Friday, August 04, 2023

'Fight for your newspaper,' rural editor urges her readers

Editor Pam Lowe
When the former owners of the newspaper in Corning, Ark., closed their business recently, Editor Pam Lowe ran a story reassuring her readers that the weekly wasn't doing likewise. And it also led her to write a long column that was a message not just for her readers, but for all in small towns.< br />"I have answered and fielded questions about the future of the Clay County Courier from concerned residents," Lowe wrote. "If anything this concern that the paper could ever close should serve as a flag that newspapers need support," partly because "Industries and businesses are looking in newspapers for a town with potential for growth and hope."

Publisher Jeremy Gulban
The Courier and its sister paper, the Clay County Times-Democrat in the county's other seat, Piggott, are owned by CherryRoad Media's Jeremy Gulban, who bought them in June 2021 and March 2022, respectively. "Our publisher took a risk investing in a newspaper in a town that was down on its luck," Lowe writes. "He was tickled to death over the response to his purchasing the Courier and the number of people who came to our open house two years ago, which he flew down from New Jersey to attend. I’m sure he felt if he invested in our town and our people by purchasing a business that the community would respond in kind and support the paper; in essence, take a newspaper with a strong publishing birthright and build upon its rich history to transform it into its best self."

Lowe said the late-2022 deaths of her father and grandmother made her try "walking away from the paper," but "My love for my town, our people and the newspaper drew me back. I’m not one to give up easily when I feel passionately and believe in something and I believe in our newspaper. I want our people to love and believe in it too. I have fought, sometimes behind the scenes, for our town and community, our senior citizens, our veterans, our children, our school, and just about every aspect of Corning. . . . What the Courier needs, what every newspaper needs now, is for the community to fight for it. Are you having an event, a yard sale, do you need to sell something? Do you own a business? Fight for your newspaper and purchase advertising. Become a subscriber. Your newspaper needs sustainable and consistent advertisers."

Clay County, Arkansas (Wikipedia)
Lowe's local narrative evolved into one for any town: "If your town’s newspaper eventually closes due to lack of community and business interest, life will go on and you all will go on. But your community won’t have local coverage of fact-based news and events. Your community will likely rely on social media information and that thought is insufferable because the information there is so often unreliable, not to mention negative. Your community deserves better than that."

Lowe concluded, "Communities are at their best when we join in a fight together for what we believe in. While it is important to fight to bring in new businesses to our towns, it’s just as vital that we support and keep our existing businesses, especially a business that protects, informs and cares about our community. Your newspaper knows your city. It is your city. Fight for your newspaper."

Walmart, a big warehouser, starts shifting to robots

Walmart transitioned to using autonomous forklifts.
(Photo by Thomas Simonetti, The Wall Street Journal)
"Please, A.I., don't take our jobs, take our tasks," Talib Babb mused in his New Yorker "Daily Shout." He must have shouted gustily, because someone at Walmart heard him. "Inside a sprawling Walmart warehouse here, hundreds of jobs slinging boxes are changing into roles managing robotic arms, conveyor belts and screens, report Sarah Nassauer and Dave Cole of The Wall Street Journal. "The central Florida warehouse in Brooksville, is surrounded by cow pastures and housing developments, has been one of this county's largest private employers since it opened in 1991, say local officials. By the end of the year, it will be the first U.S. Walmart warehouse of its kind to use automation to handle most products."

The center marks a dramatic change in warehouse labor; robots are doing the heavy lifting, and employees are directing the bots. José Molina has been "a Brooksville warehouse worker for 25 years. Three months ago, he became an autonomous forklift operator in the facility after years unloading semi trucks the manual way with a pallet jack," the Journal reports. Molina told reporters: "Now I'm watching the robots unload the truck. I'm behind the robot taking care of the issues. It's a big change. The work is less manual, there is more software knowledge involved, and he has more energy at the end of a shift, he said. Workers who make the leap to automated jobs generally don't earn higher pay. Walmart's supply-chain workers earn an average of $25.50 an hour."

The shift to automation was met with mixed responses. "Skepticism and fear of layoffs among workers are common when a warehouse first transitions to automation, said Piyush Sampat, a supply-chain consultant from Deloitte," the Journal reports. "Many workers are excited about a new challenge, but others leave, he said. Employers automate, in part, to cut labor costs, so losing some workers during the process helps avoid the need for layoffs, said Sampat. As Walmart automates, it doesn't expect its overall U.S. workforce to shrink as it hires for new roles, but it will grow more slowly than in the past, executives said." To encourage employees to try new roles, managers have framed the change as healthier and offering more promotion opportunities.

"Because of Walmart's scale, its plan to make automation standard in more of its supply chain is likely to affect how smaller competitors invest in their own facilities and what a U.S. warehouse job becomes," the Journal reports. "Workers receive around six weeks of training when they transition, learning about software, fixing issues as they arise and how to track inventory as it is passed between robots. . . . David Guggina, executive vice president of supply chain for Walmart, said what this technology does for us is increases capacity, increases the accuracy of our loads, increases the speed of the supply chain and lowers cost."

Phosphorus is essential to life, not just farming, but supply is limited and many think the system for it is unsustainable

Phosphate, the most commonly used form of phosphorus,
used as fertilizer or compost enhancer (Shutterstock photo)
Phosphorus is essential to life, but "is a non-renewable resource in high demand, and supply is not abundant," reports Shea Swenson of Ambrook Research. How to make it sustainable? Researchers at North Carolina State University polled a swath of phosphorus stakeholders — including farmers, fertilizer executives, environmentalists, and policymakers — on how sustainable, or not, the current system for managing the resource is, and what could stand to change. . . . As it turns out, they are concerned."

The reserarchers' study found an overall lack of confidence in the "long-term sustainability of existing phosphorus management systems," Swenson reports. About a third of those polled "found the current mining, use, transport, recovery, recycling or disposal of phosphorus and materials containing phosphorus completely unsustainable. One respondent summed up their concerns and said, 'Relying on a mined, non-renewable resource for an essential nutrient for all life, while the excess is lost to landfills and water bodies, is just not sustainable.'"

