Friday, May 26, 2023

Register now for the third National Summit on Journalism in Rural America, set for July 7 in Lexington, Ky., and online

How do rural communities sustain local journalism that supports democracy?

That is the central question of the third National Summit on Journalism in Rural America, to be held July 7 in Lexington, Ky., and online. Registration is required, but is free, at this link

The program will include a wide range of news-industry professionals, academic researchers, journalism funders, and community developers (including some rural journalism start-ups) who realize that communities need local journalism. The program will include:
  • A discussion of journalism innovation and alternative revenue, by Jack Rooney, managing editor for audience development of The Keene Sentinel, a small daily in New Hampshire, and David Woronoff, publisher of The Pilot, a twice-weekly in Southern Pines, N.C.;
  • The latest figures on news deserts and ghost newspapers, with a rural angle, from Zachary Metzger, a researcher at the Medill School at Northwestern University;
  • Presentation of research about community engagement and an experiment in new business models for local journalism by Nick Mathews of the University of Missouri;
  • A publisher's perspective on that ongoing experiment in engagement and new business models, from Joey Young of Kansas Publishing Ventures in Hillsboro, Kan.;
  • A discussion of how to use citizens as news correspondents, including Lynne Campbell of the Community News Brief in Macomb, Ill., and Lindsey Young of KPP, developer of the training program "Earn Your Press Pass;"
  • A discussion of philanthropy for rural journalism,led by Duc Luu of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation;
  • The latest on advocacy of government policies at the state level to help sustain local journalism, from Anna Brugmann of the Rebuild Local News Coalition;
  • A presentation on community building and engagement from the Community Strategies Group of The Aspen Institute;
  • What it's like to stop printing a newspaper and move it to Facebook, from two award-winning rural publishers who felt they had to do that: Laurie Brown of The Canadian Record in Texas and Ryan Craig of the Todd County Standard in Kentucky;
  • A discussion of how university journalism programs can fill gaps in local news coverage, led by Richard Watts of the Center for Community News at the University of Vermont;
  • A presentation from Melissa Cassutt of the Solutions Journalism Network and one of its partners, Casper Star-Tribune government reporter Mary Steurer; 
  • Reports on rural start-ups, including Jennifer P. Brown of the Hoptown Chronicle in Hopkinsville, Ky., and Nicole DeCriscio Bowe, who has local foundation support for her start-up in Spencer, Ind.;
  • A discussion of broader rural news coverage, from The Daily Yonder and Alana Rocha of the Institute for Nonprofit News's Rural News Network;
  • Other presenters, to be announced, and a concluding roundtable.
The Summit is sponsored by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues (publisher of The Rural Blog) at the University of Kentucky. It will be held at The Campbell House Curio hotel on US 68 in Lexington, the same highway that took attendees to the second Summit last June, but this time much closer to Blue Grass Airport. A limited block of rooms is available at $139 per night, through June 23. For registration and hotel information, click here.

In landmark 5-4 ruling, Supreme Court says Environmental Protection Agency can't protect wetlands not tied to streams

Signs posted by the Idaho couple whose building project EPA
blocked, prompting them to file suit. (Associated Press photo)
The U.S. Supreme Court ended one of the longest battles over the Clean Water Act Thursday, ruling 5-4 that the Environmental Protection Agency's power to protect wetlands does not extend as far as the high court said it did in another narrow decision 17 years ago. The decision has "broad ramifications for the environment, agriculture, energy and mining," The Associated Press reports.

At issue was the act's phrase "waters of the United States," or WOTUS, which the court said in 2006 could be regulated if they had a "significant nexus" to nearby waterways. Thursday, in an opinion written by highly conservative Justice Samuel Alito, the court said WOTUS "extends to only those wetlands with a continuous surface connection to bodies that are 'waters of the United States' in their own right so that they are 'indistinguishable' from those waters." Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett joined the opinion.

Conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh dissented, saying the Army Corps of Engineers “has always included in the definition of ‘adjacent wetlands’ not only wetlands adjoining covered waters but also those wetlands that are separated from covered waters by a manmade dike or barrier, natural river berm, beach dune, or the like. . . . We should not create ambiguity where none exists. And we may not rewrite ‘adjacent’ to mean the same thing as ‘adjoining,’ as the Court does today.”

Richard J. Lazarus, a professor of law at Harvard Law School, went back even farther in an op-ed for The Washington Post, citing a unanimous 1985 decision of the court that allowed EPA to protect wetlands. The latest decision "could lead to the removal of millions of miles of streams and millions of acres of wetlands from the law's direct protection," Lazarus writes. Connor Griffin of the Louisville Courier Journal explains, "Generally, wetlands are areas of land covered with water or saturated for some or all of the year. Marshes are an example of this habitat. Boasting biodiversity on par with rainforests and coral reefs, wetlands provide critical habitat for animals like waterfowl, and are a hotbed for plant life."

The case was filed by an Idaho couple who got a local permit 15 years ago build about 300 feet from Priest Lake and filled in part of a wetland with sand and gravel, Reuters reports. The EPA blocked them, they sued, and the high court ruled 9-0 Thursday that EPA overstepped. As the case moved through the courts, Republican and Democratic administrations redefined WOTUS in various ways, some going beyond the wetlands question and generating more court action. "In 2015 the Obama administration widened the scope of the law to cover even ephemeral streams and ponds," Robert Barnes reports for the Post. "The Trump-era EPA repealed the rule and in 2019 created a new, weaker one. The Biden administration has tried to strike a balance by undoing the Trump-era rule and redefining EPA oversight as covering 'traditional navigable waters,' including interstate waterways and upstream water sources that influence the health and quality of those waterways."

At last, the price of eggs is falling; supply exceeds demand

Photo by Hannah Oliver, Unsplash
Oh, Chicken Little, the sky isn't falling, but the price of eggs is! An expert says the decrease is a "supply-and-demand, market-driven tumble," reports Adam Russell of Texas A&M Extension. University economist David Anderson told Russell that he expects the trend to continue.

The price of a dozen eggs peaked in January of 2023 at around $5 and has been declining since. "The Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Marketing Service reported retail eggs nationally were $2.74 per dozen between April 14-20 and were expected to be around $1.08 per dozen this week, Russell reports. "Anderson expects the cost of a dozen eggs will continue to decline in other markets around Texas and the U.S. because wholesale prices are already down to 84 cents per dozen. Prices that are low could be concerning for producers and are likely to trigger thoughts about slowing production growth. Declining costs for feed like soybean meal and corn are also helping livestock and poultry producers and may contribute to even lower prices. . . . The falling wholesale egg prices could be a good indicator that the next Consumer Price Index might show falling retail prices."

