Friday, June 30, 2023

Rural-journalism summit hotel deadline today; register by Tue. for free, hybrid conference July 7; research leads off

Research on rural journalism is in short supply. The National Summit on Journalism in Rural America, next Friday, aims to close the gap a bit with the latest figures on news deserts, digital news sites and ghost newspapers; an update on surveys of Great Plains newspaper publishers and readers; the rollout of a just-completed national pilot survey of rural publishers about their futures; and the first public report on a rare piece of interventional research at rural newspapers.

Nick Mathews
The last two presentations will come from Nick Mathews of the University of Missouri and Joey Young of Kansas Publishing Ventures, whose newspapers are experimenting with alternate forms of revenue as part of research by Mathews and his colleagues, Teri Fimmeman of the University of Kansas and Patrick Ferruci of the University of Colorado.

The academics surveyed publishers and readers in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas. At last year's summit, Finneman reported on North Dakota, saying that 40 percent of readers there said they are likely or very likely to donate to their local paper to keep it going. Kansas Publishing Ventures, which publishes four weeklies, has been testing alternative revenue sources for the last year, and Mathews and Young will report on that experiment.

Joey and Lindsey Young
Mathews will discuss focus groups the researchers did with publishers. Generally, "They’re thinking about the future but not acting on the future, either stuck in the day-to-day or content with where they are," or looking for a path of change thatg has been proven, he said this week. "We need to be more proactive about this and have a sense of urgency [and] understand how bad this is."

Young will report on the experiment from the publisher's point of view. Later in the day, his wife Lindsey Young will talk about "Earn Your Press Pass," a popular program to help publishers open up who they recruit into their newsrooms and hopefully make it easier to fill positions. The program is being implemented in 18 states.

Zach Metzger
Leading off the Summit will be a status report from the State of Local News Project at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, delivered by Zachary Metzger, the project's senior researcher and database manager. He works with Local News Initiative Director and Senior Associate Dean Tim Franklin and Professor Penelope Muse Abernathy, who began the research into news deserts and ghost newspapers. He will discuss the lack of digital news sites in rural areas, give examples of ghost papers and discuss how that term could be defined.

Ross McDuffie
Ross McDuffie, chief portfolio officer of the National Trust for Local News, will reveal the results of a survey taken this month of rural publishers, asking how they view the future of their newspapers. The survey was conducted with the help of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, publisher of The Rural Blog and sponsor of the Summit.

For the rest of the program, click here. For biographies of the presenters, click here.

The Summit will be a hybrid event, but most presenters will appear in person. Registration is free, and required; register here by Tuesday, July 3. The Summit will be held at the Campbell House Curio Hotel, 10 minutes from the Lexington airport. The room block expires today.

Since East Palestine derailment, some states have moved to regulate freight trains, but it's a murky legal territory

Norfolk Southern locomotives in Conway, Pennsylvania
(Photo by Gene Puskar, The Associated Press)
Ambulances, fire trucks, people heading to emergency rooms and schoolchildren have all been stuck waiting for miles-long trains to pass. On Feb. 3, a Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, dumping gallons of vinyl chloride in an unsuspecting small town, a different discussion on rail safety began, and some states are taking action, report Marc Levy and Josh Funk of The Associated Press.

"Spurred on by train derailments, some states with busy criss-crossing freight railroads are pursuing their own safety remedies rather than wait for federal action amid industry opposition and questions about whether they even have authority to make the changes," Levy and Funk write. "Legislatures in at least a dozen states have advanced measures in recent weeks, including some in states such as Minnesota that have witnessed disruptive derailments."

The rail industry has long resisted state regulation. "It contends it's capable of making improvements and that its growing efficiency — including significantly longer trains and a much smaller workforce — doesn't compromise safety," AP reports. "States want limits on the length of trains that routinely stretch more than 2 miles long and on how much time trains can block road crossings . . . They are also pursuing rules to maintain the current standard of two-person crews, bolster the trackside detectors used to identify equipment problems and require more notice to local emergency responders about hazardous freight."

State efforts come with legal uncertainties "over whether only the federal government can enforce such requirements. And Congress and federal regulators are considering similar measures," Levy and Funk write. "Ohio moved quickly, with the Republican-controlled government enacting a new law within two months of the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine. . . . Rep. Rob Matzie (D), whose western Pennsylvania district is home to a major rail-freight handling hub, said he is satisfied with the state's legal standing. . . . Matzie told colleagues during floor arguments, 'It's now time for this state to act. We can't wait for federal regulations, which always seem to be in the works, but never quite get done. Or for federal laws that will never ever see the light of day.'"

"Two rail-union officials, Jason Doering and Matt Parker, who have both lobbied for legislation in Nevada for years, said it's important for states to act because they're not optimistic that Congress will pass meaningful reforms over the strong lobbying of the railroads in a polarized political climate," Levy and Funk report. "Even though government data shows that derailments have declined in recent years, there were still 1,049 of them last year — roughly three a day. More than three-quarters of them happen at slow speeds in railyards and don't cause significant damage. . .. . Joseph L. Schofer, a retired professor of civil and environmental engineering from Northwestern University, said some rules being proposed at the state and federal level — for instance, minimum crew size — have nothing to do with the East Palestine derailment because that train actually had three people in its crew. . . . He also said state-to-state rules will result in chaos."

Rural court officials shift from abstinence-only approach to drug defendants to medication-assisted treatment

A strip of Suboxone film, an opioid-addiction medication (Photo by
Craig F. Walker, The Boston Globe, Getty Images via KFF Health News)
Rural judges and other court officials are shifting their stance on medication-assisted treatment programs for addicts facing drug charges. "A study conducted a decade ago found that barely half of drug-treatment courts offered medication treatment. Those that didn't cited uncertainty about its efficacy and noted political, judicial, and administrative opposition. But research in the years since has persuaded many of the most insistent abstinence-only advocates," reports Taylor Sisk of KFF Health News. "By 2022, more than 90% of drug courts located in communities with high opioid mortality rates that responded to a survey said they allow buprenorphine and/or methadone, the medications most commonly used to treat addiction. . . . Federal legislation has lowered the barriers to it. And Bureau of Justice Assistance funding for treatment-court programs now mandates that medication for substance use disorder be provided."