Lack of recycling is the main reason the current system is unsustainable, the researchers concluded. The system is linear: "On a farm, phosphorus-based fertilizer is used in the field, but much of it is washed away by water. And once it's out of the fields and into the waterways, it's lost," Swenson explains. 

Farmers who use phosphate fertilizers to replenish their soil's phosphorus levels to raise crops like soybeans and corn already face challenges and extra costs to meet their needs, Swenson reports: "For an input that so many farms rely on, the phosphorus market is historically unstable. Not only is the supply finite, the suppliers aren't abundant either. In the U.S., much of the available phosphorus is sold by just one company. . . .[Other]major producers being China and Morocco, meaning its pricing can be impacted by tariffs."

The concern goes beyond those who use phosphorus in farming and other industries. "Because the resource is so crucial to the food system and overall life in general, many research projects are underway," Swenson reports. "Some suggest restoring wildlife populations to revitalize a natural cycle of phosphorus, while others dig into plant genes that could make crops more resilient to phosphorus deficiency." Moe than half of those polled "reported that new, improved, or different regulations are needed, improved management practices and procedures are needed, and new technologies are needed."

Extreme heat puts your heart and other organs at risk

Heat can be deadly, as this sign in Death Valley National Park
warns. (Photo by David McNew, Getty Images via NPR)
Extreme heat is the most deadly kind of weather for humans, and the body's main cooling mechanism, sweat, is not enough for extreme temperatures and humidity, so people risk organ failure, heart attack and kidney failure, reports Maria Godoy of NPR.

Organ failure can sneak up on you. "When your body is exposed to heat, it will try to cool itself down by redirecting more blood to the skin, says Ollie Jay, a professor of heat and health at the University of Sydney, where he directs the Heat and Health Research Incubator," Godoy notes. "But that means less blood and less oxygen are going to your gut. If these conditions go on long enough, your gut can become more permeable. Jay told her: "So, nasty things like endotoxins that usually reside and stay inside the gut start leaking out of the gut, entering the circulation. And that sets off a cascade of effects that ultimately result in death."

When the body redirects blood to the skin, the heart has to pump faster, "which can make you feel lightheaded – to keep your blood pressure up," Godoy explains. But not all hearts can manage a sudden or sustained jump in pace. "Those spikes in the heart rate can be triggers for a heart attack, Jay says, especially for the elderly and those with underlying heart conditions."

Sweat can only do so much, and comes with its own limitation: hydration, Godoy notes. "People can sweat as much as a liter and half per hour, Jay says. And if you don't replenish those fluids, you get dehydrated and your blood volume shrinks, which makes it harder to maintain blood pressure. That can strain your heart and your kidneys," and people with kidney disorders can be at greater risk.

Signs of mild heat exhaustion include headaches, dizziness, lethargy, and feeling unwell in general, Godoy notes: "If that happens, Jay says, get out of the heat and into the shade or indoors ASAP. Drink plenty of water and wet your clothes and skin. Immersing your feet in cold water can also help. . . . Jay says the goal is to cool down so you don't progress to severe heat exhaustion, where you might start vomiting or seem to lose coordination – signs of neurological disturbance. If your core body temperature rises to about 104 degrees Fahrenheit, Jay says, that's where you risk heatstroke."

News-media roundup: Daily hosts community-journalism forum with monthly papers; Gannett headed back to black?

Berkshire Eagle house ad for forum with three journalists from smaller newspapers

The Berkshire Eagle
 is hosting a forum at which journalists from monthly newspapers will talk about the value of community journalism. The latest in the daily's "Community Talk" sessions will host Country Journal Editor Ellenor Downer, Monterey News Editor Stephen Moore, and Ronald Bernard, founder and board member of The Sandisfield Times, and The Eagle says "We welcome representatives from other local publications" to the Aug. 9 session.

The National Newspaper Association's annual Convention and Trade Show is Sept. 28-30 in Washington, D.C., and the earlybird pricing deadline of Aug. 14 is approaching. Registrants can select "Invoice me" and pay within 30 days; to register click here. The first day of the conference will focus on Capitol Hill visits. The headquarters hotel is the Omni Washington DC-Shoreham. Make reservations online or call 800-843-6664 and mention "National Newspaper Association Foundation" for a discounted rate of $229/room plus tax; it's available for stays Sept. 27-30, and while rooms last or until Sept. 6.

Gannett Co. said Thursday that it's more likely than not to make a profit this year, after a quarterly earnings report that said it lost $12.7 million, well below the $53.7 million loss reported in the second quarter of 2022. The nation's largest newspaper company said its revenue from advertising and marketing fell 8% form a year earlier, to $353.3 million, but digital subscription revenue rose 17% to $37.9 million. The company "forecast between a loss of $10 million and a profit of $20 million for the year, compared with its previous forecast between a loss of $15 million and a profit of $15 million," Reuters reports. "Analysts on average expect 2023 profit of $8.2 million, according to Refinitiv data."

Iowa Newspaper Association Executive Director Susan Patterson Plank is resigning to rejoin Gannett, INA reports. She joined INA in 2013 as sales and marketing director and moved up in 2016. She will become Gannett’s vice president of public records strategic initiatives, a new position. The Iowa native worked for the company in 1989-98 and 2001-13, at The Des Moines Register and in Indiana and Minnesota.

The University of Georgia is seeking nominations for the 2022 Rollin M. “Pete” McCommons Award for Distinguished Community Journalism. Supported by an endowment, the award "honors outstanding leadership, innovation and entrepreneurism in community journalism each year, from small- or niche-market media outlets that have produced single or packaged stories on issues affecting their community and can offer how these stories may have impacted their community," the university says, adding that the professional journalists, students and faculty "who produce community journalism of consequence" are eligible. The nomination deadline is Sept. 30. More information and the nomination form are here.

