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Dear Visitor: This site preserves the legacy publications of the Rural West Initiative from 2009-2014. 
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Rural West Initiative: Editorial Advisers and Contributing Editors

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Editorial Advisers

Our editorial advisers will review the posts and essays we publish about our investigations into issues affecting the rural West. In short, they'll be keeping us honest and accurate and will make suggestions on ways to expand our coverage.


Don Albrecht is Director of the Western Rural Development Center, Utah State University before which he was a faculty member in the Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M University for 27 years.  He received both his B.S. (forestry and outdoor recreation, 1976) and his M.S. (sociology, 1978) at Utah State University. In 1982 he received his Ph.D. in rural sociology at Iowa State University. Albrecht has served as president of the Southern Rural Sociological Society (1997) and as vice-president of the Rural Sociological Society (2001–2002). For the latter society's peer-reviewed journal, Rural Sociology, he has served twice as an associate editor (1988–1991 and 1995–1999) and as book review editor (1994–1997).

Felicity Barringer has been a national environmental correspondent at The New York Times since November 2003. Barringer joined the Times as a contributing correspondent in Moscow in 1986, reporting on the political and cultural upheavals of the Gorbachev era. Barringer covered demographics and social policy in the Washington bureau and from August 1993 through March 1995, she was deputy editor ofThe Week in Review. She has also written forColumbia Journalism ReviewArt NewsThe New York Times Book Reviewand The New York Times Magazine and is the author of the book, Flight From Sorrow, a biographical study of a survivor of Nazi Germany and the camps of Stalin’s Soviet Union. (Atheneum, 1984.)

Howard Berkes is NPR’s Rural Affairs Correspondent. Since 1981 he has been reporting on the intermountain American West. As his NPR biography says, “he's traveled thousands of miles since then, to every corner of the region, driving ranch roads, city streets, desert washes, and mountain switchbacks, to capture the voices and sounds that give the region its unique identity.” His reporting is not confined to the boondocks. He has covered seven Olympic games and won numerous awards for his reporting on a variety of subjects.

Tom Brokaw In 2004, Brokaw became a special correspondent to NBC News after 21 years as anchor and managing editor. Brokaw continues to report and produce and provide expertise during breaking news events for NBC News. His long-form documentaries "Tom Brokaw Reports," have tackled such diverse topics as literacy, affirmative action, drunk driving, corporate scandals, immigration policies, and race. He has covered every presidential election since 1968 and was NBC's White House correspondent during the national trauma of Watergate (1973-1976). From 1984 to 2004, Brokaw anchored all of NBC's political coverage, including primaries, national conventions and election nights, and moderated nine primary and/or general election debates.

Brian Cannon, Brigham Young University, Professor of History, Director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies.  He teaches upper division courses in the American West in the Twentieth Century, Utah History, and U.S. History from 1890 to 1945. Much of his research focuses upon agricultural settlement, rural community development and federal rural policy in the twentieth century. He has received fellowships or other awards from the Western History Association, the Agricultural History Society, the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, the Ford Foundation and the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies.

Cindy Carpien From 1987-1996 Carpien was the executive producer of Scott Simon’s Weekend Edition on NPR. In 1996, she moved to Flagstaff, Arizona and joined NPR member station KNAU there. She worked with staff on local and national stories out of the Grand Canyon area of Northern Arizona and helped implement the first national reports from the station out of the region. She now lives in Palo Alto and is a staff producer for Morning Edition.

David Danbom is a historian, author, columnist, and professor emeritus of agricultural history at North Dakota State University. Danbom spent nine years on the Fargo Historic Preservation Commission. He has been a frequent contributor to the Fargo Forum newspaper. His works include Born in the Country: a History of Rural America and The Resisited Revolution: Urban America and the Industrialization of Agriculture, 1900-1930

Paul Larmer, Executive Director and Publisher of High Country News. After completing his internship in 1984, Paul went on to hold almost every possible position at High Country News. He is now responsible for working with the board of directors, drumming up funding and generally making sure the magazine is sailing in the right direction. He holds a Master’s Degree in Natural Resource Policy and worked for years at the Sierra Club. Every summer he plants a few crops on his small ranch in Western Colorado and pretends to be a farmer.

