. She said it was created to help rural news organizations adapt and adjust their business models, with strategic advice on digital revenue and other topics, partnerships on stories, micro-grants, talent recruitment and development.

FORJ's first big pilot project addresses a growing complaint of rural editors and publishers: They can't find qualified people who want to work in local news. One solution often suggested is developing interest and talent among students in high school or even middle school. FORJ's Future Journalists of America pilot at four high schools in Bend newsrooms hosts a lab with sessions taught by professionals in a semester-long curriculum: media literacy, professional craft, doing assignments with news staffers, a digital, district-wide publication, and exploration of sustainable business models. The overall goal is to sell "a career with a purpose, ensuring the continuation of a free democracy," Lawrence-Turner said.

The Summit session on "Putting Philanthropy in Your Business Model" is on YouTube, here.

Philanthropy was mentioned in other sessions. Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro of the National Trust for Local News discussed how the Trust and philanthropic partners bought a chain of 24 community papers in Colorado and put them into a nonprofit, creating an umbrella model for other places.

The Trust, the Institute for Nonprofit News, the Kentucky Press Association and the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues (sponsor of the Summit) have conducted a survey of newspaper owners in Appalachian Kentucky with the Mountain Association, an Appalachian Kentucky development organization that wants to keep the papers in local hands, perhaps using a nonprofit umbrella for those in distressed counties where for-profit buyers either wouldn't be interested or could damage the papers.

Philanthropy would be needed to fund such a model, but that challenge could also be an opportunity. If an umbrella nonprofit was also committed to improving coverage of regional issues, across the county lines that typically define rural newspaper markets, that could attract funders. "Successful papers don't think geographically" but are "breaking out of geographic jail," Penny Abernathy of Northwestern University said at the Summit's opening session, which is here on YouTube, along with other sessions.

Local Journalism Sustainability Act is a 5-year measure 'to help newspapers at a critical time,' industry advocate says

Dean Ridings
By Dean Ridings
, Chief Executive Officer, America's Newspapers

Congress has an opportunity to pass legislation that benefits all local citizens, businesses and even protects our democracy. The Local Journalism Sustainability Act, LJSA for short, should be included as part of any upcoming reconciliation bill that Congress is considering. The LJSA is a well-thought-out bill that would provide needed support to local news organizations, including local newspapers, to ensure their viability as they continue to make progress toward a digital future.

Many members of Congress have seen what happens when a newspaper closes in their district, and they see the impact it has on the community. That is why many of our leaders, including Senators Cantwell, Schumer, Manchin, Wyden and others have stepped up in support of the LJSA. And while others in Congress may not have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill yet, many recognize the importance and the need to maintain strong local news organizations in their communities.

To understand what the LJSA is, it is important to understand what it is not. This is a temporary measure to help newspapers at this critical time, and it sunsets after five years. The LJSA won’t help national news organizations, but it will support local news organizations and help them invest in their newsrooms in order to continue to cover the issues that impact local cities and towns. The result is a bill that provides a bridge for local newspapers as they continue to evolve their business models.

So why is it so critical for Congress to pass the LJSA now? Quite simply, the future of local newspapers in many areas of the country hangs in the balance. In the past 15 years, more than a quarter of all newspapers have disappeared, and many more have been forced to make staff reductions that have diminished the coverage of topics that impact local citizens. The way people get their information and advertise their local businesses is quickly moving to digital, and local newspapers continue to be impacted by the Big Tech companies that use their original content without fair compensation. To make matters worse, newspapers, like many other industries, were financially impacted by the pandemic, even though the coverage provided by local newspapers was more vital than ever.

The current economic challenges have only hastened the need for Congress to act on the LJSA quickly. As inflation is impacting everyone, it has made the environment for local newspapers even more challenging. The cost of retaining employees has gone up. The cost of newsprint has increased 30% over last year, and the cost of gas used to deliver the newspaper is up more than 50% in the past two years. Many newspaper carriers drive hundreds and even thousands of miles each week. These increases have driven many local newspapers closer to making further reductions or even ceasing operations.

Who wins with the passage of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act? Clearly, local newspapers win by obtaining the support needed to continue their investments in reporting on local news. But the real winners are the communities that keep their local newspaper. From watching the actions of local government, reporting on the state of local schools, tracking local health trends or providing the latest restaurant reviews and sales information, local newspapers keep a community connected and informed.

We encourage everyone to reach out to their representatives in Congress and ask them to support local journalism. Whether it is inclusion of the LJSA in the budget reconciliation bill, or a stand-alone bill, the time for action is now. It’s a rare opportunity for government to act on something that benefits us all.

America’s Newspapers is the trade association for thousands of newspapers across the United States.

