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Centreville residents struggle as flash flooding and failed sewage systems have become the new
normal. The poor infrastructure is driving out longtime residents and frustrating those who remain. The
Belleville News-Democrat first dedicated significant resources to the flooding issue when a source from
Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville tipped it off that a group in Centreville was trying to get
justice for residents living under constant duress. (Credit: Derik Holtmann of the Belleville News-
By CHRISTOPHER HEIMERMAN
For Illinois Press Association
If journalists are confounded when sources won’t return calls, or won’t disclose information, there’s a pretty doggone good chance their readers will be equally baffled.
That’s why when state Sen. Chris Belt refused to return messages being left by Belleville News-Democrat reporters, asking him about his job duties as superintendent of a local water district, the newspaper published what’s called an explainer card.
The card, which is a separate piece packaged with the bylined story, spelled out that Commonfields of Cahokia didn’t provide Belt’s job description in a response to an open records request. It detailed the number of times staff emailed, called and left messages on Belt’s personal cellphone and at his office. It also provided a list of questions reporters are trying to get answered. At issue is the massive flooding that’s plagued Centreville, a poverty-riddled
community about 15 miles from St. Louis, for generations.
Shown is an example of an "explainer card" that acconpanied a recent story about flooding in Centreville that was posted to the Belleville News-Democrat's website.
“The value of the card, and we talked this through, is, ‘Hey, why don’t we tell people why we’re doing the story?’ ” said Jeffry Couch, the BND’s editor and general manager. “Let’s tell people all the attempts we made so people see the efforts that we made. You want to build as much transparency and trust with readers as you can. Part of doing that is finding ways to tell them what’s going into our work – what we’re doing, and what’s behind it.”
Oftentimes, journalists erroneously make the assumption readers aren’t interested in what goes on behind the scenes, Couch said.
“Readers want to know what’s under the hood when it comes to making the journalism,” he said. “I had to really tell myself that, that people are more interested in our work than we think they are.”
The BND’s politics reporter, Kelsey Landis, said even if you don’t hear from them, readers will always seek transparency and clear reporting that boils down convoluted topics.
“They just want to understand,” she said. “It’s so opaque, with the water sewer district and municipalities. People just want transparency there, and that’s all we’re trying to do. We’re not looking to ruin anyone’s day.”
Another reason the newspaper’s owner, McClatchy, has started using those explainer cards in its publications is to not bog down every follow-up with details that remain a common thread in reporting on an issue. Couch said he and staff discuss when to use the cards. They use them "whenever we feel like they are appropriate and when the readers would want to know more information about what went into a story," Couch said. "Or why we did a story."
The cards include information that could otherwise get lost within the body of a story, or break up its flow. They are used most often online, and only rarely in the print editions.
Finally, the explainer cards end with a solicitation for feedback and tips. That component has been crucial for DeAsia Paige, whose name and email address is at the tail end of that explainer card, along with that of politics reporter Kelsey Landis and Kavahn Mansouri, who keys on government accountability. The three of them recently acknowledged the one-year anniversary of investigating the flooding issues and the government’s failure to respond to the plight of Centreville residents.
The BND hired Paige last June through Report for America, which places reporters on underserved beats around the country.
Shortly after her arrival, as she started covering minority communities near St. Louis exhaustively, the newspaper began adding an explainer card to all of her stories, asking for tips from communities that have deep mistrust in the media, given its tendency to swoop in and cover just crime and prep sports.
Paige is currently up to her elbows in reporting on the pending merger of three municipalities into Cahokia Heights. Running unopposed for mayor is Curtis McCall Sr., who also happens to be Belt’s brother-in-law, the Centreville Township supervisor, and Commonfields’ board chairman.
“They’ve gotten used to getting away with this sort of thing, and they’re not used to having a journalist covering these sort of issues,” Paige said. “If I wasn’t in my position I’m in now, this story wouldn’t be covered. I wouldn’t be talking to you right now.”
To give perspective on how badly readers need the media to keep them informed, the BND first dedicated significant resources to the flooding issue only when a source from Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville tipped it off that a group in Centreville was trying to get justice for residents living under constant duress.