Judge Duane Slone
The evolution of Judge O. Duane Slone is an example. As a prosecutor in charge of drug cases in Cocke, Grainger, Jefferson and Sevier counties in East Tennessee, who becanme a judge in 1998, "Slone believed abstinence was the only path to recovery. But in 2013, after consulting with substance-use-disorder experts, he relented, introducing medication as an alternative to incarceration for pregnant women. . . . Building from evidence-based research, Slone has launched programs that show how a judge, and a region, can trade an abstinence-only, lock-’em-up approach for one that offers a full range of paths to recovery."

Eventually, Slone founded a drug-recovery court. "It allows defendants with nonviolent drug-related charges to avoid jail time by entering treatment and counseling," Sisk reports. But this type of court was so "resource-intensive, relatively few people can be enrolled. So in 2013, Slone introduced the Tennessee Recovery Oriented Compliance Strategy, an alternative to jail for those who aren't considered at high risk of recidivism but are deemed in urgent need of treatment. Many are pregnant women or mothers of young children. . . . Both the recovery court and TN-ROCS offer three medication options: buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. . . . Since TN-ROCS' launch, Slone said, his community has seen a decrease in property crimes and its jail population."

Monica Christofferson, director of treatment-court programs at the Center for Justice Innovation, told Sisk she has seen a "huge shift" among judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement agencies away from the stigma associated with medication treatment, but rural areas still face unique challenges. "The relative unavailability in rural areas of medication treatment is certainly a problem. A shortage, Christofferson noted, is not only an issue in itself but also a barrier to overcoming stigma," Sisk reports. "More openings available [in treatment programs], more success stories. More success stories, less stigma. Fewer provider options also mean one bad actor — a provider who overprescribes or is otherwise negligent — perpetuates the stigma. Strict oversight is essential."

Cookouts slightly cheaper than last year; U.S. has 'one of the most affordable food supplies,' Farm Bureau says

July cookouts will cost less than last year's on average, the American Farm Bureau Federation says. "Celebrating the 4th of July with a cookout will cost significantly more than two years ago, although prices have fallen slightly from record highs in 2022," Farm Bureau says in a press release. "Families will pay $67.73 to host an Independence Day cookout with 10 family members or friends," accordign to AFBF's market survey. Cookout favorites include hamburgers, pork chops, chicken breast and ice creams, and potato salads. While the costs are lower, they are still the second highest recorded. "The $67.73 grocery bill is down 3% from 2022, but still approximately 14% higher than prices were just two years ago. Last year set a record high since AFBF began the survey in 2013."

AFBF Chief Economist Roger Cryan said in the release, “The slight downward direction in the cost of a cookout doesn’t counter the dramatic increases we’ve seen over the past few years. Families are still feeling the pinch of high inflation along with other factors keeping prices high. Don’t assume farmers come out as winners from higher prices at the grocery store either. They’re price takers, not price makers, whose share of the retail food dollar is just 14%. Farmers have to pay for fuel, fertilizer and other expenses, which have all gone up in cost.”

"Our survey found one exception to the increased price of processed foods. A package of cookies will cost 10% less than 2022. The price of chicken breasts and eggs, which had reached record-high prices in 2022, are both lower," Farm Bureau reports, "Although historically high, the cost of the cookout breaks down to less than $7 per person. When put in a global context, Americans spend a smaller percentage of their income on food than any other country."

The New York Times reports that tomatoes will cost less, too: "The U.S. market has seen a surge in tomato imports, particularly those grown in Mexico, said Almuhanad Melhim, an analyst who focuses on fresh produce at the RaboResearch. That has brought down prices. The item with the highest price increase? Burger buns, whose prices were sent soaring by an increase in wheat prices after Russia invaded Ukraine, and remain high."

AFBF President Zippy Duvall said, “While the increased costs are difficult and have made it more challenging for some families to put food on the table, it’s important to remember that America still has one of the most affordable food supplies in the world, which is due in part to strong farm bill programs. As we all celebrate the holiday, we encourage members of Congress to consider the contributions of the farm bill to our security and independence by ensuring a safe and abundant food supply.”

Ky. community college to hold event on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging; seeks presenter ideas by Aug. 11

The event is set for Oct. 27 in Hazard, Kentucky.
Rural community colleges, in addition to being in rural areas, serve a different population and have a distinct culture from four-year universities. Initiatives for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in rural community college spaces "present very different challenges from both urban areas and four-year universities, yet much of the research and policy surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion focuses on urban spaces and/or traditional universities," says Hazard Community and Technical College in southeastern Kentucky, which has scheduled a conference for Oct. 27 "to explore strategies, policies, and barriers to creating a campus-wide sense of belonging in rural community colleges."

The college is seeking presenters for its DEIB in Rural Spaces Conference. Selected presenters will get a $500 honorarium for presenting the same workshop or presentation during morning and afternoon sessions. Proposals should follow these guidelines:
  • Workshops and presentations should focus specifically on rural community colleges.
  • Should fit in a 75-minute time frame and should allow for audience interaction and questions.
  • Write a short description of your proposed session that is no longer than 250 words.
  • Tell how your proposed session/workshop will help participants explore strategies, policies, and barriers to creating a campus wide sense of belonging in rural community colleges.
  • Write a brief bio with your current position, your interest in DEI, and a photograph.
  • Submit proposals by Aug. 11 here.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

States with many rural people do well in broadband grants

When the Biden administration announced $2.5 billion in grants for expansion of high-speed internet service this week, states with large rural populations fared well, as expected, because the need for broadband is greatest in rural areas.

"Texas is slated to receive the most money, $3.3 billion, followed by California at $1.9 billion and Missouri at $1.7 billion from funding that targets rural or remote areas," reports Valerie Yurk of Roll Call. "Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington are also among the states that will receive over $1 billion each. The state-by-state allocations also show the benefits for heavily Republican states even as GOP members of Congress criticize Biden and Democrats for spending in the first two years of the administration. Congress provided the internet funding in a 2021 law when both chambers were controlled by Democrats. States that voted for former President Donald Trump in 2020 will get 56 percent" of the total.

States are to get their formal notices of allocation tomorrow, the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration said in a press release. They will have have 180 days to submit proposals for use of the money. The allocations were driven by the Federal Communications Commission's recently revised map of broadband service. "The FCC map shows about 8.5 million unserved broadband serviceable locations across the U.S.," Yurk reports. "That leaves about 7 percent of the U.S. unserved, according to senior White House officials."