4 states get first broadband allocations from pandemic fund; money from infrastructure bill awaiting new FCC maps

Louisiana, New Hampshire, Virginia and West Virginia are the first states to get money from a $10 billion capital projects fund in last year's pandemic-relief bill, "which is expected to bring internet service to 200,000 homes and businesses" in those states, The Associated Press reports.

“There has never been anything like the pandemic to create a national teaching moment that we cannot have equal economic and educational opportunity unless all Americans and all regions, from urban to rural America, have access to high-speed affordable internet service,” Gene Sperling, a senior advisor to Biden, told reporters.

Virginia will get $219.8 million, with $176.7 million going to Louisiana, $136.3 million to West Virginia and $50 million to New Hampshire. Other states must send the Treasury Department by Sept. 24 their plans by "demonstrating how funding could fill critical needs," AP reports.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said the money will make a “tremendous dent” in the broadband deployment needed in his rural state, AP reports. The Federal Communications Commission estimates there are more than 250,000 of the fewer than 2 million people in West Virginia lack broadband access, and Manchin said even more people are likely unconnected.

“We can’t help folks recover from the pandemic or encourage new economic development in areas like West Virginia if we don’t have connectivity — it’s that simple,” said Manchin, a former governor.

"The first wave of federal broadband funding to states, territories and tribal governments requires that the service providers building out their networks offer discounts to customers and provide service at download and upload speeds of at least 100 megabytes per second," AP reports. "Providers must participate in the FCC’s new Affordable Connectivity Program," which makes households with incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty threshold eligible for discounts of up to $30 per month, or up to $75 a month on tribal lands.

"The money isn’t the only recent federal allocation for broadband — billions more were approved as part of the American Rescue Plan and the bipartisan infrastructure law," AP notes. "And more than 100 federal programs — administered by 15 agencies — already have some capacity to expand internet access." The number of programs “has led to a fragmented, overlapping patchwork of funding,” a Government Accountability Office report said last month.

“I’m not sure we fully used all our federal dollars well,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., noting that reliable internet access is a promise the government began making in the 1990s. “Candidly, in our country, we’ve done not a very good job of making that a reality.” He said federal efforts in the last 30 years have been “kind of hamstrung,” with some networks being partially built. "Faulty FCC maps that relied on self-reporting by the companies overstated coverage and hindered efforts to subsidize internet service in underserved rural areas," AP reports.

The FCC is required to issue new broadband maps before the National Telecommunications and Information Administration can allocate money from the new infrastructure bill, but legislators and broadband stakeholders "disagree on whether third-party maps should be used to supplement FCC’s maps," reports Cara Smith of Inside Health Policy. The first drafts of the maps are not expected until fall, Smith reports from a June 9 hearing at which "Lawmakers expressed renewed distrust in the FCC’s and NTIA’s ability to create accurate broadband maps and distribute funding properly to unserved and underserved communities."

Series on agribusiness donations to Midwestern university ag programs is a finalist for investigative reporting award

Bayer Crop Science Innovation Center, University of Illinois
UPDATE, June 23: The series won first prize in the category.

"Big Ag U", a series last year by Investigate Midwest and Harvest Public Media, has been named a finalist in the 2022 Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Awards for Investigative Reporting by small newsrooms. The series looked at the money major agribusinesses had given four major university agriculture programs and the influence it bought. Public universities "have cultivated powerful agricultural corporations as donors while public funding has stagnated," they reported.

From 2010 to 2022, the corporations have given at least $170 million to ag programs at the University of Illinois, Iowa State University, Oklahoma State University and the University of Missouri. The reporters said they couldn't get records from several other universities, which cited state privacy laws.

"That corporate money has paid for research centers and specific studies at universities," they reported. "For decades, the federal government funded much of the research and development into agriculture, and not just on campuses. But that changed around the 2008 financial crisis. Soon after, the private sector became the dominant spender," according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "USDA noted private research tends to focus on things that boost revenues over developments that could help the public at large."

Donors' influence could limit the scope of university research, said Gabrielle Roesch-McNally, who advocates for women’s ownership with the American Farmland Trust. The University of Illinois said it believes “strongly in researchers conducting and sharing their work without influence from internal or external entities.” The series reported on complaints that Monsanto, a major donor now owned by Bayer, made about individual researchers at Illinois; administrators defended the researchers and won the company's support for an expended research center, now named for Bayer.

Investigate Midwest says its mission is to expose "dangerous and costly practices of influential agricultural corporations and institutions." The Driehaus Foundation is based in Chicago and focuses on the quality of the built environment but also promotes arts and culture, economic opportunity for the working poor and investigative journalism for government accountability.

