Indy Digest: July 21, 2022
If you’ll pardon me for a moment, I have a rant I need to get off my chest.
Gallup recently released the results of its annual poll regarding Americans’ confidence in the news media. The results … well, as the headline on the Gallup website says, “Media Confidence Ratings at Record Lows.” As for the specifics:
Gallup has tracked Americans’ confidence in newspapers since 1973 and television news since 1993 as part of its annual polling about major U.S. institutions. The latest readings are from a June 1-20 poll that saw declines in confidence ratings for 11 of the 16 institutions measured and no improvements for any.
Television news and newspapers rank nearly at the bottom of that list of institutions, with only Congress garnering less confidence from the public than TV news. While these two news institutions have never earned high confidence ratings, they have fallen in the rankings in recent years.
A majority of Americans have expressed confidence in newspapers only once—in 1979, when 51% did. But there is a wide margin between that and the second-highest readings of 39% in 1973 and 1990. The trend average for newspapers is 30%, well above the latest reading of 16%, which is the first time the measure has fallen below 20%. The percentage of Americans who say they have “very little” or volunteer that they have no confidence is currently the highest on record, at 46%.
As I write this, I am in Chicago, at the annual conference for the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN). (Full disclosure: I serve on the AAN board of directors as the vice president.) I’ve been coming to these conferences for more than two decades, as the industry has gradually gotten smaller and smaller. While these conferences have changed over the years, one thing has remained constant: The vast majority of people who work at newspapers like the Independent aren’t doing so for the money. There’s doing so because they believe in the power of journalism, and because they love their communities.
Very, very few people here could be described as affluent. And far more people at AAN publications would like to be here at this conference—but they can’t afford the trip.
Meanwhile, some politicians—mostly Republicans—have been tweeting out these poll results with glee. While newspapers aren’t blameless here, these low ratings are, in large part, the fault of these same tweeting politicians: They’ve repeatedly bashed newspapers and the news media—with Donald Trump going as far as to call journalists the “enemy of the people”—in part because hard-working journalists have exposed their wrongdoing, or pointing out their shortcomings.
American democracy is broken … and if people don’t trust legitimate journalists, the situation is only going to get worse.
From the Independent
Five or Two? Voters Will Finally Have a Say in Palm Desert’s Electoral-District System—but the Vote Is Just Advisory
By Kevin Fitzgerald
July 20th, 2022
Palm Desert’s decidedly unique two-district system was adopted by the council to settle a California Voting Rights Act of 2001 lawsuit. Is a five-district system better?
Dedication and Diversity: Miguel Arballo and Sean McCune’s Analog Lab Prepares to Release Its Debut EP
By Matt King
July 19th, 2022
Analog Lab’s debut single, “Swallow the Sun,” has a ’90s alternative-rock and grunge feel, with some sparkly indie effects. On Friday, Aug. 5, the band will release its debut EP, also titled Swallow the Sun.
By Kevin Carlow
July 20th, 2022
Do these cocktail names need a marketing update? Martini, no. Porn Star Martini … most definitely.
July 21st, 2022
On this week’s pavement-melting Independent comics page: This Modern World enters the fantastical world of right-wing media; Jen Sorensen bemoans polarization; (Th)ink veers off to the far side; Claytoonz defends 10-year-old girls; and Red Meat celebrates a long weekend.
By Matt King
July 21st, 2022
Get to know a little about Andy Cahan, the most famous musician you’ve never heard of.
• The latest wastewater tests by Indio’s Valley Sanitary District (VSR) for SARS-CoV-2 levels are showing a week-to-week decrease, just as Palm Springs’ latest results did. Does this mean the BA.5 wave has crested in the Coachella Valley? Maybe. Hopefully. But I am not sure. Three reasons for skepticism: 1) VSR’s results decreased from July 12 to July 14, and then went back up a bit July 18. So, hmm. 2) We’ve seen a week or two of decreases in the midst of an overall upward trend before with wastewater tests. 3) As the VSR report notes, wastewater virus numbers are otherwise increasing in every part of the country. So, stay tuned—and stay safe.
