4 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY JUNE 20-26, 2024 www.montereycountynow.com THE BUZZ FREE SPEECH In 2023, the number of daily newspapers across the United States stood at 1,213, a drop by nearly 260 since 2005, according to the Medill Local News Initiative, a program of Northwestern University. The numbers for non-daily papers are even more dire: 4,792 in 2023, compared to 7,419 in 2005. Partisan actors on both sides of the political