Patricia Limerick is the Faculty Director and Chair of the Board of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado, where she is also a Professor of History. In 1985 she published Desert Passages, followed in 1987 by her best-known work, The Legacy of Conquest, an overview and reinterpretation of Western American history that has stirred up a great deal of both academic and public debate. Limerick is also a prolific essayist, and many of her most notable articles, including “Dancing with Professors: The Trouble with Academic Prose,” were collected in 2000 under the title Something in the Soil.

Gayle McKeachnie was elected to four terms in the Utah State House of Representatives. From 1985-86 he served as the majority whip for the Republican Party. After his service in the state legislature, McKeachnie served as the chairman of the Board of trustees for Utah State University.[3]It was while serving as a university trustee that McKeachnie became Utah's fifth Lieutenant Governor. Today the former lieutenant governor continues to be deeply involved in Utah politics and policies. He is renowned in Utah as an expert on rural issues, including gas and oil-field discoveries. His expertise in both rural and energy issues makes him a highly sought-after advisor. McKeachnie served in the Huntsman administration as the leader of Rural Affairs.

Phil Roberts, Wyoming University, Professor of History. A 1977 graduate of the University of Wyoming College of Law, he practiced law, worked in public history, owned a publishing company, and published a city magazine in Cheyenne. In the middle 1980s, he entered the University of Washington, Seattle, for a doctorate in history. He was granted the Ph.D. in history in 1990, and later that year, he was appointed to the faculty at the University of Wyoming where he has taught the history of Wyoming and the West, legal, public and environmental history.   

Patrick Shea has worn many impressive hats during his career. He’s a lawyer in private practice today in Salt Lake City, with an emphasis on emerging biotech companies. He is an associate research professor of biology at the University of Utah, where he is teaching a graduate seminar on the biology of an urban stream. He has been Director of the U.S Bureau of Land Management and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management. He has worked with the Senate Intelligence Committee and Foreign Relations Committee, as well as the President’s Commission on Aviation Safety, Security, and Air Traffic Control. He holds degrees from Harvard Law, Oxford, and Stanford.   

Greg Smoak is an associate professor of history at the University of Utah. He is the author of Ghost Dances and Identity: Prophetic Religion and American Indian Ethnogenesis in the Nineteenth Century. He is currently working on An Environmental History of Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. The work was commissioned by the National Park Service. He is also working on a book about the way non-Indian doctors dealt with native healers in the era of assimilation. He has published numerous book reviews and articles about Native American history. He is currently serving on the board of editors for Western Historical Quarterly.

Howard Weaver As team leader and reporter, Howard Weaver won two Pulitzers while he was with the Anchorage Daily News. While there from 1979 to 1995 he was a reporter, managing editor and editor. From 2001 to 2008 he was the Vice President for News at the McClatchy Company, and before that he was the editor of the editorial pages for the Sacramento Bee. For the last year he has been working on a memoir of his years in Alaska journalism scheduled for publication next spring. Now, he says, “I hope to tackle a bigger question about how Alaska’s cultural changes mirror or perhaps predict national shifts.”

Donald Worster, University of Kansas, Professor of History.  His most recent book, A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell, is published by Oxford in 2001. Earlier books include The Wealth of Nature, Under Western Skies, Rivers of Empire, Dust Bowl, and Nature's Economy. He is former president of the American Society for Environmental History and a member of the Western History Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the American Historical Association.

Contributing Editors

Our contributing editors will make regular appearances as bloggers and will occasionally write longer essays on the subjects we are pursuing. We invite others who have an interest in these subjects to contact us if they would like to participate in our ongoing discussion. 