Thursday, August 03, 2023

'We often stopped bad things from happening . . . not because we're so powerful. Information is powerful.'

Canadian Record Publisher Laurie Ezell Brown talked with Judy Woodruff of PBS. (PBS image)
By Al Cross
Director and Professor, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky

One of the best broadcast reports about the struggles of rural news media appeared Wednesday night on the PBS NewsHour, as senior correspondent Judy Woodruff used The Canadian Record of Texas as her object example. The 13½-minute story provided an update on Publisher Laurie Ezzell Brown's efforts to keep the paper alive after she stopped printing in March, but more importantly, it delivered some deep, often personal insights into the value of reliable local news.

On its website and Facebook, the Record "is a shell of what it was . . . something residents say had held them together through good times and bad," Woodruff reports. Brown told Woodruff, "We're sort of checking that pulse, I think, trying to decide what's the best way to communcate. That said, it's not a great revenue model, and I've got people working here who are not getting paychecks right now. I'm not getting a paycheck."

But as Brown keeps looking for a new owner, doing local journalism is no longer about making money, if it ever was: "Information is the key to our democracy: facts, truth, good information. And also just that conversation that we, I think, enable. It's essential. So I worry all the time about it. I want deeply to continue the life of The Canadian Record. I am just not sure how to do it."

The story doesn't mention the Record's investigative reporting that has won it awards, other than this quote from Brown: "We have sometimes helped good things happen and we often stopped bad things from happening. And it's not because we're so powerful. It's because information is powerful."

The testimonials of the newspaper's readers say, explicitly and implicitly, what has been lost. Rancher Steve Rader told Woodruff, "It's almost like a death in the family. We don't talk about it a lot. . . . They celebrated our successes and our tough times." Rader choked up as he said that, then told Woodruff that he didn't always agree with Brown's editorials, but "She always made me think. . . . We need to have other opinions. That's our strength of America. Thank God for that."

City Council Member Wendie Cook noted that Canadian, population 2,300, is about to have a referendum on a bond issue, and "I have a concern about who is telling the critical pieces of information. . . . Without The Canadian Record, I fear that our voter information is coming from our stuffed mailboxes, from candidates or from PACs, who by their very nature are providing biased material."

Water-well driller John Julian put the lie to the notion that in a county of 3,400 people, everyone knows everyone else: "If there's a name pops up on the ballot for one of the elections, and you don't know them, you really don't have a means of finding out. . . . I don't like to be in that position. If I make a vote, I want it to be an informed, educated vote." He said that Hemphill County, without the Record, "It's just got kind of a hole in it, kind of a vacancy right now."

Woodruff got national perspective from Johanna Dunaway, director of the Institute for Democracy, Journalism and Citizenship at Syracuse University, who told her, "Local news is sort of what reminds people what they have in common, both their challenges and their shared identities, their shared culture, their shared community."

Brown said at last month's National Summit on Journalism in Rural America that she doesn't really like Facebook, but "We've gotten more and more requests from businesses to advertise, to put ads on our web page and Facebook page, because they see the traffic it's getting," and the limited publication is filling a need: "Things happen. There have been storms here and tornadoes and events like that that you just can't ignore. They're happening. We need to cover them. People look to us for information."

The Record published its annual high-school graduation edition, with photos of graduates, as a PDF. But news comes in "shorter stories, less artfully written, with sparser detail," Brown said. "Our reach grows daily and kind of startlingly, but we turn out news with less substance and with far less satisfaction." She said residents are "getting the essential news. What they're not getting is the heart and soul of a newspaper, and they miss it, and I don't know how to fill that void right now." Brown said at the June 7 summit that she had written only one online-only editorial, soon after she stopped printing, and "I have some things to say. We also find that we're pretty busy just cobbling together the news right now." For more on the Record, click here.

'Absolutely epic,' and a first of its kind, the Blackfeet Nation releases wild buffalo to roam freely on tribal lands

(Photo by Thom Bridge, The Independent Record, Helena, Montana)

Once lost to Montana's Blackfeet Nation, the buffalo have returned. "The tribe said, to their knowledge, they are the first tribe in America to return free-roaming buffalo to their native habitat," reports Nora Mabbie of the Missoulian. "The Blackfeet Nation transferred 30 wild buffalo (iinnii in the Blackfoot language) to tribal lands near Chief Mountain, an area steeped in Blackfeet cultural significance in the northwest corner of the reservation bordering Glacier National Park."

"The exploratory herd was loaded into trailers and hauled to a temporary paddock within sight of Chief Mountain. There, they grazed quietly until wranglers opened the gate. . . . Then every buffalo rushed through, formed a single-file line and rumbled toward a distant tree line. Blackfeet Councilman Lauren Monroe Jr. called the moment 'absolutely epic.' . . . [Watching the release] he said he thought of his ancestors." He told Mabbie: "I thought of the demise they went through. If they were to understand that our language, our culture, our buffalo would come back one day … it was absolutely momentous as a Blackfeet to be on our land within our sovereignty and do this. We're the leaders. We're choosing our future as we see it."

Blackfeet Nation lands (Wikipedia map)
Rosalyn LaPier, a Blackfeet and Métis tribal member, who is also a historian, "said to her knowledge, there is no other place in North America that allows free-roaming buffalo. . . . She said the tribe has created a conservation district in the area to allow for grazing. The release, LaPier said, is not just momentous for the tribe but also presents scientists with a new opportunity." LaPier explained: "Our land isn't fenced. So bison, like bears and elk and deer and moose and antelope, can walk freely across the land. Bison are almost always behind a fence, even when in a large area. . . . One thing scientists don't know is where bison want to go. . . when they roam. Even in Yellowstone, the bison are killed or relocated when they leave the border of the park. So this will be really interesting to see what happens."

