Friday, June 02, 2017

Ag-related incidents kill a child once every three days; lack of age restrictions cited as key factor

A child dies every three days in an agriculture-related incident, according to the National Children's Center for Rural Agriculture Health and Safety. It cites lack of safety regulations, including age restrictions for use of equipment, as a key factor.

"Unfortunately, children dying in farm accidents is a common tragedy," Wisconsin State Farmer Editor Colleen Kottkee writes in USA Today.

Kottkee spoke with Bryan Weichelt, project scientist with the National Farm Medicine Center and the National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety. Weichelt told Kottkee one contributing factor is that "Farms are often homes as well as worksites."

Bill Hanson explains to 9-year-old Brandon
the dangers of a tractor in a farm safety event
at Nebraska's Lincoln County Fairgrounds.
(Photo by B.A. Rupert)
"As a fifth-generation farmer, I can attest to the rooted tradition of cultivating the next generation through hands-on training and involvement. Yet, age-appropriate work with a focus on safety is critical, or there may not be a next generation to hand the farm to," Weichelt told Kottkee.

Traditions of rural farming families, "working side by side tilling the soil, milking cows, and tending other livestock are strong and deep," Kottkee writes."Any other industry has strict laws in place regarding child labor, including a minimum age of 18 for operating skid steers. Data indicates that youth (17 and under) are involved in 75 percent of skid steer injuries and deaths, and children ages 6 and under are involved in half of all skid steer incidents."

Fact-checking Trump's speech on climate change

President Trump made some hard-to-swallow claims in his speech announcing the nation's withdrawal from the Paris accord on action against climate change, reports Dino Grandoni of The Washington Post: "Some of this made sense -- some coal jobs, for example, will indeed be saved by eliminating the Clean Power Plan, one of President Obama's main efforts at meeting the Paris commitment. But many of the other reasons Trump gave for withdrawing seemed at their best strained,and at their worst unfounded."

First, the agreement "was designed to have the plasticity Trump seemed to be seeking by talking about some kind of renegotiation," Grandoni writes. It "did not legally bindnations to emissions targets. The only thing keeping a nation in check was pressure from its international peers. Under the agreement, the United States could miss an emissions goal and face no penalty. It could reset that goal, too, with no formal consequence. It's unclear what other concessions the United States could gain from a renegotiation," and Germany, France and Italy have said they're not interested in one.

Trump claimed that even if all nations met their goals under the agreement, which it would produce only a 0.2-degree Celsius reduction in global temperature by 2100. While those goals are not enough to reach the accord's overall goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees C, they "would reduce the planet’s warming by the year 2100 down from 4.2 degrees Celsius (7.6 degrees Fahrenheit) to 3.3 degrees Celsius (5.9 degrees Fahrenheit), or nearly a full degree Celsius," Chris Mooney of of the Post writes, citing research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Trump said, "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris." Grandoni finds that line confusing: "It was delegates of the nearly 200 nations of the world, not the approximately 2 million people of Paris, who negotiated the climate accord. Paris was simply the city that hosted the talks after which, in the long tradition of diplomatic nomenclature, the agreement was named. Nonetheless, the line is likely to resonate with Trump voters who feel they have been left out of the economic recovery and who do not relate to international diplomats who they don't believe are working in their best interest. One other note: Hillary Clinton actually won Allegheny County, Pa., where Pittsburgh is located, by 16 points."

Columbia Journalism Review publishes brief profiles of 5 independently owned rural papers

Five rural newspapers, from North Carolina to Alaska, get brief profiles in the latest print edition of Columbia Journalism Review, which focuses on local news. The series of profiles begins with some facts that urban readers may need: "Local news outlets across the country play an essential role in creating civically engaged and informed communities. Often, these outlets do their work with minimal resources. Sometimes, they do it with hardly anything, with one or two journalists taking on the specialized tasks of an entire news staff."

All five papers are independently owned, like about 40 percent of U.S. weeklies. Those facts are not noted by writers Shelley Hepworth, Carlett Spike and Pete Vernon, who are Delacorte Fellows at the magazine. Two of the papers recently lost their leaders to death: the Nome Nugget, oldest paper in Alaska, and The Budget, an Ohio-based paper for Amish and Mennonite communities.

Haecker and Hahn (Nome Nugget photo)
In Nome, "Diana Haecker and her husband, Nils Hahn, took over the weekly after its previous owner, Nancy McGuire, died last year," CJR reports. "The Nugget regularly covers winter harvesting, Iditarod season, and climate change. Says Haecker: 'We’re pretty much on ground zero of climate change, of new realities in regards to ship traffic and ice melting.'"

The three-paragraph profile of The Budget doesn't mention the January 2016 death of publisher Keith Rathbun, who made several national media appearances and was active in the National Newspaper Association. The profile quotes Associate Publisher Milo Miller as saying that the paper's model remains the same: a vehicle for reports from Amish and Mennonites around the country.

North Carolina's monthly Ocracoke Observer, which serves an island on the Outer Banks, "is run from Peter Vankevich’s porch, and the office uniform consists of shorts and flip-flops. Vankevich owns the monthly with Connie Leinbach," and both are 63, CJR reports. "Leinbach says the Observer had become more of a monthly newsletter by the time they took it over, but 'We transformed it into a true newspaper. We found people really do want to read about all the news going on here.'"