Dustin Bleizeffer,  The Executive Editor of, Bleizeffer is a reporter with 12 years’ experience covering energy in Wyoming. From 2000 to 2010, Bleizeffer was energy reporter for the Casper Star-Tribune, covering the coal, natural gas and oil industries. He detailed the socio-economic and environmental issues of the coal-bed methane gas boom in the Powder River Basin from the onset of the development in the late 1990s. Bleizeffer’s investigative work includes a 2008 series on the failings of Wyoming’s workers’ compensation program. 

Alex Chadwick, former host of NPR’s Day to Day, frequent host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered, correspondent for NPR’s and National Geographic’s Radio Expeditions. Chadwick received the Sigma Delta Chi Award for investigative journalism, two Lowell Thomas Awards from the Overseas Press Club for foreign reporting, and was part of the CBS News team that produced the Emmy- and Peabody-Award-winning documentary, In the Killing Fields of America.

Krissy Clark  (@kristianiaclark) is an award-winning radio journalist and documentary-maker. As the Los Angeles Bureau Chief for KQED’s The California Report, she uncovers the people, places and policies that make Southern California such a fascinating region. Clark is also a contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, Weekend Edition and Day to Day, APM’s Marketplace, the BBC, American Radio Works, Freakonomics, and StoryCorps. She is a former staff reporter and editor for the weekly national radio show Weekend America. She spent her early career in a small town in Colorado, reporting on the rural American West for High Country News. In 2009, Clark received a Knight Journalism Fellowship to spend a year at Stanford University researching location-aware technologies and their applications for innovating journalism. Her reporting has earned awards from groups including the Public Radio News Directors’ Inc.and the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. She was a finalist for a Third Coast Festival Award and the Livingston Award, one of journalism’s highest honors. Clark is the founder of, a location-based storytelling project whose audio installations have been exhibited by The New Museum in New York City, and San Francisco’s Gray Area Foundation for the Arts. Clark graduated cum laude with honors from Yale University, earning a B.A. in The Humanities. She was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and now lives in Los Angeles.

­John Fleck has been a staff writer at the Albuquerque Journal for 20 years, covering science and environmental issues. In the past decade, he has made aridity, climate change, drought and the resulting water policy questions a central topic of his newspaper work. As Albuquerque and Santa Fe, northern New Mexico's two largest metro areas, have shifted in recent years to using water imported from the Colorado River Basin, his journalism has emphasized the relationship between New Mexico's water and broader regional waterscience, politics and policy questions. He is the author of "A Tree Rings' Tale," a book for young people about climate, science, water and the West, and is working on "Moving Water", a book about Colorado River water policy in the 21st century.

Judy Muller  is an Emmy award winning television correspondent who worked for CBS and ABC. She is now an associate professor of journalism at USC. She’s been a frequent commentator on NPR. Her book on rural newspapers, Emus Loose in Egnar, is coming out in July. 

Robin Pam is the co-author of our essay on rural healthcare. She is the director of operations at a health data start up in the San Francisco area. She has worked in health policy on a congressional committee, online communications at a think tank, a political campaign in Montana, and historic architecture at Yosemite National Park. Her writing has been published by the Center for American Progress and High Country News. Robin holds a degree in American Studies from Stanford, and is a native of the West.


Mark Trahant  is the former editor of the editorial page for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, where he chaired the daily editorial board, directed a staff of writers, editors and a cartoonist. Trahant is a member of Idaho's Shoshone-Bannock Tribe and former president of the Native American Journalists Association. He is a former columnist at The Seattle Times and has been publisher of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News in Moscow, Idaho; executive news editor of The Salt Lake Tribune; a reporter at the Arizona Republic in Phoenix; and has worked at several tribal newspapers. Trahant has won numerous journalism awards and was a finalist for the 1989 Pulitzer Prize in national reporting as co-author of a series on federal-Indian policy.

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