Alaska ranked first in funding per person, and per rural person, with just over $1 billion. West Virginia was second per person and seventh per rural person, with $1.2 billion. Wyoming, the state with the least population, was third in both measures with nearly $348 million. A full list appears below, ranked by funds per rural person in the 2020 census. (Click image to enlarge)

Table by The Rural Blog from census and NTIA data; for a larger, clearer image, click on it.

The pandemic turned many employees into remote workers; some are moving to less costly states and rural areas

Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies map, adapted by The Rural Blog
Joint Center for Housing Studies table, from Census Bureau data; click on it to enlarge
One of the most significant changes wrought by the pandemic was expansion of remote work, which allowed many people to move to states with lower costs of living. "The U.S. housing map is being redrawn as work-from-home makes renters and home buyers more mobile and more likely to choose a place to live based on factors such as weather and tax rates," reports Meg Cunningham for Investopedia. They are "increasingly relocating to less-expensive areas, according to a report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, leading to increased demand for housing in lower-cost areas."

Expensive, often coastal, urban areas have seen the largest declines as remote workers prioritized moving places with cheaper overall living costs. "While the trend was especially popular [to move to] the suburbs across the country, rural areas also had an increase in demand. At 57%, more than half of all rural counties recorded more people moving in than out last year, according to the Harvard report," Cunningham writes. "The South had the largest net inflows of any U.S. region last year, with the biggest gains in Texas, Florida, and North Carolina. . . . Montana and Wyoming also experienced a similar influx, according to the Harvard report. . . . The Sun Belt has remained popular for those looking to leave big city life, with states such as Florida, Arizona, and Texas seeing massive influxes."

Domestic migration has become "the largest source of population growth in 20 states and the largest source of population decline in 23 states," Cunningham reports. "Because of their tendency to prioritize remote work and more flexibility, younger Americans are leading the way when it comes to domestic migration trends across the country. . . . . And migration shows no signs of slowing down. . . . . A record 25.2% of Redfin users nationwide are looking to relocate, up from 22.8% last year, according to a report from earlier this year. Many buyers are looking to leave their hometowns or move to more affordable areas. . . . Five of the top 10 destinations are in Florida, and nearly all of them are in the Sun Belt. Florida was the fastest-growing state in 2022, with warm weather, affordability, and low taxes enticing those from out-of-state."

Connecticut joins N.J. in requiring climate-change education

A student climate change summit at Joshua Tree National Park,
Calif. (Joshua Tree National Park photo/Flickr via Stateline)
Climate-change education is emerging as a critical factor in addressing the problem, and many U.S. schools are developing or implementing curriculum. In June of 2020, "New Jersey became the first state to incorporate climate-change lessons into its education standards for kindergarten through 12th grade. Connecticut will be the second state to do so, starting next month," reports Alex Brown of Stateline. "Several other states are considering similar measures, while some have provided funding for climate learning opportunities. Most states have adopted standards that include climate change, but education experts say the subject is taught spottily and is usually limited to science classes. Some educators say there's growing recognition that climate change demands a more comprehensive approach."

In New Jersey, "The state has created lesson plans and professional development for teachers and is offering millions of dollars in grants to support hands-on learning," Brown reports. "The state established those resources in partnership with groups such as Sustainable Jersey, a nonprofit network that certifies municipalities and schools on sustainability standards. . . . Those tools, said Randall Solomon, Sustainable Jersey's executive director, were just as important as the standards themselves."

Part of climate-change education's purpose is to help students understand what climate change is and that everyone can do many things about it. Breck Foster, an Oregon teacher, told Brown, "Kids understand the gloom and doom, and there's a lot of fatalism in their comments, but they don't have a lot of the facts." Many educators note that focused curriculum can empower students with those facts and inform their role. Center for Green Schools director Anisa Heming told Brown, "Kids tend to disengage if they don't have a sense that there are solutions, that they have some power in the situation, and the adults around them are acting. We have to arm them with the solutions, and then we have to act ourselves so they can see that those solutions are serious."

Climate-change education has skeptics. "In Texas, the state Board of Education directed schools earlier this year to provide textbooks that portray 'positive' aspects of fossil fuels and suggest rising temperatures are caused by natural cycles, Scientific American reported. . . . Twenty states follow Next Generation Science Standards developed by a consortium of states and education groups, which do address climate change, most often in science classes. Another 24 states have enacted similar standards of their own. But the six outlier states include Florida and Texas, with massive amounts of students. . . Leaders in New Jersey say their first school year under the new requirements has been a success, though some teachers aren't yet totally comfortable. They hope the state's standards, along with the resources it's drafted to help schools adapt, can provide a template for others." 

Meteorologist quits after climate-change reporting 'garners negative feedback' including threats; says he has PTSD

Chris Gloninger is leaving KCCI.
(KCCI photo via Des Moines Register)
An Iowa TV station's chief meteorologist is leaving after being harassed for "due in part to past threats he said stemmed from his coverage of climate change," reports Jay Stahl of the Des Moines Register. Chris Gloninger of KCCI in Des Moines "announced the news on Twitter . . . 'Eighteen years. Seven stations. Five states. I am bidding farewell to TV to embark on a new journey dedicated to helping solve the climate crisis. . . . After a death threat stemming from my climate coverage last year and resulting post-traumatic stress disorder. . . . I've decided to begin this journey now.'"

In 2022, Gloninger chronicled threats made against him and the mental strain they caused. He tweeted, "My climate coverage has garnered negative feedback. But last month, I received the first threat, followed by a flow of harassing emails. Police are investigating. It's mentally exhausting, and at times, I have NOT been OK. If you're facing this and need someone to talk to, I'm here." Stahl reports, "In September 2022, "a man was fined $105 for harassing the meteorologist in a series of emails. The emails lasted for several weeks and included threatening language and swear words: 'You are a worthless Biden puppet, a liar, a conspiracy theorist, and an idiot!!! You give Iowa a bad name,' one email read, according to court documents."

