Press Pass: All News Is Local
One of the challenges of producing daily journalism is trying to decide what to cover. In the flotsam and jetsam of daily information, how do you decide what is important? As reporters, what do we have an obligation to cover for our audience and when can we advance a bigger conversation? What has to get left out? At JPR, we have to ask these questions every day.
In recent months JPR reporters have brought you stories that feed into the national dialogue. They range from stories about the people who will be Oregon’s first guides in the state’s new psychedelic therapy program, to local coverage of Shasta County’s efforts to ditch Dominion Voting Systems which is now part of the $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox News, to a nearly overlooked local example of train derailments like others making national headlines.
Meet the facilitators
For the past two months, JPR writer Juliet Grable has been at work on a series of short profiles about the therapists, nurses and alternative medicine practitioners who will be among the first to graduate from Oregon’s psilocybin therapy program. We wanted to know, who are the people who will be using psychedelic mushrooms in a therapeutic setting, and what is their motivation to work in this new arena of health care? How can talking to them demystify this emerging field for the rest of us?
She spoke with a range of practitioners, including a critical care nurse from Talent who hopes to bring this treatment to first responders, a naturopathic physician from Portland focused on ensuring equity in psilocybin access for people of color, and a therapist who participated in an early FDA psilocybin study and who hopes to open a service center in Grants Pass. We hope these interviews will shine a spotlight on this unique subculture.
Shasta County and the $1.6 billion lawsuit
In January, Shasta County earned the inauspicious title of being the first county in California to break their contract with Dominion Voting Systems over unfounded national claims of fraud during the 2020 election. This is just one story of political dysfunction playing out recently in Shasta County that JPR reporter Roman Battaglia has chronicled. It’s worth noting that the far-right majority on the county’s board of supervisors who are pushing for this change did not protest the election results that swept them into office using the same voting system.
Roman’s local reporting sometimes results in watching ten-hour long public meetings to find out the results of a decision or driving to Redding to stake out the local elections office. Shasta County was being referenced in the $1.6 billion defamation case by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News. Fox quickly settled that lawsuit in mid-April, but Shasta County dumping Dominion was being referenced as evidence of how Fox’s false claims during the 2020 election caused real-world damage to the voting system company. Story by story, Roman has documented incremental local changes that often get followed later by national media outlets.
Adding to the record on train derailments
This winter JPR reporter Jane Vaughan reported about a place just northwest of Dunsmuir, California called the Cantara Loop. The name came up because a listener emailed us that a Union Pacific freight train had jumped off the tracks in the mountainous region south of the Oregon-California border. It was not the first time. What initially seemed like an unusual story about an industrial accident soon appeared to be just one local example of train derailments that were happening around the country, including the toxic chemical spill in East Palestine, Ohio. National reporting from ProPublica has noted that a trend known as “precision scheduled railroading” has led to companies using longer and longer trains. When weight is not distributed properly throughout cars, derailments can occur. We don’t know if that was a contributing factor of the incident at the Cantara Loop or if it happened because of the tight curve in the tracks for which the area is known.
Jane’s story drew on public records like an audit of Union Pacific Railroad by the Federal Railroad Administration and FRA’s records about UP’s above average number of accidents in California. Being in rural far-Northern California, no other outlets had covered the derailment at the Cantara Loop and Union Pacific had not even notified the Siskiyou County Office of Emergency Services that the accident had occurred. While it’s always hard to measure the impact of a story, Jane’s reporting documented what could have otherwise been overlooked and added a local data point about this national trend.
We hope that local reporting by Juliet, Roman and Jane adds value for our audience by establishing a set of facts in Shasta County, adding a data point that might otherwise get missed with the Cantara Loop, or by humanizing and exploring a world that’s unfamiliar to most with psilocybin therapy.
We welcome your suggestions about other stories we should be covering and other important questions that should be asked.