Goats increasingly used to prevent wildfire by eating the fuel

Goats at work near Glendale, Calif.
(Getty Images photo by Robyn Beck)
As the risk of wildfire increases, land managers are increasingly turning to goats to eat plants that fuel the fires, Chris Iovenko reports for National Geographic.

"Deploying goats to clear land of vegetation is an age-old practice, but as wildfires worsen worldwide, places as diverse as Greece, Australia, and other parts of the U.S., such as Arizona and Colorado are embracing the herbivores as important tools for wildfire prevention," especially in steep and rocky terrain, Iovenko writes from southern California, a state that lost over 2 million acres to wildfire last year.

“Grazing is the most widespread vegetation management we have in California,” Lynn Huntsinger, professor of rangeland ecology and management at the University of California, Berkeley, told Iovenko.

"Prior to fire seasons in the past, land managers traditionally relied on herbicide and human labor to thin plants and brush to reduce fuel load, the amount of flammable material that can burn in a fire," Iovenko writes. "But access to mountain terrain in southern California can be challenging, and such traditional clearing practices can leave behind seeds that germinate the next year."

“When goats eat the seed, it goes through their digestive tract, and it becomes nonviable. It doesn't grow after it comes out the other end, which is really amazing,” said Alissa Cope, owner of Sage Environmental Group, one of about a dozen goat suppliers in southern California.

"One of the oldest domesticated animals, goats are adventurous and curious eaters with iron-clad stomachs," Iovenko notes. "They can eat plants toxic to other kinds of livestock. They also are hardy and can climb steep hillsides and terrain inaccessible to other animals." But they also need goatherds because “Goats are like an indiscriminate brush cutter; they will chew on any vegetation that they like,” Jutta C. Burger, science program director for the California Invasive Plant Council, told Iovenko.

One of their big targets is black mustard, an invasive plant that "outcompetes native vegetation because it grows profusely and its roots generate biochemicals that stop the seeds of other plants from germinating," Ivenko reports. "Its growing season makes it a particular menace: It thrives in the spring and can grow to eight feet high, only to die and turn to dangerous tinder by early summer."

Thursday, June 09, 2022

Some university professors and journalism programs are helping rural newspapers; one prof says it's about time

Fourth in a series of reports on the National Summit on Journalism in Rural America, held June 3-4 by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and the College of Communication and Information at the University of Kentucky. Summit sessions can be viewed on YouTube.

As more higher-education journalism programs try to serve community journalism, one professor who started a newspaper with her students, is doing hands-on research and testing a new business model at two weekly papers says the efforts are long overdue.

Teri Finneman
The state of journalism and the news business "is a colossal failure of higher education," Teri Finneman, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Kansas, said at the National Summit on Journalism in Rural America Saturday afternoon.

"Where the hell has the ivory tower been the last 20 years?" Finneman asked. "We are the ones who should have been leading the research, working with the industry, to avoid this mess that we are in right now. . . . It is time for the ivory tower to step up and support our counterparts in the industry."

Finneman is a researcher of journalism history, but she has launched into doing journalism with her students, as publisher of the Eudora Times in a small town nine miles from her journalism school, which will host "News Desert U." Oct 21-22 for journalism educators to address the crisis. "It is time for universities to step up, finally, and do something about this," she said.

This summer, Finneman is testing a new business model for community papers at Harvey County Now in Newton, Kan., and the Hillsboro Free Press, which will get $10,000 to participate. The model aims to get more revenue from the audience with e-newsletters, events and two tiers of memberships. Kansas Publishing Ventures, which owns the papers, is keeping detailed minutes of its weekly meetings on the project, to help develop an information packet for community papers across the nation, Finneman said.

The model is based on surveys that Finneman and other researches did in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas, which found that newspaper readers are much more willing to support their papers with money beyond subscriptions that newspaper publishers think they are. In North Dakota, the only state where she has released her results, 40 percent said they were likely or very likely to donate.

Finneman said she and her colleagues were "taken aback" at the attitude of publishers in focus groups who felt that asking for voluntary support would be admitting failure or showing personal weakness. "They very much saw themselves as a business, as opposed to an unreplaceable civic community organization that a newspaper is," while "leaving free money on the table."

She said publishers cited the lack of time and resources for business-model experimentation, but "Overall, there was very much this underlying fear, the fear of doing something different."

M. Clay Carey
In a session on what sort of research journalism schools could do to help rural news outlets, Clay Carey of Samford University in Alabama said research projects need to have social value, not just economic and journalistic value. "We all know the future of rural news outlets is tied to the future of rural places," he said, so "stories of places that are struggling" could he helpful.

The summit's "research question" was "How can rural communities sustain local journalism that supports local democracy?" Carey said we need research that is centered on the idea of democratic practice, and the essential role of agency: the ability to act on information. He said research has focused on information at the expense of focus on agency, which many people feel they don't have, and suggested more specific research questions" How can journalistic organizations equip people to be civically engaged? How can they encourage and empower them? Perhaps by "inviting people to participate in sharing their story," he said.