Gloniger made his goodbyes on the air, as quoted by Stahl: "'We moved to Iowa, we bought our forever home in West Des Moines, and my wife and I quickly realized and learned that life throws obstacles your way when you're least expecting it. . . .  I did receive a threat last summer that left us a little bit shaken, and I've been working through the healing process. But during that time, both of our families had unexpected serious health issues. . . . Stepping away from TV will allow my wife and I to help them in their time of need, and will also allow me to make a difference full-time in something that I'm very passionate about in the realm of climate change and finding solutions, being able to adapt and mitigate to this issue that we have globally."

Norfolk Southern loses bid to protect itself from state-court action; Supreme Court justice alludes to recent derailment

A Norfolk Southern employee sued in Pennsylvania but claims
exposure in two other states. (Photo by Nate Smallwood, WSJ)
In a loss for Norfolk Southern Corp., the Supreme Court ruled "that states can require companies to submit to their courts' jurisdiction as a condition of doing business within their borders," reports Jess Bravin of The Washington Post. "Norfolk Southern had sought to limit its state-court liability in states where it does relatively little business. . . . At issue was a Pennsylvania law requiring that companies operating within the state consent to lawsuits filed in Pennsylvania courts—even if the allegations involve conduct that took place elsewhere. Norfolk Southern argued that imposing such liability on the railroad. . . violated the Constitution's due-process clause."

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority, "Its cargo? Hazardous chemicals." That suggested "that under the railroad's argument, the Constitution could, in theory, shield the company from some state-court lawsuits while leaving its employees exposed to liability," the Journal reports. "Norfolk Southern's safety practices came under new scrutiny after the February derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, released more than 1 million gallons of hazardous chemicals into the environment. The company is facing multiple lawsuits from the incident."

The case at issue was "a workplace lawsuit filed by a retired railway employee from Virginia, Robert Mallory. . . who alleged he developed colon cancer from workplace exposure to carcinogens. . . while working in Ohio and Virginia but filed suit in Pennsylvania state court in 2017," Bravin reports. "The Mallory case was of interest to businesses nationwide for its potential to limit a practice called forum-shopping, in which litigants try to steer cases into courts they hope will be more sympathetic to their claim. . . . Pennsylvania law authorizes lawsuits against any company registered to do business within the state."

Norfolk Southern "argued it was unconstitutional to give Pennsylvania state courts blanket jurisdiction over any potential claim against the company," Bravin reports. "Not so, Gorsuch wrote. . . . The court had resolved the matter in a 1917 case when it upheld a lawsuit that an Arizona mining company filed in Missouri against its Pennsylvania-based insurance company for fire damage to a smelter near Cripple Creek, Colo. . . . States began adopting such laws, in response to the explosive growth of corporations in the 19th century. States required consent to liability 'in exchange for the rights to exploit the local market and to receive the full range of benefits enjoyed by in-state corporations.'. . . Norfolk Southern, Gorsuch said, had complied with the Pennsylvania requirement for decades."

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Joe Murray, 'country journalist' who led 13,000-circulation Lufkin Daily News to a Pulitzer Prize in 1977, dies at 82

Joe Murray
Joe Murray, who led a 13,000-circulation daily to a Pulitzer Prize and became a globetrotting columnist but said he only wanted to be remembered as a "country journalist," died Sunday. He was 82.

Murray was editor of the Lufkin Daily News in east Texas when he and young reporter Ken Herman (later a storied political reporter) won the 1977 Pulitzer gold medal for public service "for an obituary of a local man who died in Marine training camp, which grew into an investigation of that death and a fundamental reform in the recruiting and training practices of the United States Marine Corps," the Pulitzer site says. The prize committee said "A small newspaper with limited resources chose not to settle for the official explanation," according to Stacy Fasion's story in the LDN.

"The stories focused on irregularities in tactics used by some Marine recruiters and the Corps training programs as well as special 'motivation' platoons for difficult recruits," Fasion writes. Marine Lynn "Bubba" McClure "was not mentally qualified to join the Marine Corps and had volunteered to enter a state hospital. The stories also revealed that recruiters failed to check with police officers in Lufkin, and McClure had been coached so he could pass his second Marine exam. With help from then-U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, the stories led to congressional hearings and reforms in Marine Corps recruiting and training. The Marine Corps reprimanded some of the officers involved and court-martialed non-commissioned officers."

"The Associated Press picked up the investigation, and the articles began to appear nationally. These led to a presidential inquiry and a congressional investigation and finally to reforms within the Marine Corps of its recruiting practices," The New York Times reported in 1977. The Pulitzer Board got in touch with Mr. Murray and asked him to submit the articles for a prize." Murray got the additional job of publisher in 1978, "was named special writer for Cox Newspapers [then the paper's owner] in 1989 and began traveling the world, filing columns that ran in newspapers across the country," Faison recounts. "And when he wasn’t on the road, he stayed home and wrote about his neighbors, continuing his column until his retirement in 2000."

In another Faison story, Herman reflects on how Murray steered his career, introduced him to the woman who would become his wife, and committed journalism in a town of 25,000 (now 35,000) when one of his distant cousins, a county commissioner, was indicted on corruption charges: “Herman said he believed it was Joe’s mother who called him and said, 'You don't have to make big deal of that in the newspaper, do you?' And of course, it was very a big story. So he said, ‘No, no, Mom, we won’t make it a big story.’ The next day, Herman said the story was ‘splashed all over the front page with a big headline.’ And Joe called his mother and said, ‘Well, I took your advice, and we were going to make it even bigger. But on your advice, we didn’t make it that big.’ But we couldn’t have played it any bigger.”

Deliveries in rural hospitals with lower numbers of birth have poorer outcomes; 'tailored' support needed, study says

In an obstetric suite (MedPage Today photo)
Rural hospitals that have lower numbers of births had "a higher risk for severe maternal morbidity compared with rural hospitals delivering more babies," Rachael Robertson reports for MedPage Today on a study published in the American Medical Association's Health Forum Network. The study "used data from more than 11 million urban births and more than half a million rural births in California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.” Severe cases were defined by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention parameters “and generally included unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery that result in significant short-term or long-term health consequences, excluding blood transfusion."

Women with low-risk pregnancies, "defined as having none of 27 comorbidities such as advanced maternal age or placenta accreta spectrum, were actually at particularly high risk in rural hospitals with relatively few deliveries," Robertson reports. Co-author Stephanie Leonard, an epidemiologist at Stanford University, told her: "If they gave birth at a low-volume rural hospital, they were at over twice the risk of having severe maternal morbidity as a similar person who delivered at a high-volume rural hospital."

