On this page you’ll find examples of my written work. Links to the original material are provided at the bottom of each story.

Feature story:

Athens County Public Libraries serve as community centers despite budget cuts – The New Political


When the financial crisis hit in 2008, the Ohio legislature slashed funding to public libraries. But nearly a decade later, Athens County libraries continue to serve local communities and are even finding new ways to do so.

A day at the library 

On a Monday afternoon in early December, Gloria Moody sits in a corner, eyes glued to the computer screen in front of her. She flips every so often between a webpage and Google Docs.

The 17-year-old is working on a paper for her English class. She’s taking two this semester because she’s graduating early from Trimble High School, which can be seen just outside the window of the Glouster Public Library.

Moody would do her paper at home, but that’s easier said than done. She doesn’t have a working computer there, which means she’d have to type it all on her phone.

“It’s a lot harder for me to type my essay on my phone and go back and forth between looking something up that I need to know and typing my paper,” she said. “So if I have that problem, I’ll come here.”

Glouster, a city in Athens County’s Trimble Township, is home to just under 2,000 residents.

Thirty percent of residents in the county live below the poverty line, according to a 2016 report from the Athens County Foundation. Three out of 10 children grow up under the poverty line.

Moody didn’t finish her assignment before she left the library as the sun faded for the evening.

“I’ll probably just finish it on my phone,” she said.

The Athens County Public Library’s main branch is in Nelsonville. Others can be found in Athens, The Plains, Chauncey, Coolville, Glouster and Albany.

At the Athens branch, Chelsea Hindenach sat on the floor of the library with her  daughter, Eleanor. Her son, Jonah, was chatting up a librarian about different books he could check out about ancient Greece.

Jonah is homeschooled, and his mom took him to the library to get materials for a lesson on Greek mythology and history.

“It’s huge. We couldn’t do it without the library. We’d be stuck on the computer all day and that’d be no fun.”

Jonah runs back to his mom from the other end of the library.

“I found this, can I get it?” he asked, holding a DVD copy of “VeggieTales.”

Mom says yes. They came for books, but sometimes they get a little something extra, too.

“We get audiobooks fairly often, sometimes movies, and sometimes CDs,” Chelsea said. “I think I’ve rented a bicycle once.”

Hitching a ride

Since 1935, Athens County residents could go to the local library to get something new to read free of charge with a library card. But at libraries throughout the state and here in Athens, library card holders are doing more than just checking out books.

Athens’ libraries began the bicycle program in 2013 as part of a partnership with the Athens County Health Department.

“The idea was just to get people more active,” Director of Athens County Libraries Nick Tepe said.

“The library saw it as an opportunity to assist the community in trying to put more tools in people’s hands to get more active and improve their health that way. What it’s proven to be is not just great for that, but in so many ways.”

An unexpected benefit, Tepe said, was that people without cars are renting bikes to run errands in communities like Nelsonville. There are even people learning to ride for the first time using the library’s bicycles.

“One of my favorite moments that I saw about a year ago was I saw a couple of international students from OU had checked out a couple of bikes, and one was clearly showing the other how to ride a bike,” Tepe said.

By the numbers

The Athens library system sees between 30,000 and 40,000 patrons every month. Around half are visiting the library in the city of Athens. The smallest group — about 1,500 per month — visits the library in Albany, according to 2016 and 2017 data from the Athens County Public Libraries.

In 2013, the Ohio Library Council reported that the state of Ohio had the second most “borrowers” in the nation, only second to Minnesota. Those borrowers, on average, visited their libraries 7.5 times each year. That’s a rate higher than any other state.

But in the age of iPhones, high speed internet, Amazon and ebooks, how are libraries staying afloat?

Funding for Ohio public libraries rose nearly every year from 1985 through 2001, when funding from the Statehouse totaled $496,458,342. It dropped by about $40,000,000 in 2002, but remained relatively the same until 2009, when funding dropped $80,000,000. That’s when things started to change.Ohio Public Library Funding from the State

“During the financial crisis, the state actually proposed slashing funding to Ohio’s libraries by 50 percent, but we pushed back very, very strongly,” Tepe said. “We broke the Statehouse email server several times that week because people were so upset by it. But we still got cut by 30 percent.”

That caused some problems for Athens County libraries. It was forced to shut down a popular home delivery service in 2009. Other changes like a reduction in staff and fewer operating hours followed the state budget cuts that year.

Funding from the state has remained around its 2009 numbers, despite an increase of about 700,000 registered borrowers statewide. Athens saw 2,876 new borrowers sign up in 2016 alone.

Prior to 2008, 70 percent of Ohio’s libraries, including the Athens libraries, were funded entirely by the state, Tepe said. That’s not the case anymore.

Because of a countywide levy passed in 2014, the Athens County Libraries have a little extra cash on hand to bring back a service for which patrons have been asking — the delivery service.

Any item in the county libraries’ collection is eligible for home delivery, except for the bicycles. Library cardholders can subscribe to a monthly service and have librarians choose content for them, or they can request specific items.

The service is offered to people with an illness, disability, caregiver responsibilities or a lack of transportation.

The libraries have been able to return to their pre-recession hours and are even thinking of expanding hours at some locations, Tepe said.

A push forward

While Athens has the delivery service and even bicycles, other libraries throughout the state have also had new ways to keep people coming through the doors in a digital world.

At Akron libraries, library card holders can check out a Roku stick with a Netflix subscription to watch favorite shows on their home TVs. A wifi-connected personal electronic device is also available for Summit County residents.

In Toledo, borrowers were allowed to use their library cards to get into Costco for a week of shopping that included Black Friday. It’s the second year the library and the wholesale club partnered for the holiday shopping season.

