Rural News

The Rural Blog A digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based at the University of Kentucky. Links may expire, require subscription or go behind pay walls. Please send news and knowledge you think would be useful to al.cross@uky.edu. Follow us on Twitter @RuralJournalism

  • Site tracks how often each Congress member votes with Trump; could be helpful in covering this year’s elections
    by Heather Chapman on January 17, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    Part of the database shows two senators who support Trump more than their voters do; click on the image to enlarge it.The first votes in the 2020 primary elections will be cast soon, and some primary challengers have attempted to unseat their opponents by criticizing how often their opponents did (or didn’t) vote with President Trump. If you’re reporting on your local congressional race, it’s essential to know how often that actually happened, and to know the details of the issues involved.Analytics site FiveThirtyEight has compiled a database that tracks how often each member of Congress has voted in line with Trump’s position; Trump’s local share of the vote in the 2016 election minus Clinton’s (as a rough measure of the president’s popularity in the district); a prediction of how often each member is expected to support Trump in the future, based on the first two figures; and the difference between a member’s actual support for Trump and their predicted support. Also, if you click on the senator or representative’s name, you can see the specific bills they voted on. […]

  • Retired rural reporter criticizes Facebook for allowing fake news; his op-ed is easily adaptable by all news media
    by Heather Chapman on January 17, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    Mark KellyIn an op-ed published yesterday, a retired rural reporter took Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to task for failing to tackle the proliferation of fake news on its social media sites (Facebook has acquired other popular platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp).Facebook isn’t a news site, exactly, but many people get their news from Facebook because friends use it to share news stories. Zuckerberg has a responsibility to police that content to prevent fake news purveyors from spreading lies, Mikel Kelly writes for the Lake Oswego Review, a weekly just south of Portland, Oregon. Kelly retired from the paper a few years ago but still writes a column.News media have to stand behind the words they publish, no matter their size, platform or how frequently they publish, Kelly writes: “Even the tiniest weekly and monthly newspapers have to figure out a way to sniff out the lies, mistruths and complete B.S. their readers and advertisers would like to sneak into their news, editorial and advertising content — and block them from public view.”Zuckerberg has argued that people should have the freedom to write what they want on Facebook as long as it’s not obscene or illegal, but Kelly dismisses that notion: “The classic cliché used when discussing the freedom of expression that we possess in this country is how we all have the right to free speech, but it does not extend to crying ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater. Mark Zuckerberg’s response to that is, ‘Hey, I’m no fireman — how would I know if it’s really a fire or not?’ Well, I’m telling you, Marky: It IS a fire. And your failure to deal with it is embarrassing. You are not helping one bit. Please stop your whimpering and take responsibility for the massive role you and your company play in the world.”Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, which publishes The Rural Blog, says Kelly’s editorial could easily be adapted by any news outlet, and should be, because journalists and their paymasters need to constantly remind their audiences of the fundamental differences in types of media: “News media do journalism, which emphasizes facts and practices a discipline of verification; social media emphasize opinion and have little if any discipline or verification. It’s important to know the difference.” […]

  • Proposed rule would end requirement for faith-based health-care providers to refer for services they won’t perform
    by Heather Chapman on January 17, 2020 at 4:12 pm

    “The Department of Health and Human Services has unveiled a proposed rule that would remove a mandate that faith-based providers refer patients to other providers for services they won’t offer for religious reasons,” John Commins reports for HealthLeaders, a health-care industry publication.If adopted, the rule could hurt rural patients. At Catholic hospitals, which make up an increasing share of rural health systems, providers often can’t offer services related to abortion, birth control, some end-of-life care, and gender affirmation. Rural patients who are refused care because of religious beliefs may have no other local options, as illustrated by a recent story about a Minnesota woman who had to drive for hours and contact several pharmacies to get a morning-after pill. The proposal “removes what the Trump administration claims is a discriminatory Obama-era policy that requires religious providers of social services, but not other providers of social services, to make referrals,” Commins reports. “HHS is one of nine federal departments, including the Department of Education and the Department of Justice, that were named in a Trump executive order to remove what it said were unfair barriers in federal policies that singled out faith-based groups.” […]

  • Quick hits: Washington community tries a creative solution for its shortage of mental-health-care providers
    by Heather Chapman on January 17, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Here’s a roundup of stories with rural resonance; if you do or see similar work that should be shared on The Rural Blog, email us at heather.chapman@uky.edu.A rural town in Washington state is trying to mitigate mental health care provider shortage by weaving mental health into primary-care appointments. Read more here.A new poll shows that rural and small-town voters in Vermont and along the Eastern seaboard believe their communities don’t get their fair share of transportation funding, and most also want more environmentally friendly transportation and transit options, writes the Vermont director of The Nature Conservancy. Read more here.A new book explores the offensive term “white trash” along with the place impoverished white people hold in American society. Read more here.The Department of Agriculture is hosting a series of workshops about the Rural Development Broadband ReConnect Program. The first one will be in Denver, Feb. 12-13. Read more here.The FBI says it will alert states when local election systems have been hacked. Read more here.A federal judge has blocked state and local veto power over refugee resettlement. Read more here. […]

  • Nebraska bill aims to reduce property taxes for farmers, make up the difference with excess state revenue
    by Heather Chapman on January 17, 2020 at 3:00 pm

    As farmland continues to rise in value, more and more farm owners say they’re struggling under the weight of increased property taxes, especially after 2019’s poor harvest. In Nebraska, property taxes are especially high. “On average, Nebraska farmers pay $16,200 in property taxes per year, among the highest figures of any state. And the state relies heavily on that money: More than a quarter of its total property-tax revenue, much of which pays for public education, comes from farmland,” April Simpson reports for Stateline. “In fact, Nebraska brings in more cash taxing farmland than any state but California and Texas.”Critics say land value doesn’t necessarily indicate what farmers are making off that land, and say “Nebraska’s antiquated system reflects a time when property ownership was an indication of wealth and income,” reports Simpson, who notes that property taxes are also high in the northeastern U.S.A new bill in Nebraska would decrease property-tax assessments, more so on farmland, and funnel excess state revenue to fund schools so districts are less reliant on property taxes, Simpson reports. […]