Dr. Shon Rowan of West Virginia University told Robertson, "This study was done on larger states, which shows that this is a nationwide issue. . . . I think it lets us know that we need to maybe divert even more resources to these small hospitals. . . . It's not unheard of for a patient [from an obstetric care desert] to drive two to three hours to a delivering facility. And that's leading to more patients showing up in emergency rooms that don't have the resources."

The study recommended "'a need for tailored quality improvement strategies for lower-volume hospitals in rural communities,'" Robertson reports. Leonard said research should examine differences in prenatal and postpartum care," and the role of people's trace and ethnicity. She said, "It's already been well shown that in rural communities that have substantial populations of Black and Indigenous people, you see the highest rates of severe maternal morbidity. . . [that] certainly is a big area that needs attention."

Threatened homeowners killed three bears in one Kentucky county last week; a bear killed a man in Arizona last week

Greg Hawkins with the spear that killed a bear
(Mountain Eagle photo by Sam Adams)
Appalachian states have so many bears they have hunting seasons for them, but that's not the only time they can be legally killed. In Letcher County, Kentucky, last week, three bears were killed by threatened homeowners, Sam Adams reports for The Mountain Eagle of Whitesburg.

One, Greg Hawkins, "tried to scare the bear away from his dog, and when it wouldn’t leave the dog, he grabbed a bow and arrow and shot it," Adams reports. “That just made it madder,” said Hawkins, who ran the bear through with "a spear he’d been throwing at targets," Adams writes.

A state Department of Fish and Wildlife officer "said Kentucky law on hunting bears probably wouldn’t apply if the bear was genuinely threatening him or damaging his property," Adams reports. "Other Fish and Wildlife officials also said there is no way they would ever tell someone not to kill a bear that is threatening them or attacking their dog, but said if a bear is running away, that’s not a threat and it’s not allowable to kill one out of season and without a license and bear permit."

June is high time for bears, Adams notes: "Mother bears have cubs once every two years and start kicking those cubs out on their own when they’re about a year and a half old. The bear mating season here is from June to mid-July and male bears, called boars, will travel for miles to find a sow. Generally, black bears are not very aggressive toward humans, but . . . a man was killed and partly eaten by a black bear in Arizona a little more than a week ago while the man was sitting at a table outdoors drinking coffee, but such attacks are extremely rare. That was the first known fatal attack by a black bear since July 1, 2021, when a woman was killed by a female black bear in Canada."

Letcher County (Wikipedia map)
The bear at Hawkins' home "had a broken tooth and its jaw was swollen with infection, a condition that could have contributed to its demeanor," Adams reports. "But a necropsy of the bear that killed the man in Arizona showed no injuries or illness to explain its aggressive behavior. . . . Bear experts recommend making yourself look bigger by waving your arms over your head and yelling at the bear while slowly backing away. Never run from a bear because it can trigger their instinct to chase. Climbing a tree doesn’t work because black bears can climb. Hawkins, of Mayking, who said he often collects plaster casts of bear tracks for a Forest Service biologist, said he never carries a gun into the woods, but does try to have an umbrella handy to scare bears away." He said, “You open it up and flap it and it scares the crap out of them.”

Quick hits: Rural towns wave the flag; fresh charcuterie; farmers and mental health; hauling stuff; eating seeds . . .

Successful Farming photo
Rural towns have beauty, diversity and a lot of national pride. "Rural areas wave the flag proudly all year, but the colors shine extra brightly around Memorial Day, Flag Day, the Fourth of July, and Veterans Day," Jessie Scott of Successful Farming reminds us. "Sixteen percent of the U.S. population is from rural America, yet 40% of the U.S. military is from those same rural communities. . . . They have a deep love of the flag. . . . Rural residents will find any excuse to proudly display the flag. Wrapping up harvest is certainly one of them."
Summer is a time for snacking on all sorts of garden treats, from crisp carrots to zippy jalapenos; add cheese bites, summer sausage, and ta-da! You have the beginnings of a charcuterie board. Reminiscent of coffee parties and fondue parties, "charcuterie (pronounced 'shar-koo-tree') boards have caught my eye in recent years. This is another example of an old way of serving that has been adapted for modern times," writes Julie Garden-Robinson of AgWeekly. Here are simple steps to build your own.
Farmers can't control the rain or shine, but can help each other weather the stresses of living off the land. "Today's farmers are dealing with increased stress, risk of suicide, and other mental health concerns," reports Allee Mead of the Rural Health Information Hub. "However, experts who work with farmers and farmworkers are seeing increased interest in mental health programming and decreased stigma around mental health, which may make it easier for healthcare providers to provide the care that farmers need." Alongside this increase in openness is more programming to support the interest.
Life can feel cluttered. It also can be filled with clutter. Items we intend to give, pack or put away, but never quite find the time. Consider repurposing those cluttering corners. Is there a donation place for those still-wrapped sheets? The Fence Post columnist Peggy Sanders looks at how clutter might have more purpose than we give it credit for. We might want to take it more seriously.

Kayaks loaded for a 250 mile trip on (mostly) two-lane
roads. (Photo by Donna Kallner, The Daily Yonder)
Summer and early fall are full of packing, hauling and moving. Whether it's hay to a horse farm, pies to the county fair or 4-H fair, or finally getting to take that kayaking trip, rural America is busy with loads, writes Donna Kallner for The Daily Yonder. "Back when my husband and I sold canoes and kayaks, we heard all the standard lines used by people hauling stuff: My favorite is I'm not going far, followed closely by I'll keep it under 100. So we taught lots of impromptu lessons on how to tie down a load. And most people were grateful. We learned some lessons, too – like to back away slowly when you hear I thought YOU checked it. That marriage ended in our parking lot."
Seeds are crunchy, nutritious and easy-to-pack snacks, but not all seeds are created equal. See how experts rank the top edible seeds.