The relationship Native Americans have with buffalo is profound. "[They] have used buffalo for food, shelter, tools, clothing, jewelry and ceremony. Buffalo and Native people were so connected that biologists say the two mammals co-evolved," Mabbie writes. "But in the 19th century, settlers and U.S. soldiers killed millions of bison to devastate the tribal communities that relied on them. . . . . Today, through partnerships with national parks and organizations, buffalo have returned to tribal lands. . . but until now, none had released wild buffalo on their land."

"Monroe said he expects the free-roaming herd will also bring tourism dollars to the reservation, especially in the summer as millions travel to the nearby Glacier park. He said some tourists showed up at the release by coincidence and were 'absolutely floored' by the event," Mabbie reports. "Monroe said the release of the wild herd symbolizes an important shift." He told her: "We are not fearful anymore to be Blackfeet. We don't need to ask permission to be Blackfeet. This means a lot. It means we are going to do what we need to do to survive."

Aug. 11 is deadline to sign up for Association of Health Care Journalists' Rural Health Journalism Workshop in K.C.

The mostly annual Rural Health Journalism Workshop of the Association of Health Care Journalists will be held Aug. 24 at the Hotel Kansas City in Kansas City, Mo. The full program, titled "The 5 Most Urgent Conversations About Rural Health," will focus on these points:
  • Investigating environmental health — access points and pointers
  • How rural harm reduction fits into the fight against overdose
  • Rural mental health care: Reaching cultural competency
  • Finding a maternal health solution for rural America
  • How people get health care information in news deserts
The deadline for registration is Aug. 11, but the room block has expired, so if you're interested, act quickly. The fee is $25 for ACHJ members and $35 for non-members, but non-members may purchase a seat and a six-month AHCJ membership for a combined fee of $60. Scholarships are available to Kansas and Missouri-based journalists for help with mileage, registration and one hotel night. Apply here.

Tyler Childers and Silas House break new ground, telling an Appalachian LGBTQ+ love story with song and video

Tyler Childers performs at the Railbird Music
Festival in Lexington, Ky. (Photo by Silas Walker, Herald-Leader)
Appalachian LGBTQ+ love stories are just as real as other love stories, and Tyler Childers' "In Your Love" song and video, a collaboration with Silas House, tells that story, reports Monica Kast of the Lexington Herald-Leader. "Actors Colton Haynes and James Scully play two men in rural Appalachia who meet and fall in love while working as coal miners in the 1950s." Despite hostility from other miners and community members, the couple stays together, farming and loving one another. House posted on Instagram, "To our knowledge, it is the first-ever country music video with a gay storyline to be released by a major label."

Silas House (Berea College photo)
Childers and House, both Kentuckians, "wanted to tell a love story set in Appalachia. Childers pitched the idea for the music video to House and asked him to work on developing the story. Jason Kyle Howard, House's husband, wrote and provided creative direction for the video. He came up with the idea for the two main characters to be coal miners," Kast writes. "There are personal touches in the video, too. House, Howard and Childers used family photographs as inspiration for outfits in the video, making sure they were true to the period but also true to what people really wore. The cast is also made up of Appalachians and Kentuckians who represented the region."

House told Kast, "There are all kinds of different people in Appalachia and rural America, and they very rarely see themselves in the media, in film or TV, or especially in country music videos. . . . It's a gay love story, yes, but more than that, it's a love story. It's about gay people who love where they're from, and they don't want to leave it. Those men could have left not only the coal mines but they could have left the area. They chose to stay. A whole lot of people have done that, despite discrimination, because they love where they're from."

"At a time when Kentucky has seen an increase in anti-LGBTQ legislation and sentiments, House said he hopes the video will be 'a balm' for people who are hurting," Kast reports. House told Kast: "We just wanted to tell a human story that is rarely seen. Tyler Childers is one of the great storytellers of our time, especially in rural stories. This is another rural story that needs to be seen." Kast adds that Childers' album "Rustin' In the Rain" will be released Sept. 8."

Texas A&M study, supported by Texas Pecan Board, says pecans help prevent obesity and many other health issues

Pecans have thin shells and lots of meat. (Texas A&M)
"Daily consumption of pecans has been shown to prevent obesity and a host of related health issues like fatty liver disease and diabetes, according to a collaborative study by Texas A&M AgriLife scientists," the university reports, citing a study also funded by the Texas Pecan Board and the Texas Department of Agriculture

“Obesity and diabetes numbers are increasing in modern society worldwide, and the trend in high fat diet consumption is one of the main reasons, besides lifestyle and genetic predisposition,” said Luis Cisneros-Zevallos, a professor of horticulture and food science. “People are searching for healthier options, and we have now shown pecans are a healthy tool consumers have in their hands.”

Cisneros-Zevallos was principal investigator for the study, which provides scientific evidence supporting traditional knowledge in the Americas that pecans are highly nutritious, said Amit Dhingra, head of the Department of Horticultural Sciences at Texas A&M. The study also involved a team at the National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition Salvador Zubiran in Mexico.

“We now know what potential mechanisms underlie that nutritional benefit,” Dhingra said. “Our department is focused on the areas of sustainability, wellness and food security, and this research illustrates the relevance of horticultural crops for human health.”
Researchers applied pecans and high-fat diets to mice models and found that pecans increased energy expenditure, reduced inflammation and imbalances of microbes, and helped with digestion, liver function and muscle function.

Cisneros-Zevallos said pecans reduced low-grade inflammation that leads to chronic inflammation and the development of a range of prevalent diseases, as well as maintaining body weight and preventing diabetes even with a high-fat diet.

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

Female farm workers often victims of sexual violence; researchers want legal working age raised, other steps

Graph from The Conversation from Department of Agriculture data
Americans don't usually connect female farm workers with sexual assault, but maybe that should change.