The Hooker County Tribune in Mullen, Neb., "is a one-woman show" in a county of only 736 people, CJR reports. Gerri Peterson, 31, started writing for the weekly "in the eighth grade, and continued throughout college. When the owners asked her about her plans after graduation, she responded, half-joking, 'Well, my dream job is to own a small-town newspaper, so let me know when you guys are ready to sell.'" She became owner at 22.

The Ferndale Enterprise on the coast of Northern California has won awards for its hard-nosed coverage of the county fair association. Caroline Titus, 55, a former TV and radio reporter, bought the paper in 1998 and runs it from her home. CJR reports, "Since the November election, Titus says, not only has she gained subscribers, 'I’m getting postcards with people saying, ‘Thank you for everything you’ve done to protect the press’s rights in our little town.’"

An earlier, longer story in CJR profiled the Inquirer and Mirror, on Nantucket Island.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Sold: tiny daily in Kansas town that is probably the smallest in the U.S. with a daily newspaper

Google map
Council Grove, Kan., has an estimated population of 2,060 and is likely the smallest town in the United States with a daily newspaper. It will see the Council Grove Republican, circulation 1,482, change hands July 1. The paper has been sold to David Parker of Enid, Okla.

"Parker said there will be no changes at the newspaper in terms of staff, the paper design will remain the same and the newspaper will continue to be published daily," the Kansas Press Association reports. Parker, "who has been in the printing and publishing industry for more than 40 years," says he will move to Council Grove.

Craig McNeal and his late father, Don McNeal
The sale was announced by Craig McNeal, whose family has been involved in the daily operation for the past 82 years. The Republican has been published continuously since its first issue on Aug. 24, 1872. It became a daily in 1914.

"Council Grove was listed in the late 1900s as one of the four smallest cities in the United States, population-wise, to have a daily newspaper," KPA reports. "Today, it is the only one of the four newspapers still being published daily."

Decades will be needed to fully assess fracking's impact on drinking water, Geological Survey says

U.S. Geological Survey researchers have concluded that unconventional oil and gas production, largely through horizontal hydraulic fracturing, has not been a significant source of benzene or methane contamination in drinking-water wells in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas, but "Decades or longer may be needed to fully assess the effects of unconventional oil and gas production on the quality of groundwater used for drinking water in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas," study leader Peter McMahon said in a press release.
USGS graphic
The researchers examined the shale formations of Eagle Ford (Texas), Fayetteville (Ark.), and Haynesville (La.), "which are some of the largest sources of natural gas in the country and have trillions of cubic feet of gas," the release said.

The study is the first to systematically examine these shale production areas for the presence of benzene and methane in drinking-water wells in relation to groundwater age, USGS said. The study was published May 31 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

New Jersey township must pay Muslim group $3.25 million for rejection of application to build mosque

An Islamic group is finally able to build a new mosque in New Jersey after 39 public hearings and two lawsuits that dragged out over five years, and the story is a cautionary tale for other communities.

“Municipalities around the country should pay close attention to what happened in Bernards Township,” Adeel A. Mangi, lead counsel for the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, told My Central Jersey. “The American Muslim community has the legal resources, the allies and the determination to stand up for its constitutional rights in court and will do so.”

Worshipers at the Bernards Township Community Center (AP photo by Julio Cortez)
"On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department announced the terms of a settlement between the federal government and Bernards Township, the local body that refused to let the Society begin construction on a proposed house of worship based on alleged issues with minor details of its proposal, including the size of the parking lot," Emma Green reports for The Atlantic.

In addition to allowing construction to move forward, the township must pay the group $3.25 million in damages and attorney fees, and town officials must complete diversity and inclusion training.

While religious discrimination is not unique, this case has been particularly nasty, Green writes. "Before the Society had even filed a formal application, evidence of anti-Muslim bias in the community started emerging. Its mailbox was smashed," Green writes. "A neighbor accosted Mohammad Ali Chaudry, the Society’s president, in a parking lot after a township meeting, saying, 'Eleven brothers died on 9/11 and now you want to put a mosque next to my house with the insignia of the people who did that,' according to a complaint filed against the township by the Society."

Anti-mosque lawn signs and flyers were distributed throughout the town. Negative comments were spread online. Large crowds attended hearings. One community member asked whether the facility would be used for animal sacrifices, according to the complaint.

The township officially rejected the mosque's application in December 2015. In March 2016, the Society sued the township, "arguing that its rejection of the mosque proposal reflected the 'religious and cultural animus against Muslims' on display in Basking Ridge," Green notes. "An uncommonly wide range of religious groups came to the Society’s support—from groups that lean left, like the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and the Sikh Coalition, to more conservative groups, including the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention," Green noted.

The Justice Department filed its own suit in November 2016, "alleging that the township had violated one of two core federal religious-freedom laws: the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which prohibits local communities from using vague ordinances and bureaucratic procedures to discriminate against religious groups," Green writes.