Commandy in her new studio
(Photo by Jamie Larson, Rural Intelligence)
Consider the life of ceramicist Ramah Commanday, whose life as a Napa Valley artist underwent an extreme transformation. She was "dramatically reforged by the intensity of California wildfires," reports Jamie Larson for Rural Intelligence., a mostly online publication for rural areas west of the Hudson River. "Now resettled into her new home and studio in Germantown, the 72-year-old climate refugee saw her home, studio, and decades of creative output destroyed by the Glass Fire of September 26, 2020 – named for Glass Mountain, which she used to see out her former bedroom window. After the fire, as she sifted through the wreckage of her home, she says she felt like an archeologist, unearthing the artifacts of her own life."
Planning to dig? Call 811 first. "The consequences of cutting buried utility lines can be high. That's not just in the cost of repairs and fines. . . . There's also the risk of injury," Kallnet reports Donna Kallner for the Yonder. "We call Diggers Hotline to get lines marked before digging. . . . Every state has an equivalent service you can call to mark the location of buried utility lines. You can find your state's info online or call 811. After you place your request, workers come to mark the approximate location of buried utilities."

News-media news: Future Journalists of America in Oregon; Community Newspaper Week in Nebraska; a job posting . . .

Senior Adri Jolie: “FJA has given me the opportunity
to become a better journalist and to find self-expression
while self-reflecting on the type of media I consume.” 
High-school students in central Oregon have completed their first year in the Future Journalists of America program hosted by The Bulletin in Bend and created by the Fund for Oregon Rural Journalism, a nonprofit founded by EO Media Group, the newspaper's parent company. "The nonprofit’s mission is to stem the decline in Oregon journalism through innovative programming and advocacy," the Bulletin's Jody Lawrence-Turner reports. The teens "learned how to practice quality journalism in rural and metro newsrooms," and gained media literacy through lessons provided by The News Literacy Project, "and designed and launched a digital publication where they’ve published dozens of stories and podcasts," the Bulletin reports. "The two-year program not only inspires youth to pursue a career in journalism, it’s also a path to increasing newsroom diversity and sharing skills for sustaining a digital publication. It demonstrates journalism is evolving to adapt to the digital age, not dying, and there are multiple paths to a career in journalism." The three graduating seniors in the program will study journalism in college. Of the 16 active in the program, four were students of color.

This is Community Newspaper Week in Nebraska, and the McCook Gazette took the opportunity to remind its readers why local journalism is important: "Newspapers provide small communities with a dedicated source of local news, promote community engagement and unity, preserve local history, support local businesses, and ensure that information reaches all residents. Their role in keeping communities informed, connected, and empowered cannot be overstated."

The bipartisan Protect Reporters from Exploitive State Spying (PRESS) Act has been reintroduced in Congress, CNN reports: "The legislation, which passed the House last year but did not get a vote in the Senate, would safeguard journalists in two important ways. First, it would prevent the government from compelling reporters from being forced to disclose their sources. Second, it would ensure that important data held by a third party, such as a phone or internet company, cannot be seized without notice and providing the ability to challenge the move in court."

Foothills Forum, the foundation that supports reporting at the Rappahannock News in northern Virginia, is seeking a full-time general-assignment reporter, "which will be a significant addition to their current small group of part-time contributors," News Publisher Dennis Brack tells The Rural Blog. Click here for the job posting. Here's a profile of the weekly's new editor.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

TV critic says how we cover lies is the biggest media issue; Poynter writer says it's lack of resources to cover local news

Media writer Tom Jones speaks as TV critic Eric Deggans
listens Tuesday. (Poynter Institute photo by Mel Grau)
"How journalists cover lies is the most important issue in news media," the Poynter Institute headlines over a story about an event at its St. Petersburg, Fla., campus Tuesday. "More politicians are taking advantage of people’s willingness to believe based on gut rather than fact. Solutions for journalists are sparse."

The headlines were based on remarks by NPR TV critic Eric Deggans, who said “Donald Trump took that to the extremes and challenged how journalists cover someone. Typically, when someone is lying, journalists report that they’re lying and then they get embarrassed and stop doing it. That stopped happening.”

"Deggans cited the challenges to fact-based truth as the No. 1 problem that journalists face today," Poynter's Ren LaForme reports. "Solutions are sparse. CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins attempted to fact-check Trump live during the network’s infamous town hall in May, only for Trump to steamroll her, leveraging the audience of supporters for momentum. 

“People think it’s a magic act, where you can fact-check someone the minute they say something,” but that’s not true, Deggans said.

LaForme writes, "As the 2024 presidential election cycle ramps up, news media aren’t doing themselves any favors by covering politics in the same broken ways they have in the past, Poynter senior media writer and event co-speaker Tom Jones said. . . . From his point of view, dwindling resources in local news is the most pernicious issue in news media."

“What’s going on at school boards? City councils? There are fewer and fewer reporters to cover them,” Jones said. “We’re trying to do the same things with a lot less. … These are hard-working journalists, but we can’t cover everything. And it affects each and every one of us.”

Bluegrass-music innovator Bobby Osborne dies at 91, little more than a month after last Grand Ole Opry appearance

Osborne in 2017, the year of his last album
(Photo by Larry McCormack, The Tennessean)
Bobby Osborne, the older but persisting half of a duo that brought innovation to bluegrass music, helping it keep a commercial foothold, died Tuesday. He was 91.

"Osborne may be best known for cutting 'Rocky Top' with his longtime brother-bandmate Sonny Osborne, but his mandolin playing and familiar tenor vocal stretched far beyond the licks of a Tennessee state song," Matthew Leimkuehler reports for the Nashville Tennessean. "The brothers built a legacy that led to a White House performance and Country Music Association Award win. At the height of popularity, they bridged a space between country and bluegrass music, receiving radio play and adopting amplified instruments on concert bills — a rarity among string bands at the time."

The New York Times' Bill Friskics-Warren writes, "Employing a wider repertoire than the Appalachian wellspring from which most of their peers drew, the Osbornes also worked with a more expansive musical palette, embracing country, pop and rock material associated with the likes of Ernest Tubb, Randy Newman and the Everly Brothers. . . . They built a bridge between first-generation bluegrass royalty like Bill Monroe and the duo of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and intrepid latter-day inheritors like New Grass Revival and Alison Krauss. . . . Osborne earned a reputation as one of the first bluegrass mandolin players to expand the instrument’s vocabulary beyond what Monroe, the father of bluegrass, had established early on."