ABC's "American Crime
" opened its third season on a tomato farm in North Carolina, "where it showed a young woman being brutally raped in a field by her supervisor. . . . 'People die all the time on that farm. Nobody cares. Women get raped, regular,' another character tells a police interrogator. The show's writers did their research, report Kathleen Sexsmith, Francisco Alfredo Reyes, and Megan A. M. Griffin for The Conversation, a platform for journalism by academics. Studies show that 80% of Mexican and Mexican American women farm workers in the U.S. have experienced some form of sexual harassment at work. "While violence against women in agriculture may seem like an issue mainly experienced in developing countries, the truth is that it also happens all too often to women and girls on farms in the U.S."

Researchers found that most women are abused "by men in positions of power, such as foremen, farm labor contractors, farm owners and co-workers . . . . Immigrant women farm workers are vulnerable because of power imbalances in their male-dominated workplaces. Women represent 28% of the nation's farm workers, making them a minority on many farms. Most are immigrants from Latin America, and many are undocumented. Girls under the age of 18 are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and abuse on farms."

Agriculture's unique labor laws may also contribute to abuses. The researchers report: "Children as young as 12 can be hired on farms without a cap on the number of hours they work, as long as they don't miss school. . . . Experts say young girls may be especially vulnerable to sexual harassment and violence on farms because they are less likely to recognize and report abuse. Democrats in Congress have repeatedly introduced versions of the Children's Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety Act since 2005. The bill would help address the vulnerability of young girls in farm work by aligning the legal farm working age with other industries."

"As we see it, sexual exploitation perpetrated by men in positions of power instills fear that keeps farm laborers obedient, despite precarious working conditions – and keeps fruits and vegetables cheap," Sexton, Reyes and Griffin write. "We agree with the United Nations that sweeping change is needed to empower women, raise farm productivity and promote human rights in the global food system. As U.S. lawmakers craft the next Farm Bill, they could do enormous good for women around the world by setting an example in American fields and farms."

Based on their research conclusions, Sexton, Reyes and Griffin outline steps to change below:
As a first step, we believe lawmakers should pass the CARE Act, which would raise the legal working age on farms to 14, reducing the number of young girls who are vulnerable to abuse.
Second, legalizing the nation's approximately 283,000 unauthorized farm workers would make those workers less vulnerable to sexual abuse by expanding employment opportunities outside of the agricultural sector.
Third, in our view, efforts to legalize farm workers – most recently through the Farm Workforce Modernization Act – should strengthen labor law enforcement and provide well-funded channels for reporting abuses and changing jobs when abuse occurs.

'Troubled teen' camps have a history of deceptive marketing and risky practices, and most remain unregulated

Deaths include wilderness-therapy camps, boot camps, religious boarding schools,
reform schools and teen ranches. (Daily Yonder chart, from Unsilenced data)

Out of options and desperate, many parents turn to youth wilderness camps to "cure" their troubled teens, but the multi-billion dollar industry is generally unregulated, riddled with corruption and risky practices, reports Sam Myers of The Daily Yonder. "In the United States, thousands of pre-teens and teens have their rights signed over to 'therapy camps' in the troubled-teen sector. . . aimed at rehabilitating youth labeled as 'troubled or 'delinquent' by parents, guardians, psychiatrists, or school officials."

Wilderness camps are marketed as "tough love" where nature and military-like discipline root out problems, but research shows the opposite. Myers reports, "There is no evidence that wilderness-therapy camps effectively rehabilitate troubled youth. In 2006, Maia Szalavitz, a journalist who covers drugs, addiction, and public policy, published her book Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids. In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Szalavitz went as far as to say that the practices used by these programs would be violations of the Geneva Convention [provisions] for prisoners of war."

Kayla Muzquiz, who was sent to the School of Urban and Wilderness Survival, a wilderness-therapy program in rural North Carolina, is Myers' object example. She told him: "I was out in wilderness therapy for 72 days. . . . We would wake up every day and hike 10 miles with almost a 60-pound pack on our backs. It was excruciating because I had an undiagnosed autoimmune disorder. . . .While I was hiking, I was constantly in pain. . . . I woke up next to a snake, a copperhead, twice."

The programs' costs can be excessive, and parents are often lied to about the care and supervision provided. "A survey of 28 wilderness camps conducted by All Kinds of Therapy found that sending a child to one of these programs for 30 days costs, on average, $19,934," Myers reports. "In 2008, the Government Accountability Office reported that many programs employ deceptive marketing, including false statements and misleading representations of practices and policies. . . The report covered several deaths at wilderness-therapy camps. In one instance, a 14-year-old at a Texas wilderness-therapy program died of cardiopulmonary arrest after his hiking group got lost for hours in temperatures with a heat index near 105 degrees."

Meg Applegate, CEO of Unsilenced, an organization that raises awareness of institutionalized child abuse in the troubled-teen industry, told Myers: "Let's say a case of sexual abuse happens. What they'll do is just fire that person and then tell the authorities they took care of it … but that facility isn't held accountable. . . . So, that person will go and work at a different facility. . . . Let's say the whole facility did something terrible, and they shut down. Well, what they usually do is rebrand under a new LLC – even if they're in the same building and do the exact same things." Myers reports, "According to research done by the organization Breaking Code Silence, a mother accused a therapist at the facility of assaulting and sodomizing her 14-year-old daughter in 1991. The therapist was fired, but it's unclear if they were criminally charged."

Lawsuits used to be the only way to close a program, but in some states, "momentum for governmental regulation" is growing, Myers reports: "In March, Applegate testified in front of the Montana State Senate to support HB218," which the legislature passed to "revise program practices and provide additional licensing requirements."

Free, in-person training on how to report on addiction will be held at University of Wisconsin-Madison Sept. 29

Addiction and stigma go hand-in-hand, but journalists can help change that narrative, starting with their own understanding of addiction as a medical disease and learning how to cover addiction with medical insight.

On Friday, Sept. 29, from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin will present "How to accurately and ethically report on addiction," a free, in-person training session for journalists, in room 226 of the Pyle Center. Lunch provided at no charge.