Egg producers have been trying to recover their flocks after last year's devasting avian flu. Russell reports, "Egg supplies are still below where production was a year ago, but supplies continue to rise amid declining purchases, Anderson said. Rising supplies and weaker demand are driving egg prices downward. Producers continue to rebuild the table egg-laying flock hit hard by the avian flu outbreak. . . . [Farmers lost] over 43 million laying hens in 47 states. Anderson told him: "Some of the demand issues are seasonal, but consumer response to higher egg prices is also part of it. . . . Meanwhile, egg producers continue to increase production, and the market is responding to the supply and demand factors. It's a good example of how the market works."

It's the start of a long weekend; take a breath and a moment to prioritize mental health, especially if you're a farmer

Roger Wenning and grandson Travis, now gone, spent a day planting.
Perhaps some things need to be repeated to resonate, and reminding farmers and farming families that emotional well-being matters may be one of those items that ought to be on replay.

"Farmers prioritize their livestock, plant and soil health, but among those should also be mental health," Allison Lund reports for Farm Progress. "With stressors so different from other professions, it is increasingly important for farmers to keep mental health top of mind."

Lund's object example is farmer Roger Wenning of Greensburg, Ind. "He has struggled with depression since the loss of his grandson Travis a few years ago and is now focused on sharing his mental health journey to help others," Lund writes. Wennign told her that acknowledging a mental health issue can prompt both supportive and unsupportive responses: "I was told by someone that I trusted, 'You just need to suck it up.' . . . When I was in the deepest of my depression, I got into some situations that were very questionable as far as danger. I could have been hurt or a lot worse."

Lund adds, "When friends started to notice that something was off, they volunteered to drive Wenning to appointments and find resources that could help him. That was when he realized he needed to put his mental health first." Part of his experience was moving past what others might "think about your problem" and prioritizing getting help.

"Wenning explains there is a stigma surrounding mental illness in the farming community, and overcoming that stigma to receive help can prove difficult. Farmers are also typically isolated, which can cause mental health conditions to worsen if left unchecked. . . . During this time, Wenning says he struggled with his faith and found himself angry with God. However, he later found it important to speak with clergy and church members to help with his mental health. He told Lund: "I lost my faith, and working my way back has helped in the healing process. . . . I'm not fully there yet, but I have definitely made strides in the right direction."

To help break down stigma and misunderstanding, "Wenning believes it would be best for mental health to be promoted through field days, flyers at ag businesses and more publicity on the topic," Lund reports. "He also believes that simply being there for friends in need could help tremendously. This can be as simple as talking over the phone." Wenning told her: "Chances are there is a problem, and that's why they called you. They might not be ready to talk, but just sit there and listen."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a list of Farm Stress Resources.

Quick hits: The last seltzer shop; it's not good to be lonely; time to go camping; 'Where's the beef?' . . .

Seltzer bottles (Photo by Juan Arredondo, The New York Times)
Would you like a sip of seltzer? What, pray tell, is seltzer? "A century ago, before it was called sparkling water or club soda, and before it was sold as LaCroix and Spindrift, it was called seltzer. No plastic bottles or aluminum cans magically appeared on grocery shelves. Instead, factories across New York City pumped fizzy water into heavy siphon bottles that were distributed by deliverymen," reports Corey Kilgannon of The New York Times. "Nearly all those seltzer men are gone now; one seltzer works remains."

What happened to all the veggie patties, vegan hot dogs, and sammies with impossible meat? The Washington Post editorial board has some ideas on "Why the fake meat fad fizzled out."

If you feel lonely, you're not alone. Americans might love "the lone wolf mystique" in movies, but it's unhealthy for most humans. "In reality, loneliness in America can be deadly," reports Ted Anthony of The Associated Press. "This month, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy declared it an American epidemic, saying that it takes as deadly a toll as smoking upon the population of the United States."

Devil's Island Lighthouse in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
(Photo by Apostle Islands National Lakeshore via Wis. Public Radio)
The U.S. has 424 national park sites. They span more than 84 million acres, with parks in each state and extending into the territories, but park upkeep is not free; it's downright expensive. Here's how a couple of parks in Wisconsin are dealing with challenges and spending their federal dollars frugally.

The station that could: "For nearly 30 years, a little radio station started in the cornfields of rural Ohio made a name for itself. Now, more than a decade after it played its last song, it's doing that again," reports Liz Carey for The Daily Yonder. "At the end of MayWOXY, known to legions of fans as 97X, will resurrect its 'Modern Rock 500' one last time. It's a tribute, organizers said, to a small-town station that rocked the radio world, first locally, then nationally and beyond." 

Campers set up their tent at the base of the Cascade Mountains
in Oregon. (Photo by Chase Jarvis, Getty Images via National Geographic)
Summer ushers in lots of joys--including camping. Bugs, tents, views, swimming, bug bites, mosquitos, campers, lakes and more majestic scenery--here we come. Here's a way to plan "the ultimate adventure."


Toyota says its biggest plant will use power from 2,500-acre solar installation on old strip-mine site in Eastern Kentucky

By Liam Niemeyer
Kentucky Lantern

Toyota says it plans to purchase half the electricity from a 200-megawatt solar installation being built on a former surface coal mine and brownfield site in Eastern Kentucky.

Toyota said it would use the solar power to offset some of its carbon emissions, and plans to make all its North American operations carbon-neutral by 2035. Its factory complex in Georgetown, Ky., about 110 miles west of the minesite, is is the Japanese company’s largest vehicle manufacturing plant. (There won't be a transmission line between them; the power will go to the regional electric grid, with Toyta acting as a wholesaler.)

The solar installation is being constructed by Savion, a subsidiary of the oil and gas company Shell, with the support of a Kentucky-based renewable energy company founded by former state Auditor Adam Edelen.

“A blockbuster announcement literally years in the making,” Edelen, a Democrat, said on Twitter. “The promise of renewable energy is coming to Appalachian coal country.”

The 2,541-acre project will be built on the former Martiki Mine site in Martin County, which borders West Virginia. Toyota said it expects the installation to be operational in 2024.

The solar development has been in the works for years, with developers previously saying the project could bring hundreds of temporary jobs to the county and state during construction and a few dozen long-term jobs. In a 2021 filing before the state Public Service Commission, the developers also said the project could raise approximately $9 million in local taxes over its lifetime.