AP: Avoid calling people 'alcoholics' or 'addicts,' words that health advocates say reinforce stigma

The Associated Press has updated its Stylebook with this:  "Avoid words like 'alcoholic,' 'addict,' 'user' and 'abuser' unless they are in quotations or names of organization," the wire service posted on Twitter. "Instead, choose phrasing like 'He was addicted,' 'people with heroin addiction' or 'He used drugs'."

The update "is winning applause from public health advocates, who say the clarification discourages stigmas around addiction," Politico Pulse reports. "The change spun out of efforts begun under the Office of National Drug Control Policy, with former staffers like Regina LaBelle and Rafael Lemaitre pushing to change the language, Lemaitre posted on Twitter."

Living in a remote, rural, politically divided town

NPR photo
Haines, Alaska, is a small town with a big political divide. And we have to wonder if there aren't a lot more like it.

Just 2,500 people live in the town that's surrounded by water and snowy, forested mountains, Melissa Block reports for National Public Radio: "The city center is just a few blocks, with several bars, a few restaurants and a beautiful, award-winning library. But lately, this idyllic place has been roiled by a bitter political battle. A group of residents wants to recall more than half the members of the local government, the borough assembly. . . . Some people are upset over local issues, like a harbor expansion or who should be the new borough manager. But it's about more than that. It breaks down as old-timers versus newcomers, to some extent. But also, people who want resource development, like mining or logging, against 'greenies' — environmentalists who stand in the way."

Block suggests that the divide was reflected in the presidential election, which split Haines down the middle, with Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump 374-370.

Motel owner Shane Horton is circulating the recall petition. "I came here and was doing construction and dirty work involved with the timber industry," he told Block. "And that went away. So I went into doing something else, and then that gets blown out of the water. How many times can I get told to completely start over because what I am doing is now not acceptable?"

Heather Lende, a writer elected to the assembly last fall, is one of the recall targets. "When Lende heard that some in her community were trying to oust her, she said, 'It was heartbreaking.' And social media only makes it worse, Lende says. Like just about anywhere, people in Haines say things online they wouldn't dare say in public in such a small place."

Lende's a liberal, but has close friends who are Trump supporters. "I'm not gonna lose a friend over whoever votes for someone in the national election, and maybe that's the lesson that can come from Haines for the rest of the world," she told Block. "We've lived with divisiveness for a long time, but is it worth losing a friend over? I don't think so."

Dave McCandless, another Haines resident, is confident that this, too, shall pass. "What you're seeing, this tension and this turmoil and all that, it's all happened before," he says. "This country has been full of that, just like the town is full of it. Three years from now we'll be arguing about something else just as feverishly. And we won't be able to remember what this was."

Rural areas could be hardest hit by budget cuts and work rules in SNAP, Social Security disability

President Trump's proposed budget includes work requirements for “able-bodied” persons in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly food stamps, and cut the funding by $192 billion over the next decade. The budget also proposes a reduction of $70 billion in Social Security disability funding.

"To President Trump . . . access to food stamps is far too easy, and being on disability is just a matter of finding a friendly judge," Yamiche Alcindor and Campbell Robertson write for The New York Times. White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney cites the cost savings and the incentive of good, old, hard work. "We need everybody pulling in the same direction,” he said.

However, many are concerned about the impact that these cuts will have on rural communities, especially in states like Mississippi, a state with much rural poverty, the Times reports: "Since last January, about 83,000 people receiving food stamps in Mississippi between the ages of 18 and 49 without dependents have been required to work, or prove they are looking for work, at least 20 hours a week to receive food stamps, according to Beth Orlansky, advocacy director of the Mississippi Center for Justice, which focuses on issues of racial and economic inequality. "The rules originated a decade ago in Washington, but because of its high poverty rates, Mississippi had been allowed a waiver since 2006."

"While asking people to work might sound like a good idea 'in the abstract', she said, a state like Mississippi — with large pockets of poverty, sprawling rural communities and some of the highest rates of people on disability and food stamps — does not have enough jobs in the right places. Most people receiving food stamps and disability are doing some sort of work, but they need better skills and education to rise above poverty wages."

Wis. stories on wind energy show how politicians, lobbyists frame news coverage, researcher writes

Political leaders have powerful influence on how environmental issues are framed in journalism and other sources of information, Wisconsin researcher Keith Joseph Zukas says in his article, "Framing wind energy: Strategic communication influences on journal coverage," in the latest issue of Mass Communication and Society, a publication of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Politicians act as journalists when they speak on environmentally related issues such as wind energy, framing how information is presented, Zukas argues. If that's a concern, a greater one is that politicians speak on the basis of information they get from lobbyists and institutional stakeholders. The result? Often "political and energy-industry frames dominate newspaper coverage of energy issues even when environmental and scientific issues are inherent to the story," Zukas writes. "Competing messages about scientific issues from political and business perspectives often have greater influence on audiences than a purely scientific viewpoint because they frame the issue in a way that activates people's core values and beliefs." Zukas calls for further examination of political influence and how environmental stories are covered by journalists.

Zukas based his findings on his analysis of 1,025 energy-related stories in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Wisconsin State Journal in 2009 and 2010, plus almost 900 strategic communications in the same period by the state government, such minutes of legislative meetings, press releases and blog posts.