In late 2019 and early 2020, Mansouri began attending resident meetings and did door-to-door interviews to start building sources and gathering vital information you can’t get if you simply pass the Centreville exit and not immerse yourself in the community.
“I live in St. Louis, so It’s an exit I pass every day,” Mansouri said. “There’s this huge story just sitting there, and these residents who have suffered.”
Here’s hoping those explainer cards, and their requests for tips, help drum up more issues that haven’t yet been covered.
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Illinois State Bar Association announces
Rural Practice Fellowship Program fellows
May 6, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Rhys Saunders, senior manager of communications
Editors: Please note local interest.
The Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) is pleased to announce the names of the 14 Fellows selected to participate in the 2021 Rural Practice Fellowship Program, which is designed to meet the critical need of providing access to justice for those living in rural areas with a declining lawyer population.
“We were extremely pleased with the overwhelming response to this program from throughout the state of Illinois,” said ISBA President Dennis J. Orsey. “The demand far exceeded our first-year expectations.”
The ISBA Special Committee on the Rural Practice Initiative created two fellowship programs to address the issue.
The Rural Practice Summer Fellows Program connects law students with rural practitioners to give them experience working in rural communities before they leave law school. The program includes a $5,000 fellowship stipend and mentoring.
The Rural Practice Associate Fellows Program places graduating law students and new attorneys as permanent associates with rural practitioners. The program includes a $5,000 stipend at the beginning of employment, and an additional $5,000 stipend if the associate is still working for the same firm after one year.
2021 Summer Fellows:
Fellow: Jacquelin Pulak (Northern Illinois University College of Law)
Firm: Berger Law Firm, LLC, Byron, Illinois (Ogle County)
Fellow: Alex Pullen (University of Illinois College of Law)
Firm: McGrath Law Office, P.C., Mackinaw, Illinois (Tazewell County)
Fellow: Emily Wiedeman (Loyola University Chicago School of Law)
Firm: Heller, Holmes & Associates, P.C., Mattoon, Illinois (Coles County)
Fellow: Avery Lubbes (Saint Louis University School of Law)
Firm: Stumpf & Gutknecht, P.C., Columbia, Illinois (Monroe County)
2021 Associate Fellows:
Fellow: Paul Loss Dunham (University of Illinois)
Firm: Becker Law Office, Genoa, Illinois (DeKalb County)
Fellow: Glenn Hoskin (Loyola University Chicago)
Firm: Tobin & Ramon, Belvidere, Illinois (Boone County)
Fellow: Tristyn Criswell (Northern Illinois University)
Firm: The Cosentino Law Firm, St. Charles, Illinois (DeKalb County)
Fellow: Staci Vazquez (Northern Illinois University)
Firm: Malmquist, Geiger & Durkee LLC, Morris, Illinois (Grundy County)
Fellow: Elizabeth Reynolds (Southern Illinois University)
Firm: Jacob J. Frost, Attorney at Law, Spring Valley, Illinois (Bureau County)
Fellow: Tiffany Ketchum (Southern Illinois University)
Firm: Vawter Law Ltd., Macomb, Illinois (McDonough County)
Fellow: Megan Ryan (University of Mississippi)
Firm: Rammelkamp Bradney, P.C., Jacksonville, Illinois (Morgan County)
Fellow: Jacob Schlosser (Saint Louis University)
Firm: Woods & Bates, P.C., Lincoln, Illinois (Logan County)
Fellow: Edward Siemer (Saint Louis University)
Firm: McDevitt, Osteen, Chojnicki & Deters, LLC, Effingham, Illinois (Effingham County)
Fellow: Parker Louis Seely (Saint Louis University)
Firm: Bigham, Tanner & Foster, Pinckneyville, Illinois (Perry County)
# # #
Serving people with disabilities in Illinois
April 27, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: John Herring, executive director, Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living
101 W. Old State Capitol Plaza
Springfield, IL 62701
Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living is a network of people with various disabilities who connect statewide. The 22 Centers for Independent Living that make up INCIL share information, skills and experiences. While supporting each other, barriers to inclusion are removed and Independence achieved. People acquire methods to remain in their home and many financially trapped in nursing facilities are freed.