The session will feature Reporting on Addiction co-directors Jonathan Stoltman and Ashton Marra. They aim to build reporters' and editors' knowledge of addiction through a more scientific lens starting with its medical definition and looking at it as a brain disease. They'll also take a "deeper look at how addiction stigma manifests in news media and translate the science into tips for better reporting – from pitch to publication – that you can use today."

The ethics center's journalist in residence, Aneri Pattani, will also participate. Pattani is a senior correspondent with KFF Health News, a national nonprofit outlet covering U.S. health care and health policy. She is currently reporting a year-long series on how state and local governments use – or misuse – more than $50 billion in opioid-settlement money.

Register for the session here. The center urges those interested in it to sign up early; it plans to close registration on Sept. 18 but may do that earlier if it fills up.

Opinion: Russia vs. Ukraine has become 'a war over food'; Ukraine's Danube port is attacked, raising more food worries

By Art Cullen
Storm Lake (Iowa) Times Pilot

Russia’s reprehensible attacks on Ukraine’s food and agriculture systems will backfire, as they will create even more misery among the world’s poor and hungry. Russia pulled out of an agreement brokered by Turkey through the United Nations to allow grain shipments to sail the Black Sea undisturbed. It followed by bombing grain stocks, the port city of Odesa and ports along the Danube near Romania.

UPDATE: Russia attacked Ukraine's Danube River port of Izmail and destroyed port facilities and a grain silo, "raising further concerns over global food supplies," The Financial Times reports.

Art Cullen
Ukraine is a major grain and oilseed exporter to Europe, the Middle East, Africa and China. The attacks immediately drove wheat prices up 17%, and other commodities followed. Russia claimed that it would provide grain to nations in need, but markets obviously know better.

If Russia thought it could deny Ukraine revenue, it already is a welfare state of NATO. Bordering nations like Romania, whose farmers were getting edgy over Ukraine grain flooding their markets, will steel their resolve to unite against Russia. It’s yet another miscalculation by the Kremlin.

It will increase commodity prices for U.S. farmers and complicate efforts to keep inflation in check.

China must be watching this warily. Beset by drought and short wheat yields, it can scarcely afford far higher grain prices. Russian attempts to hurt Ukraine will hurt China, Moscow’s main benefactor. This could be what it takes for China to put brakes on Russia’s lunacy.

The whole episode should remind us how food and agriculture play a critical role in security and geopolitics. We underestimate the issue’s importance at our peril. Russia has become a major grain exporter alongside Ukraine over the past 25 years. One reason for the war is for Russia to consolidate its hold over food exports as its leverage with fossil fuels rapidly declines. The United States should recognize it and be in a position to organize a response that actually fights world hunger. We should be urgently engaging with those affected by Russia’s ill-conceived attacks on food. If we were, it likely would bring an end to the war. We continue to pretend that it is about something else as we ship more cluster bombs. It is not about pride or sentimentality for a lost empire. It is about food. They are attacking grain elevators. Can we not see that?

Chumash tribe's marine sanctuary proposal is progressing

Part of the California coast seen from Tajiguas.
(Photo by Karla Gachet, The Washington Post)
More than 150 miles of central California coastline with an expanding reach into the Pacific Ocean once belonged to the Chumash tribe; they have applied to make that land, all 7,000 square miles of it, a federally protected marine sanctuary with the Chumash people its steward, reports Silvia Foster-Frau of The Washington Post. Should the Northern Chumash Tribal Council's proposal be approved, "Chumash tribes would gain a unique leadership role over an expansive marine sanctuary, including the ability to block unwanted commercial development on the land and water within its bounds. . . . The Biden administration has spoken in favor of a Chumash marine sanctuary proposal."

The proposed boundary used to initiate the designation process.
(Map by Szu Yu Chen, The Washington Post, from NOAA data)
The sanctuary plan is part of the tribe's efforts "to revive and restore its heritage, culture and land," Foster-Frau writes. The campaign goes back  40 years, "as tribal members struggled to raise the money and political support needed for the huge endeavor. . . . They also faced resistance from some local fishermen who expressed concerns that the sanctuary could harm their businesses." Their initial request was made in 2013, and in 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration accepted their application, but it sat idle during the Trump administration years. Under the Biden administration, the proposal has "moved into the next bureaucratic phase, designation, and NOAA began outlining the terms of the potential sanctuary. . . Now the clock is ticking as the tribe "aims to get the hard-fought designation in place before the 2024 presidential election when a new administration could take over and force them to restart their decades-long effort."

Should the proposal be approved, "NOAA could begin bringing the sanctuary to life in the next couple of years. That would come with increased government resources for ecological research, public education and outreach, and operating a visitors' center to teach the public about the importance of conserving ocean waters, said Paul Michel, regional policy coordinator for NOAA sanctuaries' West Coast region," Foster-Frau adds. "NOAA is also looking for unique ways to incorporate the tribe into its efforts, he said, including having Chumash translations on sanctuary signage and including tribal history in educational programming.The significance of the proposed sanctuary would be told 'through the eyes of the stewards of this coast for 10,000 years,' Michel said. 'You put it in that perspective, and it gets people's attention.'"

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

Uvalde Leader-News Publisher Craig Garnett wins Gish Award for courage, integrity and tenacity in rural journalism

Uvalde Leader-News Publisher Craig Garnett (OPA photo)
Craig Garnett, publisher of the Uvalde Leader-News in southwest Texas, is the winner of the 2023 Tom and Pat Gish Award presented by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky.

Garnett owns the twice-weekly newspaper that continues to cover, and contend with, the aftermath of the May 2022 school shooting in which 19 children and two teachers died.

“The award recognizes not only Craig’s courageous coverage and commentary about the tragedy, but his longtime willingness to tell hard truths about things that matter in Uvalde County,” said Al Cross, director of the Institute and extension professor of journalism.