He found that "newspapers reflected a large majority of the energy-independence and progress frames used by the government and industry," he writes. "The finding supports the theory of influence by the government and industry on the press." Coverage was dominated by progress of the industry, and there was little focus on public accountability. Powerful political forces framing environmental issues dangerously "limits the potential for alternative master narratives about major societal issues ... and delineate(s) the ways in which citizens of the public sphere can even think about energy and the environment," he writes.
Sources cited in analysis; table created by Zukas; click on it for larger version
Zukas is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication and Sociology at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wis. He and other communication scholars argue that researchers must start advocating for science and environmental issues with a practical approach intended to resonate with diverse beliefs and people's values. He notes that health, science and environmental researchers and professionals have corrected misinformation, thinking that this would inspire public support for health and science, but business, politics and personal ideals have interfered.

Online journalism group seeks articles about recent changes in thought and practice of the craft

Recent changes in journalism "have been dramatic and, for many journalists, traumatic," says the International Symposium on Online Journalism. "New technologies, tools and platforms have necessitated sweeping changes in the ways journalists report, write, edit and publish information. New software has put detailed audience data quite literally in journalists’ faces, and new data-savvy newsroom colleagues communicate in entirely different languages."

Altogether, these changes have surely led to changes in journalists' “habits of practice.” "But what about 'habits of thought?' ISOJ asks. "Have journalists changed the ways in which they think about what they do or why they do it? What, if any, shifts can be identified in their deeply ingrained beliefs about their role in democratic society; their relationship to audiences, sources and peers; or the normative principles that guide their decisions? How do contemporary journalists think about contemporary journalism – about what it is, what it is not, what it might become and what it should never be?"

#ISOJ Journal, the group's official research publication, is seeking manuscripts for a special issue on this topic, to be published in conjunction with the next ISOJ symposium in April 2018. Manuscripts will undergo a blind review, and the authors of articles selected for publication also will be invited to present their work at the symposium. The articles don't have to be academic or even empirical' "Non-empirical work that contributes substantively to our knowledge of how journalists think about themselves and their occupation also will be considered," says the call for articles. "Scholarship that goes beyond description to consider sociological, epistemological, ontological or other conceptually rich understandings of journalists’ perceptions of —change will have the greatest likelihood to be selected for publication."

The deadline for articles is Sept. 15. Find details on the process here.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Only rural journalists can get this fellowship to a computer-assisted reporting boot camp of IRE; application deadline is Wednesday, June 7

Wednesday, June 7 is the deadline to apply for the Rural Computer-Assisted Reporting Fellowship to one of the next Investigative Reporters and Editors computer-assisted reporting boot camps in Columbia, Mo. The data boot camp will be held Aug. 6-10 and the mapping boot camp will be held Aug. 11-13.

The fellowship is open only to journalists who work in rural areas. Journalists are eligible for a fellowship if they work outside of a metropolitan area (with a core urban population of 50,000 or more), for a newspaper with a circulation of less than 40,000, a television station outside of the top 100 Nielsen markets, or a radio or online news organization with a record of covering rural areas. Freelancers should submit a letter from such an outlet testifying to their working relationship with that outlet.

The fellowship includes a one-year IRE membership, registration fee for the selected boot camp and up to $500 in reimbursement for travel expenses. It does not cover food or incidentals. It is financed by the Fund for Rural Computer-Assisted Reporting, established by IRE member Daniel Gilbert to give rural reporters skills that will help them uncover stories that otherwise would not come to light. The fellowship is offered in conjunction with the University of Kentucky's Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, publisher of The Rural Blog.

Required application materials include a resume, three clips showcasing investigative work, a letter of support from your news organization, and a statement of interest (preference is given to applicants who outline a project that includes the need to analyze databases). To apply, click here.

Study finds that 2/3 of wrecks that kill children occur on rural roads

New York Times photo
Unintentional injury is the most common cause of death in children under the age of 15; car wrecks are the most common cause of unintentional injury; and rural roads were the most deadly: 67 percent of deaths among children occurred on roads classified as rural by the Federal Highway Administration. Possible culprits include poor lighting, distance to trauma centers and urban residents’ lack of familiarity with rural roads.

Between 2010 and 2014, 2,885 children died in car wrecks nationwide, an average of 11 kids per week, Nicholas Bakalar writes in The New York Times. That figure does not include pedestrians, those who died in motorcycle or bicycle wrecks or those who died riding in an unenclosed cargo area or trailer. "Most of the children who died were not wearing seat belts — nationwide, 43 percent were unrestrained or improperly restrained. Another 15 percent were sitting inappropriately in the front seat, and 13 percent were riding in cars driven by somebody under the influence of alcohol," Bakalar notes.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas carried out this research, which was published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Researchers also found significant variations in children’s deaths from state to state, Bakalar writes. In New Hampshire, all of the five children who died during the study period were properly restrained. In Mississippi, however, 56 of the 99 who died were not wearing seat belts, or weren't wearing them properly. There were 0.25 deaths per 100,000 children in Massachusetts, compared with 3.23 per 100,000 in Mississippi.

Similarly, a 2005 study published in Injury Prevention found that rural roads have an overall higher percentage of fatal wrecks than do urban roads: 0.9 percent of wrecks on rural roads are fatal, while only 0.2 percent are fatal in urban areas, according to data gathered from the Federal Highway Administration.