INCIL has been connecting people who have disabilities statewide since 1995. It is the hub for Independent Living services, while monitoring and educating our state about disability issues. All these organizations are “consumer controlled” run by and for people with disabilities. Each center is responsive to their communities’ needs and INCIL brings people together in this network of cross disability purpose with strength from unity. For more information call 217-525-1308 or go to INCIL.org.
Alliance For Climate Education launches
billboard campaign to grow support for passing
the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA)
April 21, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Leah Qusba, executive director, Alliance For Climate Education (ACE)
CHICAGO – This week, the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) is launching a billboard campaign to create awareness about the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) and mobilize Illinoisans to take action to demand that the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Pritzker pass CEJA in 2021. As we face the dual crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change driven by fossil fuel consumption, it is a critical moment to pass CEJA to help Illinois get positioned for the renewable energy revolution and to bring thousands of clean jobs to Illinois residents.
ACE’s mix of digital and vinyl billboards have been placed in prominent neighborhood and highway locations in the Chicago and Springfield areas, encouraging passersby to take action by going to: PassCEJA.com or “Text CEJA to 42108”. A total of 11 billboards – seven billboards in the Chicago area and four in Springfield – are now viewable.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) is a comprehensive climate and energy bill that centers on equity and puts Illinois on track to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Here’s how passing CEJA will make Illinois a leader in the just transition to renewable energy:
● Creates a path for 100% renewable energy in IL (17,000 MW solar/6,300 MW wind)
● Directs resources and support to BIPOC energy sector workers and contractors
● Invests $2B in clean energy for BIPOC, low income,and environmental justice communities
● Provides $50M/yr in rate relief to low-income consumers
● Puts Illinoisans to work building and maintaining clean energy infrastructure
● Saves consumers $700M/yr through expansions of electric and gas energy efficiency programs
● Supports electrifying the equivalent of 1.2M vehicles by 2030 including public transit & fleets
● Provides electric vehicle (EV) rebates and EV access for low-income communities
● Makes utility profits contingent upon making the grid more affordable, clean, and equitable
The billboards will be visible through the month of April and into early May, mobilizing support for passing the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) while April “Earth Day” month brings our public attention to the climate crisis and opportunities for taking action to ensure a livable planet for generations to come.
More About Alliance for Climate Education (ACE): ACE’s mission is to educate young people about the science of climate change and empower them to take action. We believe that young people have the power to tip the scales toward just climate solutions that match the scale and urgency of the climate crisis. ACE’s strength is in our work at the intersection of youth, climate, and democracy, taking an integrated approach across all of our programs to empower young people to become effective civic engagement and climate advocacy leaders.
A sample of the billboard creative:
Illinois Farm Bureau to fund Illinois Press Foundation grants to student journalism programs
April 16, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jeff Rogers, Illinois Press Foundation director
217-241-1300, ext. 286
SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Farm Bureau will be the financial sponsor of this year’s Illinois Press Foundation mini-grants program that assists existing media programs at public and private high schools throughout the state.
Selected schools receive grants of up to $1,500 from the Illinois Press Foundation to pay for a computer, software or other equipment needed for a high school’s student media program to produce print or online newspapers. School media programs will be receiving application information Monday, with requests due on or before May 14. Funds or equipment will be received in September.
“We’re excited to have Illinois Farm Bureau as a partner in this effort,” Illinois Press Foundation Director Jeff Rogers said. “Both of our organizations feel passionate about the opportunity to help young journalist and student news organizations.”
The mini-grants program will provide funding or equipment to as many as 15 high school media programs.
“Illinois Farm Bureau is really excited to be a part of program that will assist Illinois high school students in developing their writing and reporting skills while also sharing the news of their school,” said Chris Magnuson, executive director of Illinois Farm Bureau’s News and Communication division. “These types of hands-on opportunities typically create future career goals, and it’s exciting to think that some of these students could one day help tell agriculture and rural America’s story.”
Jerry Reppert, president of the Illinois Press Foundation Board, called Illinois Farm Bureau’s sponsorship “great news,” and added the mini-grants program has always been special to him.
