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  1. In an online webinar sponsored by South Dakota News Watch, Washington Post media columnist and author Margaret Sullivan expressed her concerns that the closure or diminishing of local newspapers and other news organizations will lead to a less-informed citizenry and a weakened democracy.
  2. Four panelists discussed the challenges and opportunities facing South Dakota small towns in a virtual town hall hosted by South Dakota News Watch on June 25. While recognizing that some hurdles to stability, vitality and growth do exist, all four experts were overwhelmingly hopeful that small towns will weather the COVID-19 pandemic stronger and more able to thrive.
  3. Accessing and providing health care in small towns across South Dakota was a challenge long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but now the virus has further complicated the ability of providers to offer care to rural residents and may make it harder for patients in remote areas to get the care they need to stay alive and well. This is Part 2 of "Small Towns, Big Challenges," a South Dakota News Watch special report.
  4. As part of its ongoing series, "Small Towns, Big Challenges," South Dakota News Watch will host a live virtual town hall discussion between experts and members of the public on the past, present and future of small towns across the state. All members of the public are invited to listen in on the conversation and also ask questions via a Zoom link during the town hall scheduled for Thursday, June 25 at 7:30 p.m Central Time. For full details on the event, including the Zoom link needed to attend online, please click on this article link above.
  5. South Dakota small towns are seeing both peril and some promise amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has not caused major outbreaks of infection but which has indirectly added to population and economic woes that have plagued rural communities for generations. In a three-part series, South Dakota News Watch will examine the long-term trends and the recent effects of the pandemic. In Part 1: As South Dakota’s small towns grapple with a cloud of economic uncertainty, leaders and residents search for silver linings.
  6. A lack of moisture has created conditions conducive to wildfires in the Black Hills, including at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, where the state of South Dakota plans to hold an Independence Day fireworks show on July 3 that is expected to attract 7,500 people, possibly including President Donald Trump.
  7. Dozens of South Dakota fairs, festivals and events have been cancelled in 2020 to reduce the risk of spreading the potentially deadly coronavirus. The cancellations have eliminated a significant source of revenue for many communities and the state and have been painful for organizers and patrons who look forward to the annual events that bolster community spirit and fund local programs.
  8. The death of a 27-year-old Brookings County farmer in February and the entrapment of a man in Hughes County in March have highlighted the dangers of handling grain in bins on farms in South Dakota and across the country. Grain bin accidents have plagued farmers for generations, but after a bad year for incidents last year, conditions this year may be even more dangerous due to wet weather in 2019 that led to a late harvest of damp, clumpy grain.
  9. As controversy swirls around roadway checkpoints implemented by two South Dakota Native American tribes -- with Gov. Kristi Noem threatening legal action if the checkpoints are not dismantled -- the story of the extensive, wide-ranging efforts of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to protect tribal and non-tribal residents on the reservation from COVID-19 has largely gone untold. The tribe's efforts have so far been successful in protecting a vulnerable population from the potentially deadly virus.
  10. As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, most South Dakota colleges and universities are planning to bring students back to campuses for in-person classes this fall, but they are not totally sure how they will keep them safe and how many will show up. In addition to the logistical challenges, colleges across the state and country face the prospect of massive financial losses if enrollments drop or students choose to learn online rather than on campus.
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