Tom and Pat Gish
The award is named for the couple who published The Mountain Eagle in Whitesburg, Kentucky, for more than 50 years. Their son and successor, Ben Gish, is on the award selection committee. He said of Garnett and the Leader-News, “It’s one thing to read national news accounts about law enforcement not moving quickly enough to save the lives of many of the victims, but it’s entirely something else to read the local newspaper’s far deeper accounts of that continuing controversy. . . . The Leader-News does not hesitate when it comes to letting family members of the victims have their say, nor does it shy away from printing the responses of those whose actions, or lack thereof, are being questioned.”

In a column shortly after the shooting, Garnett wrote that a regional police official "could not answer why it took an hour to end the attack" and quoted him: "It is a complex situation. They are measuring; they are measuring." He wrote, "The question is how much measuring is permissible, while children are being murdered. Or perhaps they were already gone. It pains to write these words of criticism about law enforcement, but parents and the community have the right to know. They must be told why police, whom parents at the scene begged to go in and save their children, failed to act. They have to know, to ever begin to heal."

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

Rubio, now in the newspaper’s advertising department, praised Garnett for the paper’s family atmosphere and encouraging environment: “He is gifted in seeing a person’s potential. He is a teacher, able to guide us as we harness that potential. He believes in us, and we learn to believe in ourselves. I have the same faith in him and his writing staff.”

Garnett spent hours “sitting with families who lost children, siblings, friends; interviewing survivors, teachers and students, about their experience,” Leader-News Managing Editor Meghann Garcia said in nominating him. She said he has made a “dogged pursuit to learn how so many things went wrong that day, how every single fail-safe failed. . . . He has done all of this without a break from the office, from the work.”

In an editorial a month after the shooting, Garnett named names and was blunt: “No mass school shooting in the United States has ended with such glaring failures in both the law enforcement response and school district security. . . . Neither [school] Police Chief Pete Arredondo, acting city chief Mariano Pargas, Uvalde County Sheriff Ruben Nolasco nor any state or federal officer among the 376 responders to the scene was willing to take the helm of what was clearly a rudderless ship cast into a hurricane.”

A week later, another Garnett piece endorsing more gun control concluded: “I am not about to surrender my guns, and they are many, but I challenge you to give me one good reason (and please not the “slippery slope” argument that did not come to pass when assault weapons were banned) why a teenager should have the firepower to stand down 376 lawmen. If disturbed young men are going to commit horrific crimes with firearms, why not take the most devastating amplifier out of the mass shooting equation?”

Uvalde County (Wikipedia map)
Criticism of local law enforcement and support for more gun control didn’t sit well with some people in the town of 15,000 and county of 25,000. Garnett said at a meeting of the newspaper association in Oklahoma, his native state, that by the end of the day of the shooting, “The school and police agencies that the newspaper had a good relationship with all clammed up. A year later we still can’t get answers. We have filed about 10 to 15 requests with the school district and still can’t get any answers.”

Garcia began her nomination of Garnett with the story of a call from a reader who objected to a picture of “a local pediatrician, outspoken in the shooting aftermath, at the White House, in a commanding photo with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.” The caller said Garnett had “better not acknowledge Biden's presidency again if he wanted to keep the caller's subscription,” Garcia wrote. “The call was mild compared to what the newspaper staff had fielded over previous weeks . . . . Craig immediately turned to his typewriter to work on a subscription refund check and your-wish-is-now-granted letter.”

Garcia continued, “It wasn't the first time our coverage, or Craig's politics, went against the grain.” Garnett had editorialized against the Iraq War, and opposed “a water pipeline that would take local water, dearly needed for agriculture, a mainstay of the area economy, and funnel it to San Antonio,” she wrote. And four years before the shooting, he opposed the idea of a separate school police force, which botched the response to the shooting. The next year, the paper a guest-written series of stories about the local Ku Klux Klan chapter of 100 years before.

“Craig has never been afraid of taking a stand or telling the news, despite how unpopular it might be with subscribers and advertisers, who are also often his friends,” Garcia wrote. And he has used his own family’s troubling experience as an example to give hope to others.

His wife, Melissa Garnett, told the Gish Award selection committee, “One of his best columns was about our son’s process of recovery from drugs and alcohol. That took courage. He must have hit all the right notes, as the response was great – he had taken the bold step of using his pain of an addicted child to remove the stigma of talking about addiction.”

The column celebrated their son’s year-plus of sobriety and concluded, “Far too many addicts today, especially those in thrall to opioids, don’t get Logan’s chance at recovery. The steps that will lead them from a world of pain and failure remain stubbornly distant and daily receding until hope is lost. We should do all we can to help them discover a path because inside every addict lives someone’s treasured child, father, husband, brother or friend.”

Garnett “and his paper have been a continuing source of strength in that community and beyond,” said selection committee member Bill Bishop, founding editor of The Daily Yonder, a national rural-news publication and a former weekly editor in Bastrop, Texas, and columnist for the Austin American-Statesman.

Garnett, who earned an economics degree from Southern Methodist University, joined the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1977, moved to the Kansas City Star in 1978, became general manager of the Leader-News in 1982 and owner and publisher in 1989. Under his ownership, the newspaper has won many awards.

“I am extremely honored to receive the Gish Award,” Garnett said. “And I am deeply humbled by the support from coworkers and friends in the industry who thought my work worthy of such recognition.”

The Institute for Rural Journalism (publisher of The Rural Blog) will present the Gish Award to Craig Garnett in Texas, at a time and place to be determined. UPDATE, Dec. 17: The award will be presented Feb. 29 at the University of Texas during a symposium, "Courage, Tenacity, Integrity and Innovation in Rural Journalism," sponsored by the Institute, the Texas Center for Community Journalism at Tarleton State University and The Center for Ethical Leadership in Media in the UT School of Journalism and Media.

Garnett will be recognized Oct. 26 in Lexington, Ky., at the Institute’s annual Al Smith Awards Dinner, with USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page as the keynote speaker. At that event, Ben Gish and Mountain Eagle reporter Sam Adams will receive the Al Smith Award for public service through community journalism by Kentuckians.