More broadly, he said universities should ask, "How can news organizations facilitate collaboration that creates a sense of community and creates positive change?" and think about facilitating collaboration among local newspapers, national and regional organizations, and local entities such as libraries. He said universities can help create frameworks, and reduce risk and risk aversion. And all the while, do research that is "accessible to people outside the academy. . . . It's easy for research to be an extractive industry, in the same way that journalism can be an extractive industry."

Bill Reader
Bill Reader of Ohio University, a longtime community journalism scholar, said "The academy has not been a friend of the cause, overall," but "Industry leaders have ignored the research of the past, and they are ignoring the research of the present." He said research needs to take on the knowledge gap between "haves and have-nots" in rural communities. "Helping people become full-fledged members of the community builds support for the newspaper, long-haul."

Beyond research, some university journalism programs are trying to help individual papers and the industry at large. University of Georgia students staff The Oglethorpe Echo, a nearby paper that was going to close until retired chain publisher Dink NeSmith created a nonprofit and got the university involved (he described the process in the first Saturday afternoon session); and West Virginia University has the NewStart program to train the next generation of community newspaper owners. Its director, Jim Iovino, reported that the University of Texas is sending someone to see how it can emulate the effort. In both states, newspaper associations asked universities for help because newspaper owners could not find acceptable buyers for their papers.

Further reports on the National Summit on Journalism in Rural America will appear later. Topics will include support from philanthropies and editorial approaches. Previous articles were on the state of rural journalism, the Summit-driven effort for sustainability in rural journalism and nonprofit models.

Immigrants could revitalize rural America, Iowan argues

In Storm Lake, Iowa, last month, Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum, a nonpartisan organization working with faith, law enforcement and business leaders to promote the value of immigrants and immigration, participate in a forum on his book Crossing Borders, the Storm Lake Times-Pilot reports. (Photo from the Times-Pilot)

Revitalization of rural America depends on immigrants, radio news director Robert Leonard of Knoxville, Iowa, writes in an opinion piece in Time magazine.

Leonard begins his piece by describing his encounter with a group of Ukrainian refugees and writes, "My rural Iowa county, population about 33,000, and other rural counties across America, are positioned to do what we can to help not only Ukrainian refugees, but others. It’s a stain on America that while we are willing to help Ukrainian refugees, because they look like the majority of our population, but aren’t as welcoming to Syrian, African, and those coming from south of the border because they don’t. We should help and welcome refugees because we can, but also, if you need a cold-hearted economic reason, because we need them."

Noting that more than 100,000 jobs are available in Iowa, which has 59,500 people unemployed, Leonard argues, "Inviting immigrants, and having the support system in place to help them as they arrive, isn’t a cost, it’s an investment. The story is the same in many parts of rural America, where most of America’s domestic production of food, fuel, and fibers such as cotton and wool, comes from. Much of this labor is seasonal. Without labor, companies die. While the entire country is suffering from a labor shortage, rural America is particularly hard hit, in part because many rural Americans are moving to larger metropolitan areas. We need immigrants. Every rural manufacturing leader I have spoken with, regardless of party affiliation, wants immigration reform. They know immigrants can help solve their labor problems."

However, "immigration troubles at our southern border" undermine "all immigration efforts," Leonard writes. "It’s not clear that many Republicans actually want the border to be secure, because an insecure border is too valuable for them politically. In fact, some Republican attempts at immigration reform only work to make the problem worse. . . . The politics need to be taken out of it. The contemporary math of immigration is that we have jobs, and refugees and asylum seekers want to fill them. Our labor crisis can be solved by helping those caught up in political and environmental crises around the world. Many are already here, showing that they can be contributing citizens to society. Approximately 73% of farmworkers are immigrants, and they are coming vaccinated."

As for the argument that immigrants take jobs from Americans, Leonard says "Dave Swenson, an economist at Iowa State University, tells me that most immigrants take jobs that most Americans don’t want to do, mainly because of language and training obstacles. In 2020, foreign-born workers were more likely than native-born workers to be employed in service occupations, natural resources, construction, maintenance, production, transportation, and material moving occupations. Foreign-born workers were less likely than native-born workers to be employed in management, professional, and related occupations. Industries that rely the most on immigrants are now facing some of the biggest labor shortages."

Northern California county is 'a Democratic bobbing alone in a sea of red,' writes political reporter who went to see why

Alpine County in California (Wikipedia)
Alpine County, California, pop. 1,200, "is as rural as rural California gets," writes Los Angeles Times political reporter Mark Z. Barabak. But it votes "along the same lines as Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco and other urbanized blue bastions," making it "a Democratic speck bobbing alone in sea of red."

To find out why, Barabak went to the county just before the recent primary election. He found several answers, including: It's a lightly populated place (California's least populous county) that became popular with "back to nature" migrants ("With so few people, it didn’t take much beyond word of mouth to help turn Alpine from red to blue"); it has a significant number of Native Americans; and perhaps "Democrats moving in and Republicans moving out as people seek to live among like-minded partisans," a phenomenon described in the 2008 book The Big Sort: Why the clustering of like-minded America is tearing us apart.

And what about the economy, often a determiner of a place's politics? "There is a bit of cattle ranching. There was once some logging. But that dried up long ago, just like the silver mines," Barabak reports. "So there was never the raging battle over natural resources that took place in other rural California counties, turning many residents against the Democratic Party and others foes derided as tree-huggers."

'Reshaping the economic narrative around America’s rural communities' will hear from practitioners in diverse places

The Brookings Institution will hold a webinar, "Reshaping the economic narrative around America’s rural communities," Wednesday, June 15, from 2:30 to 4 p.m. EDT. RSVP to watch.

Brookings says, "Persistent narratives of population loss and poverty have shaped the stereotype of rural America as decaying communities rooted in decline for decades. This dominant narrative evokes powerful charitable emotions that stimulate billions of dollars in anti-poverty investments to support their survival. Unfortunately, these critical investments come at the expense of rural America's identity, which is now mired in a thick narrative of disempowerment and urban dependence. This portrayal underappreciates the durability and ingenuity of these communities."

The webinar "will host practitioners from diverse rural minority communities to explore ways to reverse the paradox of rural disempowerment and investment and expand the narrative about the places that 46 million Americans call home," Brookings says. "Panelists will discuss policy solutions to enable economic growth in these poorly understood communities."

Brookings Governance Studies fellow Makada Henry-Nickie will moderate a "fireside chat" with
Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, then moderate a panel with Olugbenga "Gbenga" Ajilore, Office of the Undersecretary for Rural Development, USDA; Teresa Burnett, executive director of the Monahans (Texas) Chamber of Commerce, Jamie Gloshay, (Navajo, White Mountain Apache, Kiowa) with Native Women Lead; Jennifer Grassham, president of the Economic Development Corp. of Lea County, New Mexico, and David Jimenez, CEO of the Leaco Rural Telephone Cooperative of southeastern New Mexico.

Online viewers can submit questions for the speakers via e-mail to or on Twitter @BrookingsGov using #InclusiveOpportunity.

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Registration deadline Wed., June 15, for annual conference in Ky. of International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors

By Al Cross
Director and professor, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky

Editorial critique session at an ISWNE conference
The annual conference of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, July 20-23 at the University of Kentucky, will have programs on national politics becoming local, dealing with the evils of social media, new business models for weeklies, governments’ role in the news business, university help for community newspapers, a visit from a news-media leader from Mongolia, newspapers’ and libraries’ common interests, and the hallmark of the conference: editors' critiques of other members' editorials and editorial pages.

Those sessions are on the schedule for Friday and Saturday, July 22 and 23. As usual, the professional-development programming will be preceded by two days of tours in the area; the itinerary includes a historic newspaper, an iconic horse farm, a bourbon distillery, and a community that is headquarters to a big cannabis company and for 14 years was home to a newspaper created by UK students and their professor (this writer). For a detailed schedule, click here.

Attendees will stay in a university dormitory, and private rooms are available. The conference fee is $600 per person, and there's a three-day, $300 option. ISWNE membership is $50 a year. The registration form is here. The deadline is Wednesday, June 15. Questions? Email

Friday’s opening session will examine the common interests of newspapers and public libraries. “Libraries and newspapers share the front lines in the battle for intellectual freedom,” says AnnaMarie Cornett, chief of staff at the Lexington Public Library, who will join with other leaders of the library to talk about their approaches to neutrality and challenged materials, and how libraries and newspapers can work together in the fight against censorship.

Next up will be a session on navigating the increasingly contentious political landscape. My informal survey of ISWNE members last year found that editors are becoming more cautious because the national divisiveness has made local public discourse more contentious, and I have heard likewise from other editors. I’ll present what I have heard, then lead a group discussion so we can learn more and help guide paths forward.

Allison Frisch of Ithaca College and Gina Gayle of Emerson College will discuss their research paper about the ways higher-education journalism programs can help community newspapers. They found that such partnerships can increase civic engagement, create new local media channels, and strengthen civic literacy, engagement, and democracy. They also can give students real-world experience covering a wide range of issues, and help newspapers in need of more resources.

After lunch and ISWNE's annual Associated Press Stylebook quiz, we will have a discussion with Bradley Martin, editor and publisher of the Hickman County Times in Centerville, Tenn., about dealing with the evils of social media, and when it’s necessary to dip into the cesspool. Brad has an object example of a social media mess that had a serious impact on a school, a student and his family. I’ll be you have some examples to discuss, too.

Should government help the news media, and if so, how? Canada has taken steps to help newspapers that would be off-limits in the U.S., where the newspaper industry is fighting battles in Congress and state legislatures. Gordon Cameron, group managing editor of Hamilton Community News in Ontario, will give a report from Canada, where government help hasn’t set well with some rural editors. I will discuss battles in the states over public-notice advertising, and efforts in Congress to help news media recover some of the revenue they have lost to digital platforms – efforts that are better suited to community papers than they were at the start, but U.S. editors and publishers are still debating what role government should play in sustaining local journalism. I’ll also discuss newspapers’ biggest victory in Congress lately, the great expansion of the ability to send sample copies to non-subscribers in their home counties.

What are the ethics of seeking public-notice ads and other support for local journalism from public officials whom you may have to cover and comment on? That will be the point of departure for a roundtable session about tough ethical calls, often a challenge in rural communities.

To wrap up Friday's discussions, we will have a session looking at new business models for community newspapers, drawing in part on our recent National Summit on Journalism in Rural America, where speakers talked about taking their newspapers into nonprofit status, working with a local community foundation to put philanthropy into their business model, and using e-newsletters and membership models to raise more revenue from readers. (For another Summit story, on the state of rural journalism, click here.)

On Saturday, after the editorial critiques, we plan to hear from a very special visitor: Enkhbat Tsend, chairman of the Press Institute of Mongolia and CEO of Control Media LLC. Mongolia ranks 90th on the World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders, but that is higher than most nations near it. The index says Mongolia “broadly respects the principles of freedom and media pluralism, though its regulation still lacks basic legal protection for the confidentiality of sources and imperfect defamation laws encourage abusive lawsuits against journalists, stirring self-censorship.”

So, the conference will reach from your county courthouse and city hall to state legislatures and Congress and to other nations, just as an ISWNE conference should do. Please join us.

National Summit on Journalism in Rural America looks at nonprofit models for newspapers, some recent examples

Elisabeth Hansen Shapiro of the National Trust for Local News, second from right, poses with other partners in the Colorado News Conservancy, a nonprofit created to take over and run 24 community newspapers in the Denver area.

Third in a series of reports on the National Summit on Journalism in Rural America, held June 3-4 by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and the College of Communication and Information at the University of Kentucky. Summit sessions can be viewed on YouTube.

A nonprofit business model is an increasingly attractive alternative for newspapers that have seen their profit margins fall into single digits and want to be able to get grants and tax-deductible contributions. The potential of the nonprofit model for rural papers was the topic of a Friday session and a Saturday panel discussion at the National Summit on Journalism in Rural America.

"We see nonprofit local news . . . as a real bright spot," said Jason Alcorn, vice president of learning and impact at the American Journalism Project, which makes grants to nonprofit news organizations, partners with communities to launch new ones, and coaches their leaders.

Publishers who are interested in the nonprofit model can explore it with the help of the Institute for Nonprofit News, which has more than 400 nonprofit, nonpartisan publishers doing 400,000 stories a year, said Jonathan Kealing, the organization's chief network officer.

INN publishes a conversion guide, developed with the Salt Lake Tribune, which recently went nonprofit, and a guide for nonprofit startups. It also provides advice for its members.

Alcorn and Kealing appeared with Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro of Columbia University, co-founder of the National Trust for Local News, which aims to keep local news in local hands. Last year, it used philanthropic support to buy a chain of 24 community newspapers and put them in a nonprofit. Now, she says the Trust is asking, "How can we bring rural papers together under common nonprofit ownership to share resources and increase the chances of long-term service and sustainability?"

A fundamental difference between the profit and nonprofit models is that the former is about making money and the latter is about providing public service. "Nonprofits are by law community assets" that can't be sold, and their boards are charged with acting for the benefit of the community, not the benefit of the organization, Kealing said.

A nonprofit can still make money; it just re-invests profits rather than distributing them to owners. "Nonprofit does not mean non-commercial," Alcorn noted.

Friday afternoon, summiteers heard about the latest move of a group of newspapers to a nonprofit. Liz and Steve Parker of the New Jersey Hills Media Group said they went nonprofit because their 14 weeklies had been making a small profit but declining ad revenue prevented investments needed for growth, and they didn't want to sell to any of the chains that were willing to buy it. 