For more information about the Illinois Press Foundation’s mini-grants program, email Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Illinois Farm Bureau is a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation, a national organization of farmers and ranchers. Founded in 1916, IFB is a non-profit, membership organization directed by farmers who join through their county Farm Bureau. IFB has a total membership of more than 378,237 and a voting membership of 77,909. IFB represents three out of four Illinois farmers.
The Illinois Press Foundation is dedicated to promoting and protecting free expression through educational activities that foster the practice and respect of First Amendment principles and values, to enhance the quality of services provided by newspapers to their communities, and to support reading and literacy efforts.
The IPF was established in 1982 as the charitable arm of the Illinois Press Association.
Its news service, Capitol News Illinois, has provided daily coverage of state government for Illinois’ newspapers since it was formed in 2019.
Partners in Recovery:
Sangamon County Recovery Oriented System of Care
April 8, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Teagan Shull,
217-544-9858, ext. 3108
(Springfield) – Systems of recovery have been forming across the state of Illinois. The goals of these systems? To support recovery. Family Guidance Centers, Inc. (FGC), a not-for-profit behavioral health care organization that treats and prevents substance use disorders, as well as an array of other behavioral health care concerns, received a grant to create a recovery oriented system of care (ROSC) right here in Sangamon County. What does a ROSC do?
ROSC is a coordinated network of community-based services and supports that is person-centered and builds on the strengths and resiliencies of individuals, families, and communities to achieve recovery and improved health, wellness, and quality of life for those with or at risk of substance use disorders. The central focus of a ROSC is to create an infrastructure, or “system of care”, with the resources to effectively address the full range of substance use disorders within communities. These goals include:
* Building a culture that builds and nurtures recover
* Building capacity and infrastructure to support a recovery-oriented system of care;
* Developing commitment to implement and sustain a recovery-oriented system of care.
“The goal of a ROSC is to create a system that works for individuals in recovery. This means that individuals in recovery have access to the resources and support they need. Recovery is a lifelong journey not just a 28-day program and individuals, their families and the community all need to work together to support that journey,” said Tegan Shull, program manager of Sangamon County ROSC. “Currently the council is working on conducting a community needs assessment and developing educational materials to facilitate conversations in the community about recovery and start reducing the stigma that surrounds substance use disorders. Recovery truly takes a village and affects the entire community”
"The current system of care is complex and often poses barriers versus points of access. Individuals and family members struggle to navigate services that are disjointed and often times stigmatizing. Sangamon County needs a connected system with multiple points of access to treatment and recovery services,” said Trenda Hedges, manager of Wellness and Recovery Operations for Beacon Health Options. “The phrase ‘nothing about us without us’ has been the chant of individuals in recovery for decades. ROSC creates the opportunity for the voices of those most affected by substance use and misuse to be heard and implemented into a system of care that supports recovery."
Sangamon County Partners in Recovery (ROSC) meets monthly and all are invited to attend. If you or your organization would like to get involved, visit the ROSC website at Sangamon County Partners in Recovery (godaddysites.com) or email Teagan Shull at email@example.com.
120 N 11th St., Springfield, IL 62703, (217) 544-9858
Website: Sangamon County Partners in Recovery (godaddysites.com)
Illinois midwife bill passes
House Health Care Licensing Committee
March 29, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Bukola M. Bello
After a decades-long fight, a bill to license certified professional midwives in Illinois passed the Illinois House of Representatives Health Care Licensing Committee March 24, 2021.
The bill grants a state license for midwives to assist in safe home births if they attain professional midwife certification, a nationally recognized credential.
The bill has been a long time coming. Variations of this bill have been brought before the legislature nearly every year since the late 1970s. In that same time, 35 states and Washington D.C. have granted licenses to certified professional midwives, many of which also cover the cost through state Medicaid programs.
Nearly 1,000 families in Illinois choose to give birth at home every year. These families may choose to do so due to cultural, philosophical or religious reasons, or because of fear related to trauma and racism.The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased demand for out-of-hospital maternity care providers. Most people seeking out-of-hospital births this year have been left to navigate a market of underground midwives, which offers no state regulated protections for consumers.