Double floods and no help from FEMA or their rich state have left these Appalachian residents feeling abandoned

Buchanan County is closer to eight other state capitals
than Richmond. (OpenStreet map by The Washington Post)

Saved by trees and one another, citizens in Buchanan County, Virginia, were hit with violent flash floods about a year apart, leaving homes and lives in rubble. Residents were denied Federal Emergency Management Agency aid, based on "a complicated formula that makes it harder for people in poor communities to qualify for help than those in wealthier ones," reports Laura Vozzella of The Washington Post. "An issue nationwide that the agency's own advisory council criticized as part of a broader study in 2020."

The denial from FEMA, and lack of help from the state, left some people with nothing, Vozzella reports: "Renter Tim Stiltner, who barely escaped the second flood in July 2022, with his wife and two sons, one of them in a wheelchair, was denied government aid even though his family lost everything." Stiltner said, "All we got out with was what we had on."

Residents feel abandoned by systems that are supposed to help all but disfavor the poor. "FEMA partly based its decision on a dollars-and-cents calculation. . . . The agency figures that states have the wherewithal to help individuals unless the total value of properties lost is enormous," Vozzella explains. "To residents of Buchanan, though, FEMA's math does not add up: Why would the feds rather bail out the owners of posh beach homes lost to hurricanes, they wonder, than poor mountain people wiped out by floods?" Sen. Travis Hackworth (R), who grew up in Buchanan and represents the area in Richmond, told Vozzella,"The person with the $3 million home probably has the resources to go somewhere and get additional lodging more than someone with a $30,000 or $50,000 home—and that's literally all they have."

Remains of homes sit after they were destroyed by flooding
in August 2021. (Photo by Justin Ide, The Washington Post)
The Commonwealth of Virginia has the money to help Buchanan County. Ranked among the nation's 10 richest states, "it happens to be awash in black ink, wrapping up the last fiscal year with revenue that exceeded estimates by $5 billion," Vozella reports. But the state is gridlocked in a budget dispute. "Whenever it's approved, that money will be for homeowners only. State funding for flood-prevention programs is wrapped up in divisive climate politics. . . . Sen. Tim Kaine (D) secured $1.5 million in the draft Senate appropriations bill for the Appalachian Service Project, a nonprofit that has been helping renters as well as homeowners rebuild in Buchanan. But the final bill has yet to pass. Unless or until that money comes through, most renters will be left to their own frayed bootstraps."

For a county with back-to-back floods, there is a thin silver lining of disaster preparedness. The county "set up a long-range rebuilding committee after the first flood and was able to quickly expand its mission to cover the second, said Butch Meredith, construction manager for the Baptist General Association of Virginia, which is coordinating repairs to homes that can be salvaged." Meredith said: "When Hurley happened, it took two months before any repairs started. When Whitewood happened, it took less than seven days."

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline has been up and running for a year, but few Americans know about it; here are details

Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States, but it doesn't have to be. Getting the word out about the national 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is one way to change that sobering statistic. Launched in July 2022, the Lifeline operates 200 call centers, but many people don't know about it. Dr. Emmy Betz, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado, "discusses the critical need to raise awareness about 988," with details on how the resource works. SciLine's Q & A with Dr. Betz for The Conversation, a journalistic platform for academics, is edited below.

Who should call 988, and when? 988 is the suicide and crisis lifeline. I want to really emphasize it's not just for suicide. It's for anyone who's experiencing substance abuse, mental health crisis, emotional distress or suicidal thoughts. You can call for yourself. You can call for someone in your family or a friend. It's available 24/7, and it's free and confidential.

What are some prevention strategies for firearm suicides? In Colorado, 73% of our gun deaths are by suicide. It's a critical problem in our state. And these deaths are preventable. Suicide typically occurs in the context of some kind of crisis, whether it's related to a job, a recent breakup with a romantic partner, or something else. Prevention is all about getting people through that high-risk period to get the treatment or resources they need.

We know that if a person uses a firearm in a suicide attempt, about 90% of the time, they die. So my work and the work of our initiative really focuses on how we can reduce firearm access when someone is in that high-risk period.

It's not about confiscation. It's not about legislation. It's about engaging with communities, educating communities and educating health care providers about what we can do to reduce firearm access – specifically, encouraging people to take steps to lock up guns differently, such as changing the locks or changing the password so the at-risk person can't access the gun.

There are things we can do that don't conflict with views on Second Amendment rights. . . . . When someone has a suicide risk, it can be a good idea to move firearms out of the home temporarily. We've been working with gun ranges, retailers and other locations that offer voluntary and temporary firearm storage as a solution for people – to make the home safer while someone's getting better.

What is suicide contagion, and what should journalists know about covering suicide without contributing to it? Suicide contagion is the phenomenon whereby hearing about one suicide – in particular, the methods – leads to additional individuals attempting or dying by suicide using the same methods. . . . It's really important that journalists talk about suicide, and that we raise awareness, and we get these messages out. . . . There are guidelines from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and other large organizations that really spell out best practices for journalists.

What are warning signs that a person is thinking about suicide? The main thing to look out for is if someone says that they've lost hope or that they aren't looking towards the future anymore. . . . It's OK to ask. If you're ever worried that someone might be having thoughts of suicide, it's fine to ask them directly. You're not going to prompt suicidal thoughts by asking that question.

Can you share some statistics about suicide in the U.S.? What about youth suicide?
Suicide is the 12th-leading cause of death among all ages. . . . In 2021, there were 48,000 suicide deaths in the U.S., about one every 11 minutes. Suicide rates among youth have increased. Between 2011 and 2021, suicide rates for youth rose 60%. Particularly concerning are increases in suicide rates among young individuals of color, where there have traditionally been lower suicide rates.

Watch the full interview to hear more about the 988 hotline and suicide prevention. SciLine is a free service at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a nonprofit that helps journalists include scientific evidence and experts in their news stories.