Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ozark Press Association Event March 28 Gives Journalists Access to Knowledgeable Speakers

The Ozark Press Association Annual Meeting will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday, March 28 in the Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout, Mo.

The program for this annual event is filled with knowledgeable speakers who will be addressing timely topics that are relevant to area journalists.

Program speakers will include: Dr. Jim Wirth on "Managing Stress at Work," Ron Cunningham on postal changes, Springfield News Leader Editorial Page Editor Tony Messenger on “The Sunshine Law,” Columbia Missourian Editor John Schneller on "Flirting with the Digital Frontier, attorney Jean Maneke with a legal and legislative update and Advertising Director Greg Baker with "How to Avoid No's.”

The lunch speaker will be author, speaker and actor Mitch Jayne, an Ozarks original.

Registration costs are very affordable with the first newspaper representative costing only $50 and other participants costing only $35. Non-Ozark Press Association newspapers will need to page $70 registration.

Please send registrations with payment by Feb. 29, 2008, to OPA, c/o Sharon Vaughn, The Summersville Beacon, PO Box 272, Summersville, MO 65571

Rooms have been set aside at the Keeter Center for those wanting to stay overnight either March 27 or March 28 at a cost of $59.95 per night. Please make reservations no later than March 1 by calling 1-417-239-1900 ext. 120.

For more information on the program, please contact the Missouri Press Association. Registration information can also be found online at

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cross-Ownership has Positive Effect on Local Media Coverage, MU Researcher Finds

The recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to loosen restrictions on cross-ownership of newspapers and broadcast television stations in the same market has met with criticism from consumer advocates and members of Congress that a cross-ownership would diminish the quality of local news coverage. However, the effect may be just the opposite, according to a University of Missouri study, which found that cross-owned television stations produce a greater percentage of local programming news content when compared to other network-affiliated stations in the same market.

“Local television newscasts for cross-owned stations contain on average about one or two minutes more news coverage overall, or 4 to 8 percent more than the average for non-cross-owned stations,” said Jeff Milyo, an economics professor at MU’s Truman School of Public Affairs and Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington D.C. “Cross-owned stations also show 7 to 10 percent more local news and offer about 25 percent more coverage of local and state politics.”

Milyo also evaluated the political slant of the news coverage and found that overall cross-ownership had no consistent or significant effect on local news.

“All local newscasts in a market have the same political slant, regardless of ownership; this is s is broadly consistent with other research on political slant in newspapers,” Milyo said. “We do see a difference across markets, but not within. “In general, a market that is serving more consumers that are Democrat leaning is going to give a slant or ‘flavor’ to the news that tends to be a little more Democratic and similar for Republican markets.”

Commissioned by the FCC’s chief economist, Milyo’s study compared broadcasts from 29 cross-owned stations located in 27 U.S. markets to those of major network affiliated competitors in the same market. A total of 312 recordings from 104 stations were compiled from the week prior to the November 2006 elections.

“To study whether cross-ownership lead to political bias, I chose measures of political slant that were easily quantifiable in the broadcasts,” Milyo said. “For instance, I compared if there were more Democrat or Republican candidates interviewed or discussed and if more of one party’s issues were mentioned than the other. The broadcasts from cross-owned companies showed little difference when
compared to those of other major networks.”

No previous study has examined the local news content and slant of every cross-owned station, nor have they appropriately controlled for differences in market characteristics such as the salience of current events and local preferences for news coverage, making this the most comprehensive analysis to date, Milyo said.

The study, “The Effects of Cross-Ownership on the Local Content and Political Slant of Local Television News,” was published in a report by the Federal Communication Commission. It’s available for download at:

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Research Says News Service has Regional Impact

Southwest Region News Service is a weekly news service highlighting University of Missouri Extension in southwest Missouri. Weekly articles are delivered by e-mail and reach every media outlet and journalist in the area.

Council members, and individual members of the public can also receive Southwest Region News Service upon request.

Yearly, readers are surveyed to determine how they are using this service, what impact it has and what information they like to read.

This year’s survey showed the news service did the following for individuals:
* Increased knowledge of extension programs for 92 percent of its readers;
* Provided information causing 73 percent to do something different; and
* Increased awareness of issues in southwest Missouri for 71 percent of readers.

Area journalists also took the survey and:
* 100 percent said the news service was “generally well-written;”
* 100 percent said they had found stories in the news service to be accurate; and
* 94 percent said they had used content from this news service for stories.

Nearly 2,350 members of the public receive this news service. Based on a recent demographic study of this audience this is what we know about the members of the public who read Southwest Region News Service: Missouri residents comprise 91 percent of the readership; Greene County residents account for 48.5 percent of all individual readers.