• President Biden has COVID-19. NBC News reports: “Joe Biden’s age, 79, automatically puts him at greater risk for COVID complications, but infectious disease experts expect the president—who has had two COVID booster vaccines and is in relatively good health otherwise—to recover quickly. Biden tested positive for COVID on Thursday and has mild symptoms, including fatigue, runny nose and a dry cough, according to a letter from Dr. Kevin O’Connor, the president’s physician. ‘He is a healthy 79-year-old man who has been diagnosed rapidly, who’s having mild symptoms, who’s vaccinated and is on antiviral therapy. All of us expect a good outcome,’ said Dr. Arturo Casadevall, a professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. White House Covid response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said in a briefing that the president ‘feels really well,’ has no fever and was working all morning.”
• And now polio’s back? Well, one case of it is, in New York City. The Associated Press explains: “An unvaccinated young adult from New York recently contracted polio, the first U.S. case in nearly a decade, health officials said Thursday. Officials said the patient, who lives in Rockland County, had developed paralysis. The person developed symptoms a month ago and did not recently travel outside the country, county health officials said. It appears the patient had a vaccine-derived strain of the virus, perhaps from someone who got live vaccine—available in other countries, but not the U.S.—and spread it, officials said. The person is no longer deemed contagious, but investigators are trying to figure out how the infection occurred and whether other people were exposed to the virus. Most Americans are vaccinated against polio, but this should serve as a wake-up call to the unvaccinated, said Jennifer Nuzzo, a Brown University pandemic researcher.”
• Our partners at CalMatters report on some depressing but unsurprising news regarding the state’s education system: “New California education data helps tell an old story: Schools with higher rates of low-income students have more underqualified teachers. A CalMatters analysis of teacher credentialing data released this month by the California Department of Education found this correlation statewide as well as within districts. The state’s data from the 2020-21 school year details the percentage of classes by school and district that were taught by fully credentialed teachers, intern teachers or teachers without proper subject credentials. The data also shows the percentage of classes taught by ‘experienced’ teachers—those with more than two years of experience. … Statewide, 83% of classes were taught by fully credentialed teachers in the 2020-21 school year. But at eight of the 10 largest school districts, classes at schools with the highest percentages of low-income students were more likely to be taught by a teacher without full credentials than at schools with the lowest percentages. Los Angeles Unified had the largest disparity among non-charter schools—the rate of fully credentialed teachers was 22 percentage points higher at schools serving more affluent families.”
• Time magazine answers the question of “Why It’s So Hard to Get a Monkeypox Vaccine Right Now.” I recommend reading the article, as it’s very enlightening. Just a taste: “Vaccine rollout wasn’t supposed to go like this. When monkeypox cases were first detected in the U.S. in May, experts were reassuring. They stressed that—unlike COVID-19 when it first emerged—monkeypox is a known threat, with existing vaccines that could be deployed as necessary. But the reality has been messier. Vaccine supply is limited, distribution has run into roadblocks, and it has proven difficult to prioritize the highest-risk individuals for shots. The result is that, at least in certain areas, demand is overwhelming available supply.”
• You know those “expiration” dates on packaged food? Well, they’re kind of worthless, according to a health professor writing for The Conversation: “The USDA Economic Research Center reports that nearly 31% of all available food is never consumed. Historically high food prices make the problem of waste seem all the more alarming. The current food labeling system may be to blame for much of the waste. The FDA reports consumer confusion around product dating labels is likely responsible for around 20% of the food wasted in the home, costing an estimated US$161 billion per year. It’s logical to believe that date labels are there for safety reasons, since the federal government enforces rules for including nutrition and ingredient information on food labels. … The dates on those food packages, however, are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Rather, they come from food producers. And they may not be based on food safety science.”
• And finally … the area’s pro hockey team has a schedule—including a home-opener date! From a news release: “The Coachella Valley Firebirds, AHL affiliate of the Seattle Kraken, have announced the schedule for the team’s inaugural season. View the full season schedule here. Coachella Valley will kick off its 72-game campaign on Sunday, October 16, at 12 p.m. PT with a two-game series in Calgary. The team will then head to the Seattle area to play the next four games with two matchups against the Abbotsford Canucks (October 21 & 23) followed by two games against the Calgary Flames’ new AHL affiliate (October 28 & 29). Specific details and locations will be announced at a later date. … Following the four-games in the Seattle area, the Firebirds will play 16 games on the road through the middle of December before making their home ice debut at Acrisure Arena, the newest world-class concert and sports venue in the Coachella Valley, on Sunday, Dec. 18.”
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