How to Save Local News (We Hope)
It’s been a tough decade-plus for local media. Since 2008, US newsroom employment has fallen by 26 percent, a crisis that accelerated last year, when publications had to reduce their already meager staffs. One study estimates that journalism layoffs more than doubled in 2020, and dozens of outlets have ceased publication entirely since the start of the pandemic.
These cutbacks are hitting local media hardest. Here in the Hudson Valley and Catskills, the past few years have seen the shuttering of several longtime local newsweeklies and layoffs at larger daily papers. At the same time, the need for reliable local reporting has never been more clear—nor more urgent. Into the void of local news has flowed partisan hyperbole, unverified social media posts, and harmful disinformation. The ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic, the perilous threats posed by climate change, the reinvigorated struggle for social and racial equity: all of these are huge stories playing out on the community level.
Fortunately, there is a lot of energy being put toward ensuring local journalism remains alive and well. And that’s happening here, as well. In this roundtable discussion, we’ll talk with journalists and publishers who are working on new models of journalism, or reimagining existing publications to ensure they remain vital to their readers.
- Tim Bruno, general manager, WJFF Radio Catskill
- Chip Rowe, editor, The Highlands Current
- Alex Shiffer, publisher, Kingston Wire
- Genia Wickwire, associate publisher, Ulster Publishing
More to be announced.
Moderated by Phillip Pantuso and Lissa Harris of The River.
This event will be held virtually.
How Do You Solve a Problem Like the Climate?
In this conversation, expert panelists working on a broad range of climate solutions throughout the region talk about their work—and the change that lies within our grasp, even in the midst of a complex global disaster.
Climate change isn’t coming—it’s here. Average temperatures are rising, and extreme weather is intensifying. The Hudson River has risen a foot over the past century, and is on track to rise six feet or more by 2100. To protect communities in the Hudson Valley and Catskills from the worst impacts, we need to decarbonize the economy. But we also need to adapt to the change that has already begun.
- Aaron Bennett, certified floodplain manager and environmental planner for Ulster County
- Ben Dobson, founder of Hudson Carbon and farm manager of Stone House Grain
- Melinda McKnight, vice president of Energy Conservation Services
- Nava Tabak, director of science, climate, and stewardship at Scenic Hudson
- Andrew Willner, sail freight advocate and founder of the Center for Post Carbon Logistics
- Rich Winter, CEO of Delaware River Solar and grass-fed beef farmer
Moderated by Lissa Harris, staff writer at The River, and Jen Metzger, former New York State senator and policy advisor for New Yorkers for Clean Power
A Forum on Affordable Housing Solutions in the Hudson Valley
There has been a lot of reporting—in our pages and elsewhere—and several events about the affordable housing crisis in the Hudson Valley. That problem, which predates the pandemic but has been exacerbated by it, is well-described and understood. More vexing is how to address it.
What are the most interesting ideas people have right now about housing? This conversation covers that topic, including: legislative and policy fixes, nonprofit solutions, progressive economic development initiatives, and more. Panelists present what they’re working on.
- Christa Hines, executive director, Hudson River Housing
- Richard Heppner, Woodstock town board member, chair of short-term rental committee
- Neil Bettez, New Paltz town supervisor
- Revonda Smith, board chair, Hudson Housing Authority
- John Cappello, Jacobowitz & Gubits
- Guy Kempe, VP, community development, RUPCO
- Jennifer Welles, executive director, Newburgh Community Land Bank
- Anthony Tampone, Kingston Code Reform Advocates
- Rashida Tyler, Real Kingston Tenants Union and Ulster County Coalition for Housing Justice
Moderated by Phillip Pantuso, managing editor of The River, and Joe Czajka, senior vice president, Pattern for Progress
Future Forward: Envisioning Environmental Change in the Hudson Valley
Climate change calls for urgency—and as we saw with the global pandemic last year, big, rapid shifts really are possible. What could we do within just the next decade to make the Hudson Valley more resilient?
We’re asking local environmental leaders and activists what they envision in their areas over the next decade, and just as importantly, how we get there. From freezing produce from local farms for food pantries to ensuring that wildlife have sufficient habitat to prevent future pandemics, we’re inspired by their ideas.
- Barbara Han, disease ecologist, Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies
- Stiles Najac, food security community liaison, Orange County Cooperative Extension
- Hugo Jule-Quintanilla, electric vehicle advocate, Sustainable Hudson Valley
- Vic Barrett, climate activist, Our Children’s Trust
Moderated by Phillip Pantuso, managing editor of The River, and Hayley Carlock, director of environmental advocacy for Scenic Hudson
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About COVID—But Were Afraid to Ask
In 2020, we aggregated and contextualized COVID-19 news from the federal, state, and local levels, and we produced original enterprise reporting and feature writing on the myriad ways the pandemic is affecting the political, economic, and cultural life of our region.
But the situation is ever-evolving, and there are still a lot of unknowns. For this event, reporters from The River host a virtual conversation with panel guests from the public health, local business, and community service worlds, and answer reader questions about the pandemic—from its effects to what it’s like to cover it.
- Diana Mason, Senior Policy Service Professor for the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University School of Nursing and the host of “HealthCetera in the Catskills”
- Jonathan Drapkin, President and CEO of Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress
- Marybeth Mills, owner and proprietor of Peekamoose
- Wilfredo Morel, Director of Hispanic Health at Sun River Health
- Lissa Harris, staff writer for The River
Moderated by Phillip Pantuso, managing editor of The River
Immigration Advocacy in the Hudson Valley
Immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, are facing perilous conditions. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is targeting all undocumented immigrants, and has recently stepped up its efforts in the Hudson Valley. As Michael Frank reported for The River, this prompted community members to organize and fight back against what they view as unjust federal policies targeting immigrants. Groups like the Ulster Immigrant Defense Network, Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, the Worker Justice Center, the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement, and others are working to aid immigrants on a daily basis.
- Father Frank Alagna, pastor of Holy Cross/Santa Cruz Episcopal Church and cofounder of the Ulster Immigrant Defense Network
- Prof. Martha Tepepa, the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College
- Diana Lopez Martinez, Community Organizer for Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson
- Cecilia Cortina, Human Trafficking Specialist, Worker Justice Center of New York
Moderated by Mariel Fiori, publisher of La Voz, host of “La Voz con Mariel Fiori on Radio Kingston”