Sonny Osborne retired in 2005, and died in October 2021 at 83, but his brother was still performing and teaching when he told Steve Hensley of WYMT-TV in Hazard, Ky., near their native Leslie County, in May 2022, "I was born to do it, and I ain’t going to quit." He "took his final Opry bow on May 19, 2023, nearly 60 years after being asked to join," Leimhuehler reports.

"The Osborne Brothers premiered in Knoxville, Tenn., in 1953 and became the first bluegrass group to appear on a college campus with their 1960 performance at Antioch College," WYMT reports. Their use of drums and electric instruments rankled bluegrass purists, but their commercial success held sway. They got "Rocky Top" from prolific writers Boudleaux and Felice Bryant and made it the B side of a December 1967 single, but WSM DJ Ralph Emery flipped the disc and made it a hit. Five years later, it was the signature tune of the University of Tennessee marching band. The brothers would open and close shows with it, and after Sonny retired, Bobby's band was named the Rocky Top X-press.

Hotel-reservation deadline is Friday for the July 7 National Summit on Journalism in Rural America; the event is free

Friday, June 30, is the last day to take advantage of the room block for the National Summit on Journalism in Rural America, to be held July 7 in Lexington, Ky., and online. The summit will be held at the Campbell House Curio Hotel, 10 minutes from the Lexington airport. For information and free registration, click here.

The Summit will include some of the latest research on rural journalism; the experiences of some successful rural publishers and start-ups, both digital and print; philanthropy for rural jouranalism; efforts to change state policies to help local news; and university programs to fill gaps in local news coverage. For a program outline, click here.

Registration for the Summit is free. It is sponsored by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues (publisher of The Rural Blog) at the University of Kentucky. For a closer look at the presenters, click here.

With hospital closures and need for reliable funding, rural America's emergency medical services seek new solutions

Rural ambulance in Sweetwater, Wyoming
(Photo by Kim Raff, The New York Times)
You can call 911, but in some rural places, no one can come immediately, no matter your emergency. "Nearly 4.5 million people across the U.S. live in an 'ambulance desert' – 25 minutes or more from an ambulance station – and more than half of those are residents of rural counties," reports Nada Hassanein of USA Today, citing a study by the Maine Rural Health Research Center and the Rural Health Research Centers. "As rural hospitals shutter across the nation, dwindling emergency medical services also must travel far to the nearest hospital or trauma center. Experts and those in the field say Emergency Medical Services need a more systematic funding model to support rural and poorer urban communities."

Lead study author Yvonne Jonk, deputy director of the center, told Hassanein, "This is a really extreme problem, and we need to figure out solutions. People think that when you call 911, that someone's coming in. Most people don't realize that their communities don't actually have adequate coverage." Hassanein reports, "Four of 5 counties across the nation have at least one ambulance desert, according to Jonk's analysis of 41 states and data from 2021 and 2022."

The inability of many rural areas to have and staff an emergency response team has several reasons. From the truck to the equipment to professional dispatchers and emergency medical technicians, an ambulance service is an expense most areas are expected to cover but can't. Hassanein writes, "The McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe reservation stretches along the Nevada-Oregon border near Idaho and has no ambulance or hospital. . . . Tribal chairwoman Maxine Redstar said the community used to have an ambulance service, but it couldn't afford to keep it going. . . . Weather, wildlife and long, dark winding gravel roads make getting to the scene difficult." Redstar told Hassanein: "When you call an ambulance, it comes from Winnemucca, which is an hour away."

For many rural areas, funding an ambulance service can be a major obstacle. "Few states designate EMS as an essential service. In the U.S., EMS are mainly funded by local governments, and not all states allocate supplemental funds toward the services,"Hassanein reports. "Amid patchwork funding, communities rely on varied revenue sources to fund ambulance services, said Lindsey Narloch, project manager at Rural EMS Counts, a North Dakota EMS improvement project. That often doesn't cover expensive equipment, medication and staff salaries. Counties end up having to pay most of the cost."

Having and staffing an EMS services may require a new model. Hassanein explains, "Gary Wingrove, president of The Paramedic Foundation, noted that critical access hospitals, which are medical centers in rural, underserved communities often with a high number of uninsured residents, are paid more than other hospitals if their care delivery cost is higher than the standard Medicare payment."  Wingrove told Hussanein: "We have to take a hard look at our financing of rural ambulance services. And to me, it just makes a lot of sense if we create a system like the critical access hospitals have for the rural ambulance services."

Sun and wind power surpass coal; it's a first for the two renewables combined without adding hydropower

Solar panels in a California desert at sunset.
(Photo by thinkreaction/Getty Images via E&E)
For the first time, solar and wind have generated more U.S. power than coal as measured during the first five months of 2023, reports Benjamin Storrow of Climatewire: "Federal data shows renewable energy generation exceeded coal-fired power in 2020 and 2022, but only when hydropower was counted as a source of renewable energy, according to figures compiled by the Energy Information Administration."

Storrow reports, "The milestone illustrates the ongoing transformation of the U.S. power sector as the nation races to install cleaner forms of energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. Power markets have witnessed a precipitous drop in coal-fired generation this year, driven by low natural gas prices, a mild winter and a wave of coal plant retirements." Andy Blumenfeld, an analyst who tracks the coal industry, told Storrow, "From a coal perspective, it has been a disaster. The decline is happening faster than anyone anticipated."

Coal has been in decline since 2008 "as a wave of older coal facilities retired and was replaced by a combination of natural gas and renewables," Storrow explains. "Yet even by that standard, coal's sudden drop in 2023 has been remarkable." In 2022, the war in Ukraine caused a temporary increase in coal prices, but now, "coal plants will have difficulty competing against gas in that market, analysts said. But structural factors have also contributed to the fall in coal output. . . The U.S. has retired around 14 gigawatts of coal capacity, or roughly 7 percent of the coal fleet, since the start of 2022. . . . EIA figures show that coal was down 27 percent compared with the same time last year and below levels recorded in 2020."

The quick switch to renewables has some experts worried about the reliability "of the country's web of power grids," Storrow reports. "In recent testimony to Senate lawmakers, North American Electric Reliability Corp. CEO Jim Robb said, 'The pace of change is overtaking the reliability needs of the system.' . . . Others said those worries could be eased by unclogging a bottleneck that's preventing clean energy projects from connecting to the grid." Still, the switch "is a boost to U.S. climate efforts. Coal accounted for 55 percent of power sector emissions in 2022, according to Environmental Protection Agency data, despite representing just 20 percent of total power generation. . . . Carbon Monitor, an emissions tracker run by academics, estimates U.S. emissions were down 5.6 percent through April compared with the same time in 2022. Power sector emissions were down by nearly 1 percent."