Americans are eating more pork, and the Midwest is trying to meet the demand

(Image from The Washington Post)
Americans are eating more pork now than they have in years, and new farms are starting up to meet the demand for everything from pork bellies to pig ears.

In Iowa alone, meatpackers recently began construction on new slaughterhouses worth well over $500 million, Caitlin Dewey reports for The Washington Post. By the end of 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts that pork production will equal — sometimes even exceed — that of beef, though neither red meat yet rivals chicken.

"Some of that demand will come from growing foreign markets. But Americans have developed a new taste for pork, particularly bacon, as well. According to the market research firm Euromonitor, sales of pork are up 20 percent in the United States since 2011," Dewey reports.

A multitude of factors seems to lie behind pork’s growing popularity. Last winter, demand for bacon grew so high that the U.S. pork-belly supply hit a 50-year low — sparking fears of a bacon shortage. "The growing influence of Asian cuisines, particularly Korean and Vietnamese, have also made some cuts of pork newly popular. In its 2016 food trends report, Google named char siu, bulgogi and banh mi — which frequently include pork — among the year’s hottest foods. And Americans are increasingly turning to fast-food restaurants for breakfast, where bacon and pork sausage are both popular," Dewey explains.

Demographics also play a major role. Pork is a popular meat in Latino cooking, and recent growth in sales reflects the growing Latino population and cultural influence. Pork has also benefited from a rebound in Americans' food spending, particularly at restaurants. "According to the USDA, Americans have spent more money at restaurants in each year since 2010. A 2013 study by researchers at Purdue University found that spending on meat, in particular, spiked after the recession, especially for high-quality cuts of chicken, pork and beef," Dewey writes.

Foreign demand for pork is also strong in markets such as Mexico, China and Japan, where hog farms and processors are becoming ever more productive. This means many companies back in the States are expanding. "In Sioux City . . . Seaboard Triumph Foods is building a huge, $300 million plant that will span almost a million square feet and process upward of 20,000 hogs a day. Prestage Foods, a large producer of pork and turkey, recently broke ground on a new pork plant in Eagle Grove, Iowa, that will process 10,000 hogs each day," Dewey explains.

The USDA predicts than when these facilities open, an additional 900 million pounds of pork will hit the U.S. market, which may force prices down a bit and further stimulate demand. "In either case, by the end of 2018 U.S. farmers are expected to produce as much pork as beef — which is, for the pork industry, an unprecedented accomplishment," Dewey notes.

Telehealth clinics boost medical access for rural Indiana students

CNHI photo
Until recently, students in Hanover, Indiana's Southwestern Jefferson County Schools who needed to see a doctor had to leave class and make a nearly 30 minute drive to the nearest hospital.

In January, the rural school district, located along the Ohio River on the Indiana side of the Kentuckiana border, installed two new virtual clinics, Carson Gerber reports for Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.  "Instead of getting in the car, students can now just walk down the hallway and see a licensed physician via video conference," Gerber writes.

The clinic is equipped with a laptop computer, digital cameras and medical equipment such as stethoscopes, otoscopes and dermascopes that connect to the computer. Medical providers can use the equipment to look at students’ ears, nose, throat and skin remotely through the laptop in order to check for common school illness such as the flu, lice, rashes or strep throat, Gerber explains. "If a student needs medication, the physician can call in a prescription to the local pharmacy, and parents can pick it up the same day."

Superintendent Trevor Jones says that for a rural school district like his where access to medical care is limited, the new in-house clinic has been a game changer. "The whole goal is to help those kids who really don’t have access to a physician to be able to provide that care right here at school," Jones told Gerber.

The district’s virtual clinic is part of a new telehealth initiative by the Indiana Rural Health Association, a nonprofit organization developed in 1997 that aims to improve the health of rural residents. The group launched the school-based telemedicine program in October after receiving federal grant funding through the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration, Gerber explains. It also became the first initiative of its kind in the state.

Hayley Ready, the nonprofit’s rural community outreach coordinator, told Gerber that any rural school district where at least half the students qualify for free or reduced lunches can apply to receive a telehealth clinic at no cost to the district. That cost can add up to more than $20,000 to purchase and install the equipment. Without the grant money, it’s improbable that rural, low-income school districts could afford to operate a virtual clinic on their own. "Telehealth is great, but the initial cost of the equipment is too high for most schools to buy," Ready told Gerber. "It’s something schools definitely would not be able to budget on their own."

She said the Rural Health Association plans to launch clinics at eight other school districts this year and hopes to have telehealth equipment in up to 25 schools by 2020. "The end goal for installing school-based telehealth clinics is to boost medical access for students who might have a hard time seeing a physician at a brick-and-mortar hospital," Gerber writes. "That’s an issue for families in which parents can’t get off work to take their child to a doctor, or don’t have a vehicle to drive there."

Applications for $75,000 fellowship for editorial writers and columnists are due June 22

The Society of Professional Journalists is accepting applications for the Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship for Editorial Writing, a $75,000 fellowship for mid-career editorial writers and columnists.

The award gives writers the opportunity to study, research, travel and take courses on a public interest topic of their choosing. Farah Stockman, the 2014 Pulliam fellow, went on to win a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for her project "Boston After Busing." Tim Swarens, the 2016 fellow, focused on different aspects of the child sex trade and working toward legislative changes.