People of color also face much higher risk of maternal mortality and other complications than their white counterparts. A recent National Academy of Engineering, Medicine, and Sciences' Birth Settings in America Report indicated that racism – not race – is a risk that contributes to poorer outcomes for birthing people of color. Proponents of the bill believe that providing the people of Illinois more access to safe, licensed maternity care providers outside the hospital system can help address this problem.
Isis Rose, a Black mother, anthropologist, birth professional and home birth advocate, of Urbana, Illinois, told Illinois House Health Care Licensing Committee members that she chooses to birth at home because “here in Illinois, Black women are six times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.” The “disproportionately high rates of negative pregnancy and birth outcomes for black birthing people of color”, coined “obstetric racism” by anthropologist Dana-Ain Davis, is the primary reason she and her husband choose to have their babies at home with a certified professional midwife. She relayed that “for all people, especially Black birthing people, to feel comfortable choosing home birth, we need increased access to legal channels of midwifery and greater access to home birth midwives with congruent cultural backgrounds and lived experiences.”
In addressing these numerous issues, the Certified Professional Midwife Practice Act (HB 3401) will regulate the professional conduct of home birth midwives in Illinois by establishing a Midwifery Board and setting rigorous standards for practice; require midwives to meet educational standards supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; regulate the use of life-saving medications and treatments for mothers and newborns to ensure high-quality care for parent and child; allow midwives to screen for possible complications and conditions such as congenital heart defects and hearing disabilities; establish a safe system to transfer care during rare emergencies; and mandate informed consent forms to meet established standards.
Carrie Vickery, of Ottawa, Illinois, and vice president of Illinois Friends of Midwives, a group advocating and lobbying for broader access to midwifery care in Illinois, told state legislators during a March 24, 2021, hearing that the state of Illinois is failing in its duty to appropriately regulate home birth midwifery.
"Each year of delay in licensing and integrating home birth midwives puts consumers at risk," Vickery said. "We are telling you: protect us. Give us licensed certified professional midwives."
Hearing this call, the committee passed the bill with a unanimous vote, and the bill is expected to be brought to the House floor for a vote sometime later this session.
The bill's sponsors in the Illinois House of Representatives are state Reps. Rep.Robyn Gabel (D, Evanston), Anna Moeller (D, Elgin), Michelle Mussman (D, Schaumburg) William Davis (D, East Hazel Crest),Terra Costa-Howard (D, Lombard), Norine K. Hammond (R, Macomb), Kelly M. Cassidy (D, Chicago), Bob Morgan (D, Highwood), LaToya Greenwood (D, East St. Louis), Amy Grant (R, Wheaton), Lance Yednock (D, Ottawa), Steven Reick (R, Woodstock), Daniel Didech (D, Buffalo Grove), Michael T. Marron (R, Danville), Maurice A. West, II (D, Rockford), Thomas Morrison (R, Palatine), Rita Mayfield (D, Waukegan), Michael Halpin (D, Rock Island), Kathleen Willis (D, Northlake), Brad Halbrook (R, Shelbyville), Edgar Gonzalez, Jr. (D, Summit), Mark Batinick (R, Plainfield), Randy E. Frese (R, Quincy), Theresa Mah (D, Chicago), Margaret Croke (D, Chicago), Stephanie A. Kifowit (D, Aurora), Janet Yang Rohr (D, Naperville), Lindsey LaPointe (D, Chicago) and Suzanne Ness (D, Carpentersville).
receive recognition for their accomplishments”.
FCCLA’s 75thanniversary is a major milestone for the organization and FCS education. Whether one is looking to feel confident in the kitchen, make a difference in their community, or prepare for career success, FCCLA and FCS is the secret ingredient to succeed in the home and workplace.
Tufts University: https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/general-nutrition/28-of-americans-cant-cook
WZDX Fox: https://www.rocketcitynow.com/article/news/what-ever-happened-to-home-ec-millennials-struggling-with-home-and-nutrition-skills/525-7f8fd87d-2134-408f-909b-4687ba46b496
Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) is a dynamic and effective national student organization that helps young men and women become leaders and address important personal, family, work, and societal issues through Family and Consumer Sciences education. FCCLA has more than182,000 members and 5,253 chapters from 48 state associations, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
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