Columbus Metropolitan libraries began offering access to Kanopy, an online video streaming service that provides short half-hour long lectures from college professors on topics like physics, calculus or history. The service typically costs anywhere from $25 to more than $100 for a single lecture series.

The Athens County Public Libraries do not yet have any multimedia devices that library users can check out, but Tepe said they could be seen in the “not too distant future.”

Athens borrowers can use Hoopla, a streaming service with access to movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks, comics and TV shows. The Athens County libraries offer digital subscriptions to The New York Times at library branches and 72-hour limited access from a cardholder’s home device.

The libraries also offer free technology training by appointment to those who need help using a computer, the internet or other electronic devices.

But even as times change, Gloria Moody, who comes to the Glouster branch not just to type her English papers, but also to volunteer, said there’s people using the library for just a little bit of everything.

“There are a few people who only come here for computer access, and there are a few that only come here for books or the newspaper, but occasionally you see people come for more than one thing,” Moody said. “There’s a couple regulars, and you know what they’re going to do.”

Tepe said for many places in the county, the library is a necessity.

“Especially in our outlying communities, the library is often a central part of that community,” he said. “It’s a place where people come together on neutral ground, to get the information they need to be successful. Whether that’s looking for jobs, connecting with friends and love ones or trying to improve their skills to be more marketable.”

Read the original story, including original multimedia elements, at The New Political.

News Reporting

Betsy DeVos’s $40 Million Yacht Was Set Adrift in Ohio – Teen Vogue

A $40 million yacht belonging to the family of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was untied and set adrift from its dock in Huron, Ohio, sometime last weekend, according to The Blade, a Toledo-based outlet.

The captain of the supersized boat first reported the incident to police at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday, July 22, The Blade reported.

Handlers were able to wrangle the yacht, named Seaquest, but not before it suffered an estimated $5,000 to $10,000 in damage in the form of large scratches and scrapes after colliding with the dock at the Huron Boat Basin in Huron, The Blade reported, citing a police report. 

The 163-foot boat has a capacity of 12-24 passengers and 12 crew members. It was delivered to the DeVos family in 2008, according to SuperYachtFanThe Blade reported that, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the boat is registered to RDV International Marine LTD; a company that shares a location with the RDV Corporation, which manages the DeVos family’s wealth.

DeVos and her husband, former Amway CEO Richard DeVos Jr., have an estimated combined net worth of $1.3 billion, according to Business Insider.

According to CBS News, DeVos is the richest member of Donald Trump’s cabinet, and as Forbes has stated, “appears to be the richest in modern U.S. history.” The Seaquest is just one of 10 boats owned by DeVos, according to The Blade, which cites family profiles in national publications. The family also owns two helicopters and four airplanes, according to Newsweek.

Police are looking for surveillance footage to determine who could have untied the yacht. The Blade reported it was unclear why the boat was in Ohio waters, although the education secretary and “school choice” advocate had visited the state earlier in the month. DeVos also has strong ties to Michigan, as Politico has reported. The Huron dock where the boat was tied up is on Lake Erie, which touches both Ohio and Michigan.

DeVos’s tenure as secretary of education has included rescinding Obama-era guidelines on college campus sexual assault and removing 72 policies that helped students with disabilities because they were “outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective.” Her perceived inaction on gun safety in schools has prompted international protest.S

Read the original story at TeenVogue.

Policy Reporting

State of the State 2017: Kasich allocates $20 million for opioid crisis – WCPO.com

Governor talks innovation efforts in Ohio

SANDUSKY, Ohio — Gov. John Kasich asked the Ohio Third Frontier Commission to invest $20 million dollars to come up with new ways to combat the state’s opioid epidemic at Tuesday night’s State of the State address.

The Ohio Third Frontier is an arm of the Ohio Department of Development Services Agency and exists to help stimulate the economy through technology-based startup companies, according to its official webpage .

Kasich said the cash infusion would allow for innovation into dealing with the state’s growing opioid crisis.

“This money will award existing ideas that simply need an extra push,” Kasich said. “There are things that can work with the brain, you can start to push back. … I think this $20 million is worth it and I hope you do too.”

Although the governor continued to stress his belief that Ohio’s drug addiction problem must be solved up through local community intervention rather than policy and programs, Kasich’s request came just days after he announced new regulations on the prescribing of opioids.

The new regulations would place limits on how prescribers, such as doctors or dentists, prescribe acute opiates. The limits would prevent prescribers from giving adults a supply lasting longer than seven days and minors a supply exceeding five days.

Kasich held strong in education reforms he initially proposed in February when he proposed his final state budget as governor. He reaffirmed his plan to require teachers to complete “externships” with a business or a chamber of commerce in order to renew their teaching license.

There’s already been negative reaction to these plans. In March, Cincinnati Rep. Brigid Kelly and Rep. Kent Smith of Euclid proposed a bill that would require Kasich to spend 40 hours visiting both low-performing and high-performing schools.

Kasich again mentioned his desire to have three non-voting business members on every Ohio school board so that schools are able to better understand the business community.

Another theme of the governor’s second-to-last State of the State speech? Automation.

The governor said the state was already working on road improvement projects such as adding fiber to highways to make them more compatible with autonomous vehicles, but he also noted negative aspects of automation.

“You know the number one occupation in America is a driver,” Kasich said. “Who do you think is going to be impacted by the reality of self-driving trucks? The entire automobile industry will face a transformation from the internal combustion chamber to the electric motor.”

Kasich spoke before Ohio state legislators, members of the media and other invited guests from across the state at the Sandusky State Theater. This is Kasich’s second-to-last State of the State speech. He began holding the addresses in various locations around the state in 2012 in an effort he says will bring government to the people.

Read the original story at WCPO.