Visit the Pulliam Fellowship website for more information on how to apply or contact Abbi Martzall at or 317-920-4791. The deadline for applications is June 22.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Calif. papers get advice for gaining revenue, doing journalism, opening government and lots more

Gabiel Kahn of USC spoke to CNPA.
The main newspaper association in the nation's largest state put on an ambitious and informative program last week, one that offered much of interest to journalists and others in the news business.

Perhaps the most challenging presenter was Gabriel Kahn, professor and director of the Future of Journalism Program at the University of Southern California and a former bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal. He "was pessimistic about local newspapers’ ability to get digital advertising  when 'Facebook and Google are taking 85 percent of digital advertising' because they "always will be able to out-spend and out-tech you," Jeff Rowe reports for the California News Publishers Association (which recently changed to "News" from "Newspapers").

Kahn said "selling squares and rectangles next to content is not viable" and questioned whether newspapers should focus mainly on generating page views. "Reader revenue is the future, Kahn said, noting that calling readers 'subscribers' under-values them. Call them 'members,' Kahn advised, saying that term connotes a mindset while 'subscriber' references a pricing strategy." (But the word also means, literally, "underwriter.") He said his $10 monthly membership in a Los Angeles public radio station are worth the extras he gets for membership, and membership allows media outlets to segment their audiences.

The program at the CNPA Press Summit also included discussions of drones, millennials, open government, legalization of marijuana, building audience with video, coverage of President Trump and Washington (including a wide-ranging speech from Leon Panetta, former congressman, White House chief of staff, budget director, defense secretary and Central Intelligence Agency director) and a "Great Ideas Roundtable." Read about it all here.

Senior Trump economic aide says coal no longer makes sense; encourages renewable energy

(Photo from the World Coal Association)
President Trump campaigned as the savior of the coal industry and the miners who have lost their jobs since its demise, but his most senior economic aide doesn't seem to be on board.

"Coal doesn't even make that much sense anymore as a feedstock," Gary Cohn said aboard Air Force One on Thursday, referring to raw materials that get converted into a fuel. Cohn, who serves as director of the National Economic Council, instead praised natural gas as "such a cleaner fuel" and one that America has become an "abundant producer of," Matt Egan reports for CNN Money.

Trump rarely talks about the potential of renewable energy, but Cohn has praised it. "If you think about how solar and how much wind power we've created in the United States, we can be a manufacturing powerhouse and still be environmentally friendly," he said. Cohn's comments jibe with what energy experts have been saying for some time, but don't seem to fit with Trump's stance.

"Cohn's words are especially significant, because Trump is expected to soon decide whether to keep the U.S. in the Paris climate accord, which is forcing governments in many countries to crack down on the carbon emissions from coal and other fossil fuels. World leaders, Democrats and some major companies have urged Trump not to ditch the landmark deal that represents the most significant effort to date to combat climate change," Egan writes. At least 22 Republican senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have urged him to ditch it.

Trump followed through on his promise to end Obama's "war on coal" by signing an executive order in March that began unraveling his predecessor's signature efforts to combat climate change. "The problem is that Trump's deregulation push is unlikely to bring about the coal renaissance he wants," Egan notes. "That's because coal's dramatic downfall has come not from regulations, but has been driven by market forces, especially the abundance of cheap natural gas."

One of five remaining U.S. aluminum smelters may survive, thanks to international trade loophole; trade experts warn of unintended effects

Century Aluminum (Photo from The Washington Post)
Twice in the past five years, the Century Aluminum plant at Hawesville, Ky., has served legal notice that it would shut down permanently before pulling its business back from the brink of financial collapse, typical in an industry where a glut of cheap metal from China has flooded the market and forced many plants out of business.

Hawesville, on the Ohio River east of Owensboro, is in a region where jobs in the metal industry, ubiquitous for decades, have become a rapidly disappearing way of life, Ana Swanson writes for The Washington Post. Hope was restored in Hawesville in April, however, when President Trump announced that his administration was considering restricting imports of foreign-forged aluminum in the name of national security, arguing that the country can make its own war machines, some question possible outcomes. Century is the last U.S. smelter that makes the high-purity aluminum used in armored vehicles.

"A decision by the Trump administration to use national security to protect an industry would be among the most dramatic — and risky — moves in the president’s trade agenda, which seeks to limit what he regards as unfair foreign competition," Swanson writes. "While intervention could be a boon for Hawesville, it could raise prices for other customers and companies — including the federal government, which ultimately buys the armored vehicles and fighter jets made from the aluminum."

Amid debate over how far the government should go to protect certain industries in the era of global competition and technological innovation, some trade and industry experts question whether the administration is using national security as veiled economic protectionism. The decision, based on a Commerce Department investigation, will come out in June, Trump said in a tweet Saturday night: "Will take more action if necessary."