Mormon Church donates reservoir of church-owned water; it hopes many others will follow suit

Farmington Bay, a critical habitat for wildlife, feeds into the
Great Salt Lake. (Photo by James Roh, The Washington Post)
In an unusual move, the Church of Jesus Christ of Lattter-Day Saints has set a pace for helping save disappearing Great Salt Lake. "Last summer, the church began urging conservation and touted its water-saving efforts in the American West. At its fall general conference, which Mormons everywhere follow for speeches considered direction from God, a senior bishop stressed using Earth's resources with restraint," reports Karin Brulliard of The Washington Post. "This spring, another senior bishop delivered what was praised as a landmark address on Mormons' history with water in the valley and outlined an unprecedented move: permanently donating a small reservoir's worth of church-owned water, the largest such gift ever made for the lake."

It's going to take a lot more water to save the damage done to the lake. "Experts say more aggressive legislation is critical. But the church is hugely influential in a conservative state where some 60 percent of residents, and an even larger portion of lawmakers, are Latter-day Saints," Brulliard explains. "Its decision to wade into a subject infused with politicized tussles over climate change has boosted the sense of urgency and underscored the existential threat of the Great Salt Lake's demise, observers say."

Commenting on the church's focus, Jenica Sedgwick, the church's first sustainability manager, "said the impetus was doctrinal, not political," Brulliard writes. Sedgwick told her: "We need to care for the Earth … and we're accountable to God for that," and the lake crisis "is something that we need everybody paying attention to and thinking about." Brulliard reports, "The church hopes other large landowners with water to spare will follow suit, Sedgwick said. It hopes the same of its work reducing the sprawling emerald lawns at the meetinghouses — neighborhood churches used for weekly services — that seem ubiquitous in the Salt Lake Valley."

The lake is a prime revenue generator for the region and "provides a critical way station for 10 million migratory birds," Brulliard writes. "Its evaporated water turns to snowfall in nearby mountains, buoying a massive regional ski industry. Ecologist Ben Abbott, a Brigham Young University associate professor, told Brulliard, "In both figurative and very literal ways, it supports our way of life. . . . [It's] facing a serious environmental catastrophe." Brulliard reports, "Abbott compares the churches donation to about equal to the amount used yearly on all golf courses in the Great Salt Lake watershed — to a drop of water in a bucket, albeit a large one." Abbott told her: "What we need is 20 to 50 of those donations."

A few rural Pride Month events marred by threats of violence

Photo by Kristyna Wentz-Graff, OPB
Entertainment, community building and a degree of fear have marked some Pride Month events. "Festivities have been tempered by a crisis of hate and discrimination that is unfolding nationally: an alarming rise in demeaning rhetoric and threats of violence, according to a sobering new briefing by the Department of Homeland Security," Jason Kyle Howard writes for The New Republic. "The situation is especially dire for members of the community living in rural America."

Logan Casey, a senior policy researcher at the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ think tank, told Howard: "The threat is extreme. LGBTQ people in rural areas were already effectively at a disadvantage when it came to legal equality and policy protections. . . . It's not that rural life experiences are uniquely homophobic or transphobic. . . . But the structural conditions that make rural life unique really amplify experiences of discrimination. . . and now with this dramatic escalation of legislative attacks, [those] disparities are just getting worse and worse."

Rural Pride Fest events "have seen a spate of threats. . . including attempted arson using Molotov cocktails during a drag show at an affirming church in Chesterland, Ohio (pop. 7,400) and a pepper-spray assault at a Pride event in Bozeman, Montana (population 55,000)," Howard writes. "Organizers of an all-ages drag show . . . to support transgender youth in Pikeville, Kentucky, (pop. 8,000), in the heart of Appalachian coal country, were forced to cancel the event due to numerous threats of gun violence."

Many rural Pride celebrations had no trouble. Fests in Oregon and Louisiana highlighted a sense of community and acceptance with activities, performances, education and medical care opportunities.

In Dalles, Oregon, pop. 16,000, "celebrations range from marches and festivals to clothing swaps and boat rides," reports Rolando Hernandez of Oregon Public Broadcasting. "While Pride events can range from drag shows and arts and crafts, one resource. . . groups are offering de-escalation training." Laura Erceg, director of Southern Oregon Coast Pride, told Hernandez, "The unfortunate reality is that safety is a conversation that all of us have at all of our events." Hernandez reports, "Erceg is aware there may be people who want to protest, detract and scare others from attending Pride events, but believes that training like this can help educate the community and allow attendees to continue celebrating."

Calcasieu Lake is also known
as "Big Lake." (Wikipedia map)
Pride of Southwest Louisiana's
third annual Pride Fest was held in a "remote corner of Calcasieu Parish. . . in the small unincorporated community of Big Lake. . . an unlikely setting for an LGBTQ+ celebration." Yet, hundreds came, reports Natalie McLendon of the Louisiana Illuminator. "A Pride flag with the slogan 'Abide No Hatred' marked the entrance. Outside, attendees shared conversation while waiting on the next drag queen to perform. . . . Vendors and organizations welcomed attendees under the shade of tailgate tents."

SWLA's Pride Fest also offered an area for attendees to receive medical care. "Nonprofits such as SWLA Harm Reduction, Comprehensive Care Center, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Louisiana were also present," McLendon writes. "SWLA Harm Reduction program coordinator Peyton Boozer told McLendon: "There are so many barriers to access to care in our rural community, so our mobile unit allows us to meet people where they are. I think people are reticent to enter a clinical setting, so we offer a different type of environment to talk about wellness and check your status."

Big Brothers Big Sisters board member Alex Richard "said he wants young LGBTQ+ people to know there are safe places for them in southwest Louisiana," reports McLendon. Richard told her: "Some people are brave enough to be out in public and can be a light for young people. In this region, when you feel like you're the only one like you, that's a lonely place. So it's important to be out and yourself if possible. Pride isn't always just one day or one weekend out of the year."