Thursday Roundup: Weekly Paper Shows Courage

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Stanley Nelson and the Concordia Sentinel of Ferriday, Louisiana, have won the 2011 Tom and Pat Gish Award for courage, integrity and tenacity in rural journalism.

Nelson is editor of the Sentinel. He has written a series of stories investigating the 1964 killing of African-American businessman Frank Morris. Last year Nelson named a suspect in the case. A grand jury was convened and continues to investigate the crime. 

A prosecutor on the case, David Oppeman, told James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times, “I told Stanley the other day he is the hub in this and everybody else is just a spoke. He did the work that needed to be done.”

The award is given by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues based at the University of Kentucky. It is named for Tom and Pat Gish, who operated The Mountain Eagle newspaper in Whitesburg, Kentucky. Tom Gish died in 2008, and the Eagle is now edited by their son Ben.

“The owners of the Concordia Sentinel never hesitated in following the story,” Nelson wrote in the fall edition of Nieman Reports, of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

“While most readers read the stories with interest and outrage over what happened so many years ago, many of the most vocal were those who detested the coverage and who questioned our motives,” Nelson told the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.

“We knew some would be angered to read about the parish’s ugly racial past,” he wrote for Nieman Reports. “Some canceled subscriptions. We were threatened. Our office was burglarized. One irate reader called to find out my ultimate goal. ‘To solve a murder,’ I said. ‘You can’t do that,’ she snapped. ‘You’re just a reporter!’ She hung up. We pressed on.”

• What was the key to Jimmy Carter’s political success? Easy. It was square dancing and the square dance club he joined in 1953. It was support from dance club members that carried him to a very narrow victory in his first run for the state senate, Carter says.

“If I hadn’t received support from our square-dancing friends, I would have lost and never become a state senator,” he wrote in his latest book, Through the Years with Jimmy Carter. “And if that had occurred, I never would have run for office again.”

• The L.A. Times reports that the number of HIV cases in the Navajo Nation is small, but increasing rapidly. 

• Food Democracy Now! founder Dave Murphy goes on a rant about the failure of the Obama administration to follow through on campaign promises affecting rural America. For example: 

Two months shy of the 2008 (Iowa) caucus, Obama boldly told a packed room of Iowa farmers and rural activists, “We’ll tell ConAgra that it’s not the Department of Agribusiness, it’s the Department of Agriculture. We’re going to put the people’s interests ahead of the special interests.” It was at this same event, the 2007 Food and Family Farm Presidential Summit, which I organized, that President Obama also famously promised to label GMO foods if elected. Instead, his administration has only approved new genetically engineered crops like they were new flavors of Chiclets.  

• There will be a gathering of “movement conservatives” at a ranch near Brenham, Texas, Politico tells us. The goal is to unite behind a Republican candidate. 

The group includes James Dobson, Focus on the Family founder; Don Wildmon with the American Family Association; and Gary Bauer.

We highly recommend the setting. That part of Texas is beautiful; best, it’s near the Blue Bell ice cream factory and the Antique Rose Emporium.

• The Food and Drug Administration took another small step yesterday to limit the use of antibiotics in livestock. 

The FDA has been worried that widespread use of antibiotics in agriculture was leading to the birth of infections resistant to treatment. Since that time, the federal agency has engaged in on-and-off again efforts to limit the practice.

Wednesday, the FDA announced that farmers and ranchers must limit the use of cephalosporins (such as Cefzil and Kflex), drugs used to treat pneumonia, strep throat and skin and urinary tract infections.

Most observers see this as a very limited regulation.

• There’s a corn seed shortage.

The Wall Street Journal reports that production of corn seed in the U.S. was down 25 percent to 50 percent ahead of this year’s planting. The shortage of seed threatens what was expected to be the biggest planting of corn in the U.S. since World War II.

• Japanese farmers have been working the same land for 2,500 years, but fallout from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is changing that, the Los Angeles Times reports

“For the first time in my life I’m afraid of my own crops,” said Fukuda, 60, a third-generation rice and vegetable farmer whose 50-acre spread sits a few miles from the ailing power plant. “Now we buy everything from the markets, grown far away from the reactor’s reach.”

Japanese farmers could also suffer if the country drops tariffs on imported rice (which can be as much as 800 percent). Recently, irate farmers drove tractors through Tokyo in protest.

Japan has 2.4 million farming households.

 

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