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"The debate over aluminum’s future in the United States comes after 20 years of China flooding the global market with the metal, depressing prices to a level at which few American companies can compete. The U.S. has gone from having 23 operational aluminum smelters in 1993 to just five today, with only two running at full capacity," Swanson reports. The Hawesville plant has laid off more than 300 people in the last two years and has been scrapping unused machinery for extra cash. Another dip in global prices could close its doors permanently. The more than 200 jobs that remain, while they pay well for the area, are grueling ones: often 16 hours of physical labor in temperatures reaching 140 degrees.

"If the administration’s investigation finds that the country’s defense capabilities are being compromised by the decline of aluminum plants like the one in Hawesville, the president would have the power to impose tariffs or other restrictions on imports. Because it’s in the name of national security, Trump could circumvent a longer, more complicated process for changing trade policy at the World Trade Organization," Swanson explains. The Trump administration has relied on a rarely used trade measure, a Section 232 probe. Any resulting action could have unintended consequences. Past administrations have used Section 232 sparingly, because of the concern that this exception to international trade guidelines might become the new normal. "If we can use national security to block aluminum imports, other countries can and will use it to block agriculture and aviation imports," said Derek Scissors, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "Widespread use of 232 by the United States won't just curb imports, it will curb trade."

Station in chain buying Tribune TV stations refused to share reports on Gianforte's assault on reporter

Greg Gianforte (Billings Gazette photo)
U.S. Rep.-elect Greg Gianforte and Republican leaders are trying to move on after Gianforte admitted to attacking a reporter on the eve of Montana's special election, and one media conglomerate is helping.

Gianforte apologized during his victory speech on Thursday, as he kept Montana's sole House seat in Republican hands. He faced misdemeanor assault charges for allegedly throwing the Guardian's Ben Jacobs to the ground and breaking his glasses, James Hohmann writes for The Washington Post. After his victory, Republican leaders such as Speaker Paul Ryan and President Trump stood behind Gianforte.

The Montana NBC affiliate reportedly refused to cover the Gianforte story at all on Wednesday night, Hohmann writes. Sources at the network appear to have contacted New York magazine’s Yashar Ali to complain: "KECI news director Julie Weindel was called by NBC News to see if KECI would cover the story or had any footage of the Gianforte incident that NBC News and its affiliates could use. ... She was unyielding in her refusal to share any footage she may have had access to, or run a report on the story. ... Weindel said that they weren’t covering the story, though it was running in outlets across the country at the time, explaining, 'The person that tweeted [Jacobs] and was allegedly body slammed is a reporter for a politically biased publication.' Weindel then added, 'You are on your own for this.'"

Conservative media conglomerate Sinclair Broadcasting acquired the station last month. Sinclair recently struck a deal with Tribune Media to buy dozens of local TV stations. "Already, Sinclair is the largest owner of local TV stations in the nation. If the $3.9 billion deal gets regulatory approval, Sinclair would have seven of every 10 Americans in its potential audience," Margaret Sullivan wrote in a Washington Post column May 21. That would leave Sinclair with 215 stations, including some in big markets such as Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago. To date, it has 173 stations. "There’s no reason to think that the FCC’s new chairman, Ajit Pai, will stand in the way. Already, his commission has reinstated a regulatory loophole — closed under his predecessor, Tom Wheeler — that allows a single corporation to own more stations than the current 39 percent nationwide cap," Sullivan explains.

"When Sinclair bought Washington’s WJLA-TV in 2014, the new owners quickly moved the station to the right," Sullivan writes. "It added conservative commentary pieces from a Sinclair executive, Mark Hyman, and public affairs programming with conservative hosts. And Sinclair regularly sends 'must-run' segments to its stations across the country. One example: an opinion piece by a Sinclair executive that echoed President Trump’s slam at the national news media and what he calls the 'fake news' they produce."

Many of Sinclair's stations are in small or medium-sized markets in battleground states such as Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, even bragged, according to Politico, that the campaign cut a deal with the media conglomerate for uninterrupted coverage of some Trump appearances.

Judge-historian defends Confederate monuments, says race problems run deeper than stone

Kentucky Supreme Court
Justice Bill Cunningham
Debate about the memorials to Confederate fighters continues to spread across the South.

A 16-foot bronze statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee, a fixture in New Orleans for 133 years, was torn down May 19. The next day, one of West Kentucky's most respected residents, Supreme Court Justice Bill Cunningham, stood at a Murray monument dedicated to Lee, defending Southern Civil War heritage and criticizing what he called revisionist history and "monument marauders," Joshua Roberts reports for The Paducah Sun.

"How long will he stand?" Cunningham said to about 100 people gathered May 20 for the 100th anniversary of the Lee monument outside the Calloway County Courthouse in the county with Kentucky's southernmost point. "The great men and women of 100 years ago were in the business of constructing monuments of appreciation. The lesser men and women of today are in the business of tearing them down. . . . We have moved in 100 years from proudly dedicating this monument in the full light of the noon day to tearing down monuments under the cloak of darkness and police protection. We have moved in 100 years from a generation of appreciation to a generation of historical amnesia."

Cunningham, 72, has long championed equal rights, and one of his books, A Distant Light, is about racial injustice in Western Kentucky. "Based on Cunningham's resumé, background, and public and private remarks, the racially insensitive label applied to many pro-Southern voices doesn't fit the justice," Roberts writes.

