When Art Cullen won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing in 2017, it marked an important change for the small-town newspaper editor. Cullen and his brother John run the Storm Lake Times, a twice-a-week paper staffed mainly by family members that seeks not only to knit together a strong community in the diverse, 10,000-person town of Storm Lake, Iowa, but also to keep a record of—and engage in an active conversation about—the way agriculture there has changed. The prize led Cullen to write Storm Lake: A Chronicle of Change, Resilience, and Hope from a Heartland Newspaper, which serves as a clear-eyed chronicle of a meat packing town built on the backs of several generations of immigrants and an era when Iowa agriculture has been shaped by a small handful of powerful corporations.The Pulitzer judges described his editorials as “fueled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa.” And Cullen’s book strikes a similarly dogged tone while complicating many of the race, class, and cultural divides at the center of our current political moment, while asking the reader to look closer and think harder about what is unfolding in America’s heartland.
Ean Petersen has learned how the interior hinges of his 3D-printed birds, cats and dogs need proper spacing in order to flex and bend, and through trial and error, which materials work best.The North Platte 10-year-old can laser engrave paw prints onto a set of dice and laminate the instructions for "Pet Store," the board game he created to play with family and friends.Having access to the equipment used by makers and creators at his local public library has kindled Petersen's creative spark, bolstered his self-esteem and unleashed his entrepreneurial spirit.Petersen is among the thousands of Nebraskans, young and old, who have discovered or rediscovered a passion for making things, another reinvention of public libraries sweeping across the country, including in the Cornhusker State.Two decades ago, it was the push for library computer labs capable of connecting the public to the internet, which required public and private grants until municipalities saw the utility and agreed to fund the project.
A federal agency and national association have commissioned a toolkit to help groups raise more money for rural health-related projects. The creators hope a rising tide in funding will lift all boats.A new online “learning portal” seeks to help rural organizations raise more funding from philanthropies, which tend to favor urban projects and organizations over rural ones, a federal study shows. “There’s been a great interest in philanthropic investments in rural communities,” said Alana Knudson, one of the portal’s contributors. Knudson is co-director of the Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis at the non-partisan research organization NORC at the University of Chicago. The online toolkit was developed through the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) in partnership with the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), who have convened an annual philanthropy meeting for the last five years
The stigma of drug addiction means people in small towns may keep secrets to themselves – until it’s obvious something is wrong. Fighting addiction means talking honestly about the problems confronting our rural communities.Normal protocol was to send students who failed the drug test to a substance-abuse class at the juvenile detention center and ban them from participating in after–school activities. However, in my case, the positive drug test was kept a secret. I was allowed to continue doing theater and didn’t have to go to the substance abuse class. Nobody wanted to admit that a star student had a drug problem. My addiction was nurtured and kept safe. I continued to get worse.
City dwellers really do have it much better than rural inhabitants, at least when it comes to job opportunities in the 21st century. After looking at who’s working in urban and rural areas, the Federal Reserve found that the labor market began to recover earlier and improve much faster in cities than in the countryside. While there’s always been a gap, it’s become more severe during the current expansion. The yawning gap between city and country is most glaring in what’s known as the labor force participation rate. That is, the percentage of the working-age population that either has a job or is looking for one.Let’s start with urbanites. The percentage of prime-aged (25-54-year-old) residents who were working or looking for work climbed to 83% at the end of 2018 and finally topped the pre-recession average.By contrast, the participation rate for prime-aged rural Americans has recovered more slowly and is still under 80%. The rate had fallen to as low as 78.5% in the wake of the recession.
Consumers have moved to large lenders offering online transactions; community lenders left behind struggle.
Marie-Claude Bibeau was shuffled Friday and became Minister of Agriculture and Agrifood, which was prompted as Lawrence MacAulay became Veteran’s Affairs Minister to replace Jody Wilson-Raybould.
After state officials conceded that at least a quarter of a list of nearly 100,000 Texas voters flagged for citizenship review should never have been questioned, a federal judge said, "I wish all of this could've been done back as the original effort."
In early February, Martin County, Kentucky Sheriff John Kirk took to Facebook to announce that his office was unable to continue providing law enforcement, warning residents to protect themselves instead. “I have had to operate the last little bit with just myself and one other paid deputy. There are volunteers that help when they can,” he wrote. “I am going to have to cut even more tomorrow. I have no choice. I can’t expect people to work if I can’t pay them.” The lack of funding Kirk faces is an acute example of a growing crisis confronting the Central Appalachian states of Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia. A decline in global demand for coal, plus competition from natural gas and renewables, has decimated the market and drastically reduced coal severance taxes, the fees coal companies pay to counties for extracting coal out of the ground. With counties stripped bare of their once bounteous cash flows from the coal industry, the revenue squeeze is exposing financial mismanagement, worsening a dire economic situation, and resulting in partial government shutdowns and cutbacks in core government services like infrastructure, education, and healthcare. “It’s a tough time to be in a small community that has relied for so many years on coal for its main economic driver,” said Rep. Angie Hatton, who represents Letcher County and part of Pike County in the Kentucky House of Representatives. “They’re cutting everything. We have laid off employees. Road maintenance, garbage service, water. Everything.”
In early February, John Gillander, an older man with a thick white mustache and wire-rimmed glasses, parked his red Ford Fiesta inside a county park in Mohave County, Arizona. Snow dusted the top of Hualapai Peak, which jutted into the sky. His mobile home burned down during November’s Camp Fire in Paradise, California, and everything Gillander owns fit in the back of his car. His two dogs — an English cocker spaniel named Charlie-Horse and a red border collie called Scarlet — have accompanied him on his wanderings ever since he fled the flames. When I spoke with Gillander, he was waiting for his insurance company to give him enough money to purchase an RV — a stopgap until he can rebuild permanently in his hometown. “I’ve always wanted to travel,” Gillander told me. “And now I guess I have the time.”