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The Evolution of a Bay Weekly Story

It’s not always a straight path 

      Like a holiday box of chocolates (thanks Bill Vance, Betsy and Alex), this week’s paper brings you a variety of choices, all I hope to your taste. (And none, I hope, that sticky cough-medicine flavor that makes you say yuck!)
      Two of those stories have histories that have become stories in themselves. Bob Melamud wrote the first draft of Maryland Roads on a Reduced-Salt Diet back in 2016. We almost printed it in December that year … But the winter of 2016-2017 was, as Bob writes in this much-revised version, “such a pussycat that … my snow blower sat lonely and untouched in my garage all winter.”
         … While his story sat in the Bay Weekly bank.
       We tried again this December, when it would have been timely. But space was tight, and once again it got deposited in the bank.
        Normally, not much interest accrues on a story sitting in Bay Weekly’s bank.         This one is different.
        General manager Alex Knoll, who lays out much of our paper each week, has splashed great photos of big trucks all over the pages.
       Thus Bob’s story — about how wet salt saves money and the environment — has a triple happy ending.
      Not quite so long have I been developing Health Care for All, my story on how Sylvia Jennings worked herself out of a job at Owensville Primary Care.
       But over December and into January I’ve invested many hours in learning how this federally qualified community health care center works … meeting the people who make it work … researching and thinking about how inequitably health care is distributed in our nation, our state, our counties.
       Consider these conclusion from the Anne Arundel County Report Card of Community Health Indicators published in 2017 (
       Anne Arundel’s poverty rate of six percent soars to 26 percent of all children in single-parent households.
      Fewer than one-third of county residents are of “healthy weight” and nearly one-third of adults, slightly less than state and national averages, have hypertension.
      The report found that the Affordable Care Act — in serious jeopardy under the new tax law repealing one of its pillars — reduced the number of uninsured in the county by one-third in two years time.
     But Anne Arundel’s primary care physician-to-patient ratios are worse, on average, than the rest of Maryland. And the lack of insurance and access to health care when needed drive the sick to hospital emergency rooms, “increasing the cost of care for conditions that could have been prevented or treated in a lower-level setting.”
      That’s the context in which Owensville Primary Care serves — as it has for four decades — “all patients regardless of insurance status or ability to pay.”
      With Jennings having finally retired Jan. 2 after 20 years, this story is timely in more than one way.
      My research for it brings us another bonus this week, and I hope in weeks to come: Creature Feature with Wayne Bierbaum’s extraordinary photos of animal life in Chesapeake Country. As well as chief medical officer at Owensville Primary Care, Bierbaum is a dedicated wildlife photographer. You’ll see that for yourself when you turn to his Baltimore oriole, a rare sight, despite its name, in our part of the world nowadays.
      Other stories remind you, as they have me, that Martin Luther King Day puts us in close and immediate touch with the rich heritage of the civil rights movement. We’ve previewed the Annapolis premier of the Broadway musical I Have a Dream and interviewed directors of two local choirs — The Extensions of Faith Praise Choir and Glen Burnie Fresh Start Gospel Choir — singing in Annapolis this weekend.
       Don’t just read about them. Go see and hear them.
      One more thing: If the boating season can’t start soon enough for you, you’ll read how to jumpstart it in Kathy Knotts’ story about the Baltimore Boat Show.