Cunningham told Roberts, "I don't have to apologize to anyone (about) my position on race. I am very depressed that after 50 years from our civil-rights laws, race is still an issue in this country, and our poor brothers and sisters of color, in general, are still living in such social and economic conditions." He added that the country's problems with race relations are bigger than the polarizing issue of Civil War monuments. "How many black doctors, lawyers, insurance salesmen, bankers, and school superintendents do we have in West Kentucky?" Cunningham asked. "Meanwhile, we worry about monuments made of stone which are easily destroyed instead of taking on the bigger issues not so easy to resolve."

Windows broken at Ky. paper; another gets a bomb threat that seems to be false and one of several

One of the broken Herald-Leader windows
(Photo by Editor Peter Baniak)
Kentucky newspapers are a little more on guard today after windows were shot out at the Lexington Herald-Leader Sunday morning and a Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. plant in London received a bomb threat with a ransom note that seems to have to been false and part of a pattern.

Herald-Leader Publisher Rufus Friday said in a news story about the vandalism, “It’s concerning,” especially given the level of rhetoric directed at journalists recently in the United States and in Kentucky. “We’re going to be vigilant and continue to do what we do,” Friday said. “We’re not going to be deterred by this senseless act of vandalism.”

The story said, "Exterior windows were damaged on the first-, second- and third-level banks of windows of the press room on the Midland Avenue side of the building. Three exterior windows were shattered, leaving broken glass on the sidewalk outside. Two windows on the upper level of the press room were damaged, but did not shatter. Those windows show small holes and cracks that appear consistent with small-caliber bullet damage. Lexington Police on Monday confirmed that they are investigating the incident as criminal mischief, and that investigators believe the damage is consistent with small-caliber gunfire." The Herald-Leader no longer uses its pressroom.

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Southeast Kentucky Publishing, which prints several CNHI newspapers, found a letter on a printer at its plant at 8 p.m. Saturday saying the plant had been wired with several explosives that would be set off unless $25,000 was sent via Western Union to someone with a Brazilian passport. “We contacted the Kentucky State Police and we evacuated the building,” plant manager Jill Meadows said. "She said the bomb threat interrupted printing at the plant for 2 ½ hours but no production deadlines were missed," CNHI reported.

Tuesday morning, police in Portland, Tenn., near the Kentucky border, said on the Kentucky Press Association's Facebook page that they received the “exact same letter on our printer this morning.” While the threats appear to be false, KPA Executive Director David Thompson asked member papers, "Please report any similar letter that your newspaper or any business in your area receives."

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Rural areas and small towns' measures of well-being resemble inner cities' data 20 years ago

The population of rural America declined in 2016, for the fifth straight year. That historic trend, and lots of other data from small towns and rural areas, led Jane Adamy and Paul Overberg of The Wall Street Journal to conclude that rural America is now the country's “basket case,” a title held by inner cities 30 years ago.
“By many key measures of socioeconomic well-being, those charts have flipped,” they write. “In terms of poverty, college attainment, teenage births, divorce, death rates from heart disease and cancer, reliance on federal disability insurance and male labor-force participation, rural counties now rank the worst among the four major U.S. population groupings (the others are big cities, suburbs and medium or small metro areas).” (Click on charts to view larger versions)

The shift has occurred over the last two decades. “Well into the mid-1990s, the nation’s smallest counties were home to almost one-third of all net new business establishments, more than twice the share spawned in the largest counties, according to the Economic Innovation Group, a bipartisan public-policy organization. Employers offering private health insurance propped up medical centers that gave rural residents access to reliable care.” But then technology happened. “By the late 1990s, the shift to a knowledge-based economy began transforming cities into magnets for desirable high-wage jobs.”

“The internet promised to boost the fortunes of rural areas by allowing more people to work from anywhere and freeing companies to expand and invest outside metropolitan areas. Those gains never materialized,” the Journal reports. "Lawmakers from both parties concede they overlooked escalating small-town problems for years. . . . Barack Obama’s administration tried to lift rural areas by pushing expanded broadband access, but found that service providers were reluctant to enter sparsely populated towns, said former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.”

Agriculture and light manufacturing, long the economic mainstays of small towns, offer fewer jobs as farms have consolidated and relatively low-skill factory jobs have been shifted to other countries. “As employers left small towns, many of the most ambitious young residents packed up and left, too,” the Journal reports. “In 1980, the median age of people in small towns and big cities almost matched. Today, the median age in small towns is about 41 years—five years above the median in big cities. A third of adults in urban areas hold a college degree, almost twice the share in rural counties, census figures show.”

Left behind in rural areas is a population that is increasingly less healthy than the rest of the country.
There may be other factors beyond the range of easy statistics. It can be argued that in many small towns, the advent of big-box stores decimated the local merchant class that provided much of the local civic impetus. Also, rural residents increasingly commute to other counties for work, and research by Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky's Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues (publisher of The Rural Blog) in 2010 showed that the longer the commute, the less likely the commuter was to read the hometown newspaper, one measure of civic engagement.

Whatever the reasons, a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the trend predicts that it will continue. Enrico Moretti found that “In densely populated labor markets (with more than one million workers) . . . the average wage is now one-third higher than in less-populated places that have 250,000 or fewer workers — a difference 50 percent larger than it was in the 1970s,” the Journal reports.