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Big news this week for Southerly — a bright light in these dark days. I'm excited to announce that Carly Berlin is our new Gulf Coast correspondent

Carly is a freelance journalist, essayist, and educator in New Orleans. Her work has appeared in The Bitter Southerner, Scalawag, Down East Magazine, The Guardian, and more. She has covered everything from labor rights to housing inequity to climate change to the oil and gas industry.

For Southerly, she'll be reporting on the coast stretching from Texas to Florida, focusing on disaster relief, climate change, public health, the oil and gas industry, changing local economies, and more. It's a chaotic time, and there are plenty of stories. In the coming weeks and months, Carly will also be covering how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting coastal and inland communities.

You can read her work here, and follow her on Twitter. You can also email us story ideas about the Gulf Coast. I'm excited to see how our journalism can help strengthen the media ecosystem in the region. If you're at a newspaper, digital outlet, radio station, or television station along the coast, reach out to me to see how we can work together. You can republishi Southerly’s work for free and/or collaborate with us.

Stay safe and keep practicing social distancing. Thinking of y'all. 

—Lyndsey Gilpin, Founder, Editor, Publisher
Carly Berlin will be reporting on Gulf Coast communities for Southerly. Contact her if you have story ideas or tips. 

How Louisiana's oil and gas industry uses prison labor 

Incarcerated people are often dispatched to help clean up disaster sites or assigned to work in the industries that fuel climate change. Read the story.

Stories worth your time

High Country News published an incredible two-year investigation into the U.S. land-grant university system, which was created from the expropriation of Indigenous land. The Morrill Act of 1862 worked by turning tribal land into seed money for higher education institutions — most of which are in the east. Some of the South's biggest and most well-known state universities, like the University of Tennessee, the University of Kentucky, and Clemson University, were built with this money. 

Last week, we linked to some stories about the threat of COVID-19 in the American South. The Takeaway interviewed Vann R. Newkirk II, a staff writer with The Atlantic; Dr. Rebekah Gee, the former secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and now head of Louisiana State University’s healthcare services division; and Dr. Marinelle Payton, chair and professor of epidemiology at Jackson State University’s School of Public Health. 

Latria Graham wrote an essay for Garden & Gun about her fight to save her family farm in South Carolina, and eventually, what it was like to let it go. "The road home isn’t as beautiful anymore. When I was little and didn’t know enough about the world to be afraid of the dark, I used to sit under a now-missing pine tree and listen to the owls call out to one another. Now, lumber companies have taken the trees they believe to be worth something, leaving behind gaping holes and broken branches and ocher scars leading right up to the edge of our property."

April 5 was the 10-year anniversary of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster in West Virginia, which killed 29 men. Caity Coyne at the Charleston Gazette-Mail interviewed the families of those lost about what their lives have been like since.  “With a loss like that, 10 years is nothing, really," said Gary Quarles, who lost his son in the explosion. "I think it’ll always feel like just yesterday.”

We lost John Prine to COVID-19 this week. I'm heartbroken about it, as I'm sure many of you are. Some things I've loved reading/listening to the past couple days: This, in The Atlantic. This NPR piece. The Bitter Southerner's roundup of stories about Prine from several years ago. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear's tribute during a media briefing. 

News flying under the radar 

Duke University researchers studied 23 streams in the Mud River watershed, a network of creeks and streams in Lincoln County, West Virginia, and found that even though a major mountaintop removal site is closed, high concentrations of selenium were found in stream insects when they fly out of the water and the spiders that eat them along the banks. 

Tennessee regulators ordered some utilities to stop disconnections during the pandemic, as Knoxville News Sentinel reports — but that doesn’t apply to municipal, cooperative or nonprofit utilities, which is how most people in the state get their electricity. 

Holmes County, Mississippi, is the poorest county in the poorest state in the country. Every child qualifies for free school meals, so a superintendent has organized trips to drive 6,000 meals a day via a fleet of 70 school buses. Read it in The Guardian
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