There were 366 new subscribers to Southwest Region News Service in 2007. Of those new subscribers, 2.2 percent were American Indian, .5 percent were Asian, .5 percent were Hispanic or Latino, 1 percent were African-Americans, 1.7 percent were of unknown origin and 94.5 percent were White. These new subscriber numbers are very similar to the breakdown of the total subscription numbers.

Nearly 11 percent of subscribers said they have a disability. Veterans accounted for 6.4 percent of subscribers. Seventeen percent of the new subscribers were over 65 years old and 92 percent of all new subscribers were from Missouri.

“This news service educates and informs readers of current news and information that is accurate, up-to-date and fills a real need to know in this area,” wrote reader Danette Proctor of Willard.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Emotional damage from natural disasters can add to stress levels long after the crisis is over

The emotional damage of tornados, floods and other natural disasters can be felt long after the immediate crisis is over, according to a licensed clinical social worker at the University of Missouri.

Families should watch the signs of stress and depression, and get help if needed, said Sherry Nelson, an MU Extension human environmental sciences specialist in Palmyra, Mo.

“People have different sensitivities to stress,” she said. “Some people are more likely to experience the symptoms of stress, depending on their physical or psychological makeup.

“The thing about stress is that it tends to pile up. Often the straw that broke the camel's back may be pretty little,” Nelson said. “It may not come up as an obvious money issue or it may come up in other ways.”

Sleepless nights, changes in appetite, excessive use of alcohol or drugs, headaches, forgetfulness, irritability, fatigue, anxiety and depression are common among people suffering from prolonged stress.

Avoidance and denial also are common, Nelson said. “Sometimes people think ‘If I just work harder, this will all come out OK.’”

That approach may work against you, she said, adding that stress can affect the ability to concentrate making a person more prone to injuries, she said.

“Depending on how severe the stress is and if we catch it early, we can do things to alleviate it,” Nelson said. “Often being able to talk about it does us so much more good than keeping a stiff upper lip.”

Nelson recommends that family members discuss their current situation and what it may mean for the future.

“Finances are not easy to talk about,” she said, but good communication among couples is an important part of problem solving. “Sometimes we figure out our own solutions by talking to someone.”

Spouses should not only discuss the family’s financial situation among themselves, they should be open with children living at home.

“Kids are pretty smart and can pick up on the fact that something’s wrong,” she said, “so it’s important to talk about what’s going on, instead of letting them guess or make up what’s going on.”

How much detail parents share will depend on the child’s age, maturity and involvement in the farming operation, Nelson said.

“You don’t have to go into a lot of specifics about the family finances,” she said. “It might just be talking about the things you can’t afford right now, for example, stopping and getting fast food.”

Talking with someone outside the family, a close friend or member of the clergy, who can be non-judgmental about the situation, also can be helpful, she said.

“Farming is often a somewhat isolated profession,” she said.

“Forming those support groups can help you get through a difficult situation.”

If the symptoms of stress are severe or if a person begins thinking about suicide, Nelson said, it is time for professional help.

“We’re talking about a situation where people are under a tremendous amount of stress,” she said. “With professional help, they can get what they need to pull themselves back from that edge.

“Mental health professional are simply another resource in coping with a health problem.”

People who need help can contact their physician, local mental health centers of the Missouri Department of Mental Health at (800) 364-9687 or visit

“Many providers offer services on a sliding scale, and services are often covered by health insurance,” Nelson said.

This information was provided by Eileen Yager, Communications Officer, University of Missouri Extension

What is the Best Way to Help a Family Impacted by Disaster?

My wife and I have some friends who have been left without a home because of the resent tornados in southwest Missouri. Their home was insured but they are still stressed and face lots of uncertainly.

Members of our Sunday School class jumped in and helped them salvage items from the home. In fact, fellow church members are helping them in a number of ways. But still, my wife and I have wondered, what is the best way to help a family impacted by disaster?

My wife talked to a co-worker who lost her home about years ago and she said, based on her own experience, that the most helpful things after a disaster are: 1) gift cards to stores like Wal-Mart and/or places to eat; and 2) gift baskets cleaning supplies and personal items.

The other keys are giving the family time to grieve and then doing things that help to reduce the stress they are feeling after a storm or disaster.

For example, focus on what is important to the family, delegating some responsibilities to others and keeping a sense of humor.

It is also important for the impacted family to invest in their health by establishing a daily routine, eating well, and sleeping enough hours.

According to research, stress can be reduced if a person first accept disappointments and grieve their losses before moving forward. It is also stress reducing to accept outside help.

"Reduce tension with organization by doing one thing at a time, breaking a demanding project into manageable steps and keeping track of your commitments. It is also important to live in the present and to not dwell on the past or worry about the future," said Jinny Hopp, a human development specialist with MU Extension.

Other stress reducing ideas include letting go of anger in healthy ways (such as physical motion) and celebrating accomplishments as you get back to normal.

For more information on reducing stress, see guide sheet 6651, "Challenges and Choices: Stress Management" online at