"The options for selling we so unattractive," Steve Parker said. His sister said most of the buyers were "bottom feeders" who would have ruined the papers, so they created the Corporation for New Jersey Local Media, using the model of the Lenfest Institute, which owns the Philadelphia Inquirer: a social benefit corporation ("B corp") that allows the papers to keep publishing editorials and anything else a paper can do, including events. The CNJLM can also take grants and tax-deductible contributions.

It can also acquire other papers, becoming an umbrella for independently operated news organizations. Amanda Richardson, executive director of the nonprofit, said it has been approached by another paper that may become part of the enterprise.

Liz Parker said the model is sort of like the people of Green Bay, Wis., owning the Packers, but there is no reason that it can't work "across the country." Her detailed PowerPoint presentation can be read and downloaded here. Shapiro's presentation is here.

Further reports on the National Summit on Journalism in Rural America will appear later. Topics will include support from philanthropies and universities, and editorial approaches. Previous articles were on the state of rural journalism and the Summit-driven effort for sustainability in rural journalism.

Monthly survey of farmer sentiment continues to plummet

Purdue University graph
A monthly survey of 400 U.S. farmers has found "the weakest farmer sentiment reading since April 2020," Purdue University reports on its latest Ag Economy Barometer, done with CME Group.

"The May 2022 barometer reading marked just the ninth time since data collection began in fall 2015 that the overall measure of farmer sentiment fell below 100," Purdue reports. "Agricultural producers’ perceptions regarding current conditions on their farms, as well as their future expectations, both weakened this month. The Index of Current Conditions fell 26 points to a reading of 94, while the Index of Future Expectations declined 21 points to 101 in May. Notably, this month saw a rise in the percentage of respondents who feel their farm is worse off financially now than a year earlier, an indication that escalating production costs are troubling producers."

The survey of 400 U.S. agricultural producers is conducted by telephone each month. The latest survey was conducted May 16-20.

Rural America gets its jobs back, but urban areas gain more

Employment gain or loss, April 2019 to April 2022, by counties' rural-urban status
(Map by The Daily Yonder using Datawrapper; for a larger version, click on it.)

"Rural and urban America have more jobs today than in April 2019," but "job growth in the last year has been much faster in urban counties," reports Bill Bishop of The Daily Yonder.

"More than two years after a rampaging pandemic created widespread unemployment, the number of jobs in the country is essentially back to pre-Covid-19 levels," Bishop writes after analyzing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He used April 2019 to avoid the pandemic downturn.

Since 2020, "Major metro areas have had the strongest job growth," Bishop reports. "Rural America has lagged. In the last year, jobs in rural America grew by just 0.2%. In the major metros, jobs grew by 1.8%."

Bishop cautions against painting with a broad brush: "Job growth and decline are largely local or regional issues. Some places have boomed since 2019, despite the pandemic. Other places are lagging. . . . The rural Mountain West has seen a jobs boom while the oil and gas counties of Texas and North Dakota still have not caught up with 2019 levels."

Gannett cuts back on editorials and editorial pages, vows more local content; pauses planned cuts in print editions

UPDATE, June 9: The Washington Post quotes an internal memo from a committee of Gannett editors, “Readers don’t want us to tell them what to think,” the editors, who come from Gannett newsrooms across the country, declared in an internal presentation. “They don’t believe we have the expertise to tell anyone what to think on most issues. They perceive us as having a biased agenda.”

Editorials were already getting scarce at the newspapers of Gannett Co., and now that applies to the papers' editorial pages, too. "The 250-title chain is cutting back opinion pages to a few days a week while refocusing what opinion is still published to community dialogue," Rick Edmonds reports for The Poynter Institute. Meanwhile, the company has paused a planned cutback in print editions.

Amalie Nash, Gannett's senior vice president for local news and audience development, told Edmonds that reader surveys and an editors' task force "persuaded her and other executives to recommend a new chain-wide pattern as part of Gannett’s push to make digital content its focus. . . . Routine editorials, point-of-view syndicated columns and many commissioned guest essays consistently turn up as the most poorly read articles online. Readers can find a range of opinions on hot national issues on the internet — so replicating that sort of content locally is a waste of time, space and budget." Also, "In the digital space, readers may not easily distinguish opinion pieces from straight news reports."

Nash told Edmonds that the new approach is a strong suggestion, not an edict, to local editors. "Nor is the approach a first step to phasing out editorials entirely, Nash said. Quick response, a strongly expressed position and front-page play will be appropriate at times, she said," adding that an emphatic institutional voice of the paper “resonates more” if done selectively.

In Louisville, where local editorials are a rarity, the change to two editorial pages a week was obliquely announced in the first subhead ("Changes to opinion section in print edition") of a column from Opinion Editor Bonnie Feldkamp, headlined "The Courier Journal is adding more opinion content online and welcomes advisory board."

Asheville Citizen-Times columnist John Boyle objected to the disappearance of weekday editorial pages without an explanation. “I also feel strongly that as a community newspaper that’s all about clear communication and transparency in government, we should have done a better job communicating the change. For that, I apologize to you readers.”

"More objections came from groups representing editorial cartoonists," Edmonds writes. One wrote, “What I wanna know is what does a newspaper become without an editorial page? #pennysaver.”

Edmonds concludes, "My own take is that well-crafted editorials and opinion columns need not come off as lectures, can indicate respect for different viewpoints and always have a strong underpinning of evidence and original reporting. But I get that there probably is a generational divide at play. Older readers, who have stuck with print or e-editions, may — like the retired editors I heard from — view editorial pages as an essential (however much the material is read)."

Meanwhile, Columbia Daily Tribune Editor Kevin Graeler told his Missouri readers Sunday that "all changes to the number of print editions published per week are being paused while the company analyzes new data and takes into consideration valuable input from our subscribers." The Tribune had announced that its print edition would be reduced to three days a week from seven.

Journalists and a grieving community can find it hard to coexist, especially if the town's police force is in question

This is not an uncommon sight in Uvalde, Texas, this month. (Associated Press photo by Jae C. Hong)

The Associated Press reports from Uvalde, Texas: "As a knot of journalists stood across from a mortuary witnessing a funeral for a child killed in the Uvalde school massacre, some people passing by didn’t disguise their anger. 'Y’all are the scum of the Earth,' said one woman, surveying the cameras."

"When tragedy comes to town in the 21st century, the media follows, focusing the world’s eyes on a community during its most difficult hours," AP media reporter David Bauder writes. "Journalists are called upon to explain what happened, and sometimes to ask uncomfortable questions in places where many people want to be left alone to grieve. Is it possible to do it better, to co-exist within a moment no one wants to be part of?

"Tempers have flared in Uvalde. One female journalist was told, 'I hope your entire family dies in a massacre.' Some are threatened with arrest for trespassing while on public property. A group called 'Guardians of the Children' blocked camera views, often with the encouragement of police."

That sort of thing has happened at other school-shooting sites, but tensions are higher in Uvalde. Bauder notes, "Questions raised about the police response to the shooting have lengthened the time the shooting has lingered in the news and increased hostility toward journalists." Guillermo Contereras, a senior writer at the nearby San Antonio Express-News, told AP,  “You have people who are supportive of law enforcement,” Contreras said. “It’s a small town; people know each other. All of a sudden people are pointing fingers at the officers you know, so there’s a division.”

Monsignor Robert Weiss of the town’s St. Rose of Lima Parish "said he found the press respectful and has come to understand the importance of its role," Bauder reports, quoting him: “We needed to get the story out there and we needed to keep this story out there. Because in 10 years, what has changed? If anything, it has gotten worse.”

AP journalists Acacia Coronado, Jae C. Hong, Adriana Gomez Licon, Jay Reeves and Eliot Spagat in Uvalde contributed to Bauder's story from Uvalde.

In rural areas, speaking truth to power, eye to eye and face to face, can come at a personal cost, outspoken writer says

Speaking truth to power can bring a personal cost, columnist Teri Carter of Lawrenceburg, Ky., writes from personal experience for the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Louisville Courier Journal.

Teri Carter
Carter says she was nearly evicted from the Anderson County school board meeting in March because she exceeded the time limit as she read "letters from frustrated teachers who desperately wanted our board to understand the untenable reality of life in the classroom." She reminded the chairman "of the man who often spoke at length in these meetings and was always allowed to finish, a man who was recently banned for wearing a gun in this room." But a deputy sheriff appeared, and she sat down.

Rather than ranting on social media, Carter confronts: "I openly question the actions and intent of public officials in my town. And here is what I can tell you: it comes at a personal cost. Maybe it works differently in urban America, in big, crowded cities where it is easier to feel as anonymous in person as you do online. But I live in small-town, rural Kentucky where it is not only seen as an impolite, personal affront to confront or question someone in power, but in a place deeply rooted in gun culture where many of the people you are criticizing, and the group that agrees with them, are likely carrying guns."

The day after the school board meeting, "I extended my hand in good faith," emailing the superintendent and board members "offering to talk to them privately about the teachers’ letters/concerns. The superintendent responded with an email that began, 'I have spoken with the board attorney.' There would be no more talking. We have not spoken since."

Carter concludes, "The tragedy in Uvalde is overwhelming. We remain furious. We want to scream at cowards like Sen. [Ted] Cruz, but the reality is that we won’t. The cost is too high. So, what ARE we going to do? What is our plan, your plan? How are we going to get guns out of the hands of men who not only kill our kids, but silence the rest of us with the knowledge that they are the ones with the guns?"