David Absher, senior manager of environmental sustainability at Toyota Motor North America, said in a prepared statement that power-purchase agreements such as this one in Martin County can help bring “new opportunities to former coal and energy communities.”

Absher added, “It is important that renewable power is more available to large-scale U.S. energy buyers, and converting brownfields like this offers a path forward for former energy communities to take advantage of the infrastructure they already have with transmission lines while providing clean energy to the grid.”

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Singer Tina Turner, native of tiny Nutbush, Tenn., dies at 83

Tina Turner was born into poverty in rural West Tennessee. She first achieved musical success with her abusive husband Ike Turner, and later became a mid-life, single-act musical icon who earned the title "Queen of Rock 'n' Roll." She died Wednesday at age 83.

Born Anna Mae Bullock in the crossroads hamlet of Nutbush, Tenn., she met St. Louis band leader Ike Turner and married him in 1962. Turner was the lead singer in the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, and the band released bold R&B tunes like "Nutbush City Limits" and famous covers like Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Proud Mary." The couple achieved notable success opening for the Rolling Stones U.S. tour in 1969 and gaining a "certified gold" album in 1974 for "What You Hear Is What You Get." Still, the relationship soured as Ike became heavily addicted to cocaine. Tina divorced Ike in 1978.

Turner in 1970 (Wikipedia photo)
If the first half of Turner's performance career was dynamic, the second half, which began in the early 1980s, was a dynamite explosion of talent and musical energy that surprised the industry and rocketed Turner to her iconic status. In 1984, she crooned, churned and blasted audiences with her album Private Dancer, which sold over 10 million, won three Grammy awards. The album included her only number one hit, "What's Love Got to Do With It," a song that personified much of the Turner's saga of struggle and triumph.

Turner became a global star also known for her acting role alongside Mel Gibson in "Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome." In 2018, she received the Grammy Life Achievement Award. As Turner aged, she kept creating music, writing a musical, several books and collaborating with international artists. In October 2021, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She spent her last years in Zurich, Switzerland.

Here is The New York Times' list of Turner's "11 essential songs." From across the Atlantic, The Economist sees one state: "There are very few living American singers whose work springs from a distant, lost past. Dolly Parton, a titan of country music, was born in a one-room cabin by Little Pigeon River in Tennessee. Tina Turner, born Anna Mae Bullock, grew up in Nutbush, Tennessee, where her father oversaw sharecroppers; she had childhood memories of working in the cotton fields. Before she died on May 24, she was a link to the forces that shaped the blues and country and rock’n’roll." Here's Nutbush on a Google map:

The vast gaps between deaths of black and white babies in Southern states look like a crisis with no clear solution

Photo by E+, Getty Images, via KFF Health News
Black babies in Southern states have a much higher risk of dying in their first year than white infants. The South is "where infant mortality is by far the highest in the country, with Mississippi's rate of 8.12 deaths per 1,000 live births ranking worst. . . . Nationally, the average is about 1% for Black infants and less than 0.5% for white infants," reports Lauren Sausser of KFF Health News. Even Southern states making progress still have big gaps: "In Florida and North Carolina, the Black infant mortality rate is more than twice as high."

The figures "reflect politics," Sausser writes. "They're a direct product of generational poverty and racism. . . . Often, babies die under circumstances that state, communities, and parents can help control, like making sure infants don't suffocate in beds or in unsafe cribs or extending health coverage so that young women can afford to see a doctor before they become pregnant. In many of these respects, the South is failing."

Addressing the problem means understanding the causes, and that has been difficult. "Multimillion-dollar programs to improve South Carolina's numbers over the past decade have failed," Sausser reports. "To make things more complicated, separate state agencies have reached different conclusions about the leading cause of infant death." To address prenatal care deficits, "South Carolina and several other states recently extended postpartum Medicaid coverage for women who give birth, which means their coverage remains in place for one year after delivery. Historically, Medicaid coverage was cut off 60 days after having a baby," Sausser writes. "Even when they become pregnant and are newly eligible for Medicaid, it isn't unusual for women in South Carolina to put off seeing a doctor until the third trimester, physicians told KFF Health News. These women can't afford to take time off work, can't find child care, or don't have a car, among other reasons."

It can be too hot to get to sleep; lost sleep contributes to poorer overall health and healing in humans

Screenshot of interactive map by Kasha Patel, The Washington Post, from CDC data

Google "It's too hot to sleep," and you'll find a myriad of articles teaming with a frustrating truth: If it's too warm, the human body does not want to doze. And with temperatures rising, sleeplessness is already a chronic problem in the U.S., reports Kasha Patel of The Washington Post. "A study estimates people are already losing an average of 44 hours of sleep per year."

The study by Nick Obradovich, a political science Ph.D. student at the University of California, points to a population that needs more rest and less heat. "Humans are already losing shut-eye in warm environments, especially at the beginning of the night. . . . . In his study looking at 47,000 adults in 68 countries, Obradovich and his colleagues found a notable change in sleep duration when nighttime temperatures rose above 50 degrees. On nights above 86 degrees, people slept about 14 minutes less on average. . . . Over longer chunks of time, the loss is stark: They estimate people are already losing an average of 44 hours of sleep per year. . . . Nights have warmed faster than daytime temperatures in many places around the globe. By 2100, individuals worldwide could lose about 50 to 58 hours of sleep per year."

Obradovich told Patel, “Right now, we’re not perfectly adapted to the climates in which we live. . . Hotter temperatures “harm our sleep kind of across the board, but that relationship increases in steepness. It becomes more significant in size the hotter the temperature gets.” Patel points out, "Not getting enough shut-eye can increase our risk for many serious health issues such as poor mental health, obesity, heart problems or even early death. . . . For instance, Rebecca Robbins, a scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital said our blood pressure dips to its lowest point in the day during our sleep. But without that natural dip, people are more likely to have elevated blood pressure, which can accelerate into hypertension, heart attack or stroke." Robins told her, "When we’re not meeting these sleep health targets, a lot of things start to go wrong. With more than just a night or two, this can become pretty problematic pretty quickly, putting stress on our vital organs, increasing risk for adverse outcomes and chronic conditions.”

People can try to regulate bedroom temperatures to help themselves fall asleep more quickly. Patel reports, "The ideal bedroom temperature for people to fall asleep is relatively cold — between 63 to 69 degrees. A drop in our core body temperature is essential for us falling and staying asleep because it simulates drowsiness. . . . Obradovich and his colleagues found unusually warm temperatures had the largest effect on people’s bedtime duration by delaying sleep onset. Short sleep durations were the worst during the summertime and among the elderly, probably because they have more difficulty regulating their body temperature. . . . . Lower income countries are also heavily affected, which Obradovich hypothesizes could be because of a lack of air-conditioning. But he plans to investigate further."

Many of us never interact with people of another race and don't like interacting with those who don't share their politics

Photo by Anthony Garand, Unsplash
For some Americans, variety is not the spice of life; they'd rather not mingle with anyone they consider different. Instead, they value "sameness, not difference," reports Emma Green of The Atlantic. "Most Americans do not live in a totalizing bubble. They regularly encounter people of different races, ideologies, and religions. For the most part, they view these interactions as positive or at least neutral. Yet according to a new study by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic, a significant minority of Americans do not live this way. They seldom or never meet people of another race. They dislike interacting with people who don't share their political beliefs. And when they imagine the life they want for their children, they prize sameness, not difference."

This seems to be a disproportionately rural phenomenon, based on a poll taken for PRRI and The Atlantic in December. "People living in rural areas were significantly less likely than those in cities to encounter racial, religious, or political difference," Green reports. "And among white people, education level made a huge difference: Those without a college degree were more than twice as likely as their college-educated peers to say they rarely encounter people of a different race, and more than four times as likely to say they seldom or never encounter people from a different religion or political party."

When it comes to politics, "Just under a quarter of Americans say they seldom or never interact with people who don't share their partisan affiliation," Green reports. "Black and Hispanic people were more likely than whites to describe their lives this way, although education made a big difference among whites: 27 percent of non-college-educated whites said they seldom or never encounter people from a different political party, compared with just 6 percent of college-educated whites."

Merriam-Webster defines pluralism as "a state of society in which members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious, or social groups maintain and develop their traditional culture or special interest within the confines of a common civilization." In theory, pluralism supports democracy, Green writes: "In a political era when the vast majority of Americans believe the country is divided over issues of race, politics, and religion, [pluralistic] relationships across lines of difference could foster empathy and civility." However, "These survey results suggest that Americans are deeply ambivalent about the role of diversity in their families, friendships, and civic communities. Some people, it seems, prefer to stay in their bubble."

People may opt to stay within their political or social group because of poor past experiences. "Almost one in five of the survey respondents said their interactions with people of a different political party are negative. . . . Party affiliation influences not just how people vote, but cultural decisions such as what to buy or watch on television," Green reports. Lilliana Mason, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland, told Green, "As these other social identities have moved into alignment with partisanship, we're seeing more animosity across partisan lines—not necessarily because we're disagreeing about things, but because we believe the [person from the] other party is an outsider, socially and culturally, from us."

Multiculturalism is a point of vast political divides. "In the survey, 54 percent of Democrats said they prefer the United States to be made up of people from a wide variety of religions, compared with 12 percent of Republicans. By contrast, 40 percent of Republicans said they'd prefer a nation mostly made up of Christians, compared with 14 percent of Democrats," Green writes.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Diapers' cost can strain poor families' budgets; Tennessee becomes the first state to have Medicaid pay for them

Volunteers stack hundreds of diapers at the Nashville Diaper
Connection. (Photo by Mark Zalesk, The Tennessean)
Babies need plenty of naps and diapers. Naps are free, but diapers? Buying diapers at an average cost of $80 a month often stresses family budgets, but poor families in Tennessee may be getting some help. "Tennessee could soon be the first state in the nation to cover part of the cost of diapers for babies on the state's Medicaid program," reports Vivian Jones of The Tennessean. "With funding approved last month by the state legislature, TennCare is working to implement a benefit offering half of the diapers a baby needs for the first two years of life. The benefit is expected to be in place by January 2024. . . . Funding for the benefit comes from the $330 million in savings the state realized by restructuring how the state receives Medicaid funding from the federal government." (The impact won't be as great as it could be; Tennessee is one of the 10 states that has not expanded Medicaid to househols with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.)

The need and expense of diapers are a shared pain for most parents. Danielle Cast, a single mom working two jobs, told Jones, "You need diapers all the time – you can't not have them. When you don't have them, and you need them, it's a heck of an emergency." Jones reports, "Casto is one of about 4,500 parents in Middle Tennessee served by the Nashville Diaper Connection – Tennessee's largest and oldest diaper bank." Despite help from such non-profits, more diapers are needed, Jones writes: "Unlike food, diapers are not targeted by any in-kind federal assistance program – no food stamps or WIC benefits cover them. About one in three families in Middle Tennessee struggle to provide the diapers their infants need. . . . Without enough diapers to keep a baby clean and dry, infants are at higher risk for diaper dermatitis and urinary tract infections. . . . Most daycare facilities require parents to provide a day's worth of diapers for their child – which poses a significant burden to families facing financial insecurity."

Casto told Jones that the new benefit "is going to be an extraordinary help. Lots of parents struggle with bills or their groceries – being able to have half your diapers already, it takes off half the burden, and it'll allow you to buy groceries that you might need, or gas that day, or medication for your children. . . . It's rough, especially the way that inflation has gone up recently – nobody planned for that. It's hard for parents to go and tell everyone how bad they're struggling – like, 'I don't have groceries' or 'I don't have diapers.' It's not something someone wants to brag about. It's uncomfortable, it's embarrassing – it's hard."

Doug Adair, founder of the Nashville Diaper Connection, told Jones, "It's a stupid, broken economic system: we want you to support your family, we want you to have a great job, and a solid career and go to school – but people really don't want to talk about diapers. . . . You can't buy diapers with food stamps. You can't buy diapers with WIC. You can't leave a day's worth of diapers [at daycare]? No daycare. No daycare? No work." Jones reports, "Adair said TennCare's new diaper benefit is something he's been hoping to see for a long time." Adair added, "It's essential. It's basic. It's empowering. It's a little burden off."

Increasing farmland prices can be hard on younger farmers

USDA photo via Successful Farming
As the average value of farmland keeps rising despite headwinds, it's harder for younger farmers to expand, reports Patrick Cooley of Successful Farming. "When Florida farmer Jeb Smith retires, he wants to leave his son Jared with some financial security, which means adding property to his 800-acre peanut, sod, cattle, and tilapia farm. Skyrocketing property values stand in his way." The father easked, "Can he afford to secure more? As a young 27-year-old, it's getting more difficult to compete." Cooley adds, "Jared shares his father's desire for more land, but as the suburbs of cities expand toward the family farm, his own dreams are pushed further out of reach."

Cooley explains: "Farmers across the nation face similar hardships after the average value of agricultural land rose to $5,050 per acre in 2022, a 14.3% increase compared to 2021, according to a USDA land survey. . . . . Florida, where ag land prices increased 10%, is hardly the most striking example. Prices rose 25% in Kansas, 21% in Iowa, 21% in Nebraska, 17% in Minnesota, and 19% in South Dakota."

The reasons for the increases vary, Cooley reports: "In Florida, developers pushed out farmers as suburbs grew and white-collar workers, newly empowered to work from home, looked for homes outside of congested cities, says Daniel Munch, an American Farm Bureau Federation economist." Kent Thiesse, senior vice president at MinnStar Bank in Minnesota said the main reason in the Midwest is "strong profit levels in (corn and soybean) production in the last two to three years."

Another reason: The amount of available land is decreasing. Muench told Cooley, "Populations are increasing, and folks are moving around. That pushes out agriculture." Cooley reports, "Some farmers like Smith pin the blame on wealthy, out-of-state developers gobbling up farmland for housing or solar arrays, but Thiesse says farmland buyers in the Midwest are overwhelmingly local. . . . Austin Charlson, an Iowa farmer who also sells property, sees wealthy investors at land auctions. 'But then there's also been two or three neighbors to that farm, and they're the ones pushing each other.'"

For established farmers, the cost of expansion is more doable. "Buying more land is a quick path to higher profit margins," Cooley writes. But for younger farmers, the cost of initial inputs like tractors and other equipment is also increasing. To help cover those costs, Charlson told Cooley, "You want to spread that cost over more acres, and that way, you can justify updating your machinery." Younger farmers may not have those options. Cooley reports, "Farmers who lease a portion of their fields are also feeling the pinch as land owners hike cash rents, Munch said. . . . Nearly 40% of U.S. farmland is rented or leased, according to the Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service." Munch told Cooley, "That's a barrier to entry for a lot of folks."

Ford does a U-turn; all its vehicles will still have AM radio

Photo by Caleb White, Unsplash
If you were looking at buying a new Ford vehicle, especially if you travel out yonder, you will probably be glad to learn that Ford Motor Co. has changed its tune on AM radio and will include it in all its cars, trucks and SUVs, reports Tom Krisher and Wyatte Grantham-Philips of The Associated Press. "CEO Jim Farley wrote in social media postings Tuesday that the company is reversing a decision to scrub the band after speaking with government policy leaders who are concerned about keeping emergency alerts that often are sounded on AM stations." Farley wrote on Twitter, "We've decided to include it on all 2024 Ford and Lincoln vehicles. For any owners of Ford's EVs without AM broadcast capability, we'll offer a software update."

"The move comes after a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers introduced a bill Wednesday calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require AM in new vehicles at no additional cost. . . . . Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., one of the bill's sponsors, said eight of 20 major automakers including Ford, BMW and Tesla have pulled the band from new vehicles," Krisher and Grantham-Philips write. The Kentucky Broadcasters Association reports, "Sponsors of the 'AM for Every Vehicle Act' cited public safety concerns, noting AM's historic role in transmitting vital information during emergencies, such as natural disasters, especially to rural areas."

Amplitude-modulation radio continues to have a dynamic public presence. "With tens of millions of listeners, it serves as a vital lifeline to the public and a critical source of community news and exchange of diverse ideas," KBA reports. "The National Association of Broadcasters commends Ford for this commitment, which will keep Americans safe and informed, particularly in times of emergency. . . . In light of Ford's announcement, NAB urges other automakers who have removed AM radio from their vehicles to follow Ford's lead and restore this technology in the interest of listeners and public safety. . . . Supporters of the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act. . . are helping to shine a light on the need to keep this critical service in all cars."

Rural diabetics at Mayo had worse health results than urban ones, maybe because they see doctors and specialists less

Rural diabetics have slightly worse health outcomes than their urban counterparts, perhaps because they see diabetes specialists and other doctors less frequently, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Their study looked at 45,279 Mayo patients with a five-part standard for diabetes care called the D5 metric: absence of tobacco usage, maintaining hemoglobin A1C levels below 8%, keeping blood pressure below 140/90, using statin drugs, and taking aspirin. Forty percent of the rural patients met all five criteria while 43% of the urban patients did. 

"Rural patients had a lower average number of outpatient visits (3.2 visits) in contrast to urban patients (3.9 visits)," Mayo reports. "Furthermore, rural patients had fewer visits to endocrinologists, with only 5.5% attending such appointments, whereas 9.3% of urban patients did. . . . The researchers reached the conclusion that rural patients experienced poorer quality outcomes in managing their diabetes compared to urban patients, despite both groups being part of the same integrated health system. The study team speculated that the lower frequency of visits and limited access to specialty care in rural areas could be potential factors contributing to this disparity. . . . The authors of the study argue that broader interventions are necessary to enhance the quality of care provided by doctors to patients with diabetes residing in rural areas."

Flora/fauna nibbles: Time to bake with rhubarb; bison hunters; it's okay to feed the birds; eat more beans

Photo by Monika Grabkowska, Unsplash
Spring produce is here, and it's time to celebrate that tart, celery-like stalk that blends with strawberries and apples like they're best friends. Chopped and sugared into delicious jam, pie or puddings. . . . go to the market or out into your yard and gather some rhubarb! Here are 10 recipes to get your sweet and sour taste buds singing.

Turtles can be tricky. "We thought we knew turtles, but this newfound behavior may offer a clue to how these reptiles will respond to a warming planet," reports Jessica Taylor Price of National Geographic. "On a warm spring night . . .two scientists settled into a canoe . . . they made their way through the water. . . . . They noticed something odd: Krefft's river turtles basking in the moonlight, just as they do during the day. But when they asked around after that evening in 2017, they found that other scientists hadn't heard of turtles basking at night, and there were no studies on the behavior."

A crab (Mississippi Dept. of Marine Resources image)

Would you like a used crab trap? Not really. "Derelict crab traps harm wildlife and disrupt other fishers, especially shrimpers. Bulky crab traps get caught in shrimping nets, tearing them open or blocking them from catching shrimp. Frustrated shrimpers, with nowhere to put the smelly traps, generally just throw them back, continuing the cycle," reports Ilima Loomis of Haiki magazine. "A group in Mississippi has found a solution: paying shrimpers a U.S. $5 bounty to collect and recycle derelict crab traps. In just three years, the program has removed almost 3,000 crab traps from Mississippi waters."

Beans can be the last thing left on a child's plate and the brunt of jokes, but they pack nutritional power. "Beans are high in protein, efficient to grow, and can even improve soil health. They cost less than conventional or new plant-based meats, and they're increasingly getting attention among foodies," reports Julieta Cardenas for Vox. "As one global campaign to double bean consumption by 2028 frames it, the answer to the question of how we can get inexpensive protein without sacrificing animals or the planet is simple: 'Beans is how.'"

Summer heat is coming, and along with it comes an increased likelihood of walking by a pet stuck in a heating car. The feeling of worry and then stress over your next move has a solution, "See a dog locked in a hot car? Here's what you can do," reports Rachel Fobar of National Geographic. "Several U.S. states allow bystanders to intervene when animals are trapped inside hot vehicles."

Photo by Louis Johns, The Washington Post
"A group of Yakama hunters gave us a rare glimpse into their yearly ritual. . . . Deer and elk were no problem for Kashius Gleason. The 19-year-old member of the Yakama Nation had hunted plenty. . . Standing in freezing temperatures at the doorstep of Yellowstone at daybreak, he was nervous as a herd of bison trekked out of the park. He had driven 16 hours with his family to get to this snowy basin and didn't want to miss. . . . Now Gleason's people are among a handful of tribes hunting bison again. By exercising hunting rights enumerated in an 1855 treaty, the Yakama are able to maintain an ancient cultural relationship with the animals," reports Dino Grandoni of The Washington Post.

Do North Atlantic right whales sniff out their meals? Maybe. Elizabeth Preston of Hakai magazine reports, "Right whales are baleen whales, which means they fuel their massive bodies with minute crustaceans that they filter from gulps of seawater. We know what they eat, says David Wiley, a marine ecologist." He told Preston, "We don't really know how whales find their food." Preston explains, "Wiley says his preliminary data from this and other recent experiments show that right whales—as well as another species called sei whales—are more likely to turn up in areas with higher DMS [molecule made by phytoplankton], suggesting they sniff the chemical out.

Photo by Julian Avery for The Conversation
"Millions of Americans feed wild birds, especially in winter and spring. Studies show that this can influence birds' health and behavior in surprising ways," reports Julian Avery for The Conversation, a platform for journalism by academics. "There is still much to learn about the risks and benefits of feeding birds, particularly through large integrated national citizen science networks like Project FeederWatch. But we now have enough information to promote healthy interactions that can inspire future generations to care about conservation." 

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

School shootings have risen dramatically since 2017; they may make students think about survival instead of studies

Includes any incident when a gun is "brandished, is fired, or a bullet hits school property for any reason."
Graph by Tory Lysik of AxiosVisuals, based on data from Center for Homeland Defense and Security

Wednesday, May 24, is the one-year anniversary of the killing of 19 children at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. It brings to mind this imagined teacher-and-student question and answer:
Teacher: What would you like to be when you grow up?
Student: If I get shot at school, I won't be anything.

That may sound overly dramatic, but statistics can suggest otherwise. "More than 1,000 incidents involving firearms have shaken America's schools since 2018 — a dramatic increase over any similar period since at least 1970, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database," reports Erin Doherty of Axios. "Guns are the leading cause of death for U.S. children and teens and firearms accounted for nearly 19% of childhood deaths in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control. . . . Gun-related incidents such as gun suicides and gun murders, reached record levels in 2021 and 'swatting" calls,' or fake reports of shootings or bombs that prompt SWAT team responses and lockdowns, are rising." Sarah Burd-Sharps, the senior director of research at Everytown, told Doherty, "The threat of gun violence has become a constant in children's lives in this country, and we're seeing the impact of it."

While an in-school shooting does not scar every pupil, most students are engaged in training to deal with one, which can interfere with student concentration and a sense of safety. "Nearly all (98%) K-12 public schools reported drilling students on lockdown procedures as of the 2019-2020 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics," Doherty writes. "Ninety-six percent of schools reported having written procedures for an active shooter incident. . . . Research suggests safety measures can effectively prevent gun-related incidents, but they risk disrupting the norms of the school day and have become controversial among some parents and activists." Burds-Sharps pointed out to Doherty, "At nine o'clock [students] have to hide in the bathroom for long periods and be silent and then at 10 o'clock, they need to learn math. . . . It's not a recipe for America's schoolchildren to learn and to achieve in school and to be able to focus and to concentrate."

Gun deaths remain racially divided. "Black children and teens disproportionately bore the burden of gun violence and were about five times as likely as white kids to die from gunfire in 2021, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of CDC data," Doherty reports. "While guns became the leading cause of death for all American children in 2020, they have been the leading cause of death for Black children for over a decade. Dr. Katie Donnelly, a pediatric emergency medicine physician, told Doherty that she interacts "with a lot of kids who really aren't thinking about what they want to be when they grow up because they don't expect that they're going to grow up."

Many Western wildfires can be traced to carbon emissions and attributed to energy companies, new study concludes

The Mosquito fire in El Dorado County, Califonia, was the state's
largest wildfire in 2022. (Photo by Noah Berger, The Associated Press)
Fire needs heat, a fuel source, and plenty of oxygen. It's the same recipe for all fires, but climate change has made the Western U.S. hotter and drier--resulting in an over-abundance of two of those elements. "Almost 40% of forest area burned by wildfire in the western United States and southwestern Canada in the last 40 years can be attributed to carbon emissions associated with the world's 88 largest fossil-fuel producers and cement manufacturers, according to new research that seeks to hold oil-and-gas companies accountable for their role in climate change," reports Alex Wigglesworth of the Los Angeles Times. "In findings published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the authors concluded that the emissions generated in the extraction of fossil fuels and the burning of those fuels have increased the amount of land burned by wildfire by raising global temperatures and amplifying dry conditions across the West. . . . This growing dryness, or aridification, has caused the atmosphere to become 'thirstier' for water, draining moisture from trees and brush and causing them to become more vulnerable to fire."

Study author Kristina Dahl told Wigglesworth, "We hope that people who are in communities that have been affected by wildfires will see this work and think about whether they want to hold these companies accountable." Wigglesworth explains. "To quantify the impact of the fossil fuel industry on wildfires, Dahl and her colleagues built on previous research that has shown that carbon emissions traced to the top 88 fossil fuel producers and cement manufacturers — including Exxon Mobil, BP, Chevron and Shell — have contributed significantly to the average temperature by which the Earth has warmed."

Wigglesworth reports, "The researchers found that changes in global mean temperature are positively linked with changes in the Western North American vapor-pressure deficit, a measure of how effectively the air can dry out plants and vegetation that ultimately become fuel for wildfires, Dahl said . . . . The researchers then estimated that emissions from the major carbon producers contributed to 48% of the increase in the vapor-pressure deficit observed over the last 120 years. Previous research has shown that this rise is strongly associated with increased burned forest lands in the Western U.S. and southwestern Canada."

The research is another landmark in the evolving study of climate change. "Up until relatively recently, the public posture of the climate-science community was that no individual extreme event could be attributed to global warming, said Noah Diffenbaugh, climate scientist at Stanford University, who was not involved in the study," Wigglesworth explains. "That changed in the early 2000s, and extreme-event attribution has since become a robust sub-field of climate science, he said. . . . Although the sub-field does not exist to provide data for legal actions, it in some ways arose from questions of law, he said. . . . Since then, attribution research has served as a foundation for liability lawsuits filed against fossil-fuel companies. . . . Asked to comment on the findings, a spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association said that 'demonization' of the fossil fuel industry would not bring solutions."

Wigglesworth adds, "Last month, in what was seen as a major victory for plaintiffs, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear appeals from oil and gas companies that were seeking to have lawsuits over climate change filed by state and local governments moved to federal courts. The decision cleared a path for dozens of similar lawsuits to be heard in state courts, where communities that are suing are believed to have better chances of winning sizable damages." Diffenbaugh told Wigglesworth, "What this study shows is that using existing peer-reviewed methods, it is possible to rigorously trace the contributions from the source of emissions to the impacts."

Even in death, the Rev. Tim Keller challenges Christians to think broadly and widely – and to not blend politics and faith

Keller’s passing leaves a void.
(Photograph by José A. Alvarado Jr, Redux)
How can we begin to fix a world so fractured? The life, faith-filled words and writings of the late pastor Tim Keller, who died at 72 Friday, may provide a "blueprint" of what healing might look like, suggests Michael Luo in The New Yorker. He says Keller was "perhaps the most gifted communicator of historically orthodox Christian teachings in the country," and in The New York Times, conservative columnist David Brooks calls him "one of the most important theologians and greatest preachers of our time," two things that rarely coincide. 

Luo recalls a visit to Keller's Redeemer Presbyterian Church when he was the Times' religion reporter: "He stood well over six feet tall. . . . His mannerisms and tone were that of an English professor. With a sheaf of notes on a music stand, he preached a thoughtful disquisition on Jesus' healing of a paralyzed man, drawing on readings from C. S. Lewis, the Village Voice, and the George MacDonald fairy tale The Princess and the Goblin." Brooks recalls, "Tim could draw on a vast array of intellectual sources to argue for the existence of God, to draw piercing psychological insights from the troubling parts of Scripture or to help people through moments of suffering."

Keller had a résumé that resembled that of perhaps no other Christian minister in America. "Early in his career he pastored a church in the small town of Hopewell, Va., where only 5 percent of the high school graduates went on to college," Brooks notes. Luo reports, "In the late 1980s, officials with the Presbyterian Church in America, a relatively young denomination based in a suburb of Atlanta, began searching for a pastor to start a congregation in Manhattan. . . . Only after two other candidates also declined did he agree to take the job. His limited preaching experience in a small-town church in the Bible Belt made him an unlikely fit for New York City. Within three years of its founding, however, Redeemer had swelled from 50 people to 1,000. By the mid-aughts, it had become a beacon, around the world, for pastors interested in ministering to cosmopolitan audiences." By 2017, it "had more than 5,000 worshippers across multiple services every Sunday, making it one of the largest Protestant churches in New York City. Keller also was a best-selling author, publishing more than twenty books, including 2008's The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, and writing regularly for major publications such as the Times, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker."

Keller avoided blending religious teaching and politics, Luo reports: "In a 2017 Times op-ed, Keller explained that he had come of age in the early '70s, when 'the word evangelical still meant an alternative to the fortress mentality of fundamentalism.' But the meaning of the term had changed radically, no longer describing a set of historic Christian doctrines. 'Evangelical used to denote people who claimed the high moral ground,' he wrote. 'Now, in popular usage, the word is nearly synonymous with hypocrite.'. . . He expressed optimism for a future shaped not by white evangelicalism, whose core was aging and declining, but by a more diverse, global cadre of leaders who defied political categorization." In a later Times op-ed, he warned that Christian faith should never be aligned with a single political party."

So now, as the prophet Isaiah quoted God, the question is "Whom shall I send?" Keller left some words to live by, including a farewell essay in The Atlantic. "One of his final projects, completed earlier this year, was an 83-page white paper called "The Decline and Renewal of the American Church," Luo reports. "It offers a wide-ranging set of prescriptions for what he viewed as the profound afflictions of the evangelical movement. . . . The document is an exhaustive blueprint, but the question now is who will carry it out. Keller's passing leaves a void in the nascent movement to reform evangelicalism, and today's social and political currents make the prospects for change seem dim. . . . Keller observed that, in the past, significant revival movements in Europe and North America often began with 'pace-setting individuals'––in other words, people like Keller. Yet he was careful to add that 'ultimately no one can control' what would capture the imagination, fortify the spirit, and become 'an organic, significant movement.' In his view, this was the role of the divine."

Rural-to-rural partnerships can help secure federal funding

The downtown of rural Mitchell, Oregon, population 148.
(Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash)
Through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the federal government has made millions of dollars of development funding available. Still, the rub for rural communities is finding ways to apply and win awards, Kathleen Flanagan and Jerry Neal Kenney report for The Daily Yonder . "Across the country, communities are competing to access the unprecedented funding. . . . Metro areas across the U.S. are engaged in all-hands-on-deck efforts. . . . to pull down every possible dollar their cities may qualify for . . . . As has been documented repeatedly, though, the nonprofits and other civic agencies that comprise the much leaner and overburdened civic infrastructure of rural places are at a disadvantage when navigating complex bureaucracies and applying for federal funds. . . . According to the report 'Pathways to Securing Rural Federal Funding,' the greatest challenges facing rural-serving entities are limitations in the following: Staffing capacity, expertise, including the technical knowledge and tools to identify opportunities, confirm eligibility, capture appropriate data and write compelling applications, and external resources to satisfy common grant cost share and match requirements."

With those challenges in mind, rural communities may feel like gaining grant dollars is a classic case of you can't win with a losing hand, but "Two of the largest rural-focused private foundations in the U.S., the Ford Family Foundation and the T.L.L. Temple Foundation, are using rural-to-rural collaboration to generate scalable solutions that create a more level playing field for rural communities seeking new development pathways," the Yonder reports. In one example, "Concerned that its rural Oregon service area would continue to miss out on federal investment opportunities, the Ford Family Foundation stepped forward to find solutions. The foundation hosted a discussion with federal grant writers. . . . retained Sequoia Consulting to conduct in-depth research. . . . Via the Ford Family Foundation's partnership with the Oregon Economic Development Districts, a toolbox was created so that all rural Oregon communities can better navigate, compete for for and secure federal funding opportunities."

"Seeking a space to concentrate on rural philanthropy coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, the staff of the Ford Family Foundation and the T.L.L. Temple Foundation began participating in regular virtual meetings in 2021 to share philanthropic strategies and ideas focused on their respective rural service areas in Oregon and East Texas," the Yonder reports. "During one of the collaborative sessions, Kathleen Flanagan, at the Ford Family Foundation presented the rural toolkit developed by Sequoia Consulting. Jerry Kenney, program officer with the T.L.L. Temple Foundation, recognized that the barriers to securing funding that Kathleen described for Oregon were the same barriers holding back rural East Texas. . . . Kathleen connected Jerry to Sequoia Consulting. . . . . After months of collaboration and bringing new partners together, a grant prospecting list and a grant writer roster have been launched for rural communities across Texas hosted by Texas Rural Funders."

The tools and relationships serve as a launch pad for other rural areas. "The Ford Family Foundation and the T.L.L. Temple Foundation continue to push new ideas to strengthen the capacity of rural residents and institutions," the Yonder notes. "More models are emerging, such as targeted rapid-response teams of experienced professionals and consultants to augment rural development efforts, and investments in intermediary organizations that can help pull in and aggregate diverse public, private and philanthropic funds."

News-media roundup: Gannett exec vows, 'We are going to save local journalism', but what about ghost newspapers?

Rebuild Local News Coalition map, adapted by The Rural Blog

Some of the money Congress appropriated for high-speed internet service should also go toward improving local news coverage, because nearly half of the "news deserts" in the U.S. are also "broadband deserts," write Steven Waldman, head of the Rebuild Local News Coalition, and Penn State Professor Christiopher Ali. In formal comments to the Commerce Department, they point out the "double deserts" and suggest guidelines for a grant program for local news outlets.
Gannett Co. has named Michael A. Anastasi, vice president of The Tennessean and USA Today South Region editor, to lead what it calls an "effort to transform the growth trajectory for hundreds of local newspapers. He will implement Chief Content Officer Kristin Roberts' “Project Breakthrough,” which the company says "focuses on key growth areas to increase nationwide audience, including opinion columns, newsletters, service journalism, breaking news and audience engagement." Roberts said, “We are going to save local journalism, and we’re going to do it by working together with absolutely clear eyes about the challenge and tremendous speed toward the solution. When we place the reader at the very center of our business plan, we begin to prioritize what the reader wants and needs.” (Gannett just posted a job for a local fact-check reporter who can work from anywhere.)

Mary Jo Hotzler
Gannett's announcement raises questions about what it will do with its many "ghost newspapers," which no longer have a physical presence in their communities. Editor & Publisher's Gretchen Peck has a feature on that today; one of her examples is St. Cloud, Minn., where Fargo-based Forum Communications, which has three papers within an hour's drive, has started St. Cloud Focus, a website, a newsletter and a monthly print edition to compete with Gannett's St. Cloud Times, which at one point this year had no reporters and now has only one. Forum's chief content officer, Mary Jo Hotzler, said she went to St. Cloud to talk with leaders, and and “It was loud and clear to me that they wanted a local news organization. They wanted local headlines. It was not lost on them that those were gone. People were not indifferent about local news in this community.”

In Macomb, Ill., Gannett "did not renew the McDonough County Voice’s lease at the end of March 2023," reports TriStates Public Radio. "A city that 20 years ago boasted two daily newspapers with physical buildings and 'boots on the ground' now had none." Enter former Voice publisher Lynne Campbell, who created the Community News Brief in 2017 and has eight correspondents. "It publishes three times a week. Hard copies are mailed to about 2,000 subscribers on Tuesdays and Fridays, and a free copy is available at dozens of locations around town on Wednesdays," Alex Degman reports.

In Oregon, "The Eugene Register-Guard, once one of the best newspapers in the region, today has no local editor, no publisher, no physical newsroom and little love from a dismayed citizenry. The news staff that once exceeded 80 now stands at six," Jeff Manning of The Oregonian reports in a comprehensive story. "Few media companies have shown Gannett’s willingness to cut staff to skeletal levels. . . . Since 2019, total employment has declined from 21,255 to 11,200."

The Institute for Nonprofit News has launched the Rural News Network to "bring some deeper reporting" to news deserts and places with ghost papers. "The network includes 68 nonprofit newsrooms of all sizes, and was piloted starting in 2021," reports the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. "Funding comes from Knight Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Walton Family Foundation and others, with a collaborative focus on topics such as health equity, water scarcity and education."
Perry Bacon Jr., a Louisville-based columnist for The Washington Post, lists seven news outlets "reimagining political journalism," including States Newsroom, which now has outlets in 34 states and partnerships in most others. "So much is happening at the state level and there are so few reporters in most capitals, these operations are extremely valuable. I subscribe to the newsletter for the Kentucky Lantern and read it every day." SN Publisher Chris Fitzsimon told Bacon, “In many states, we have more reporters in the capital year-round than any other news organization.”
Carter and Sarah Newton sold the Galena Gazette in northwest Illinois to employee-owned Woodward Communications of nearby Dubuque, Iowa, on April 12. "Health considerations played a major role in the Newtons’ decision to sell," the Gazette reported. "Sarah has been treated for cholangeocarcinoma, (bile duct cancer), a treatable but not curable cancer since July 2020. . . . Carter Newton was hired in December 1979 as the managing editor and acquired an ownership interest in January 1982. In December 1985, the Newtons bought out the ownership interest of Sam and Fran Byers. In 2001, Galena Gazette Publications, Inc., purchased the stock held by Bob and Frances Melvold, Maquoketa, Iowa, making the Newtons sole owners of the newspaper. Carter is the longest serving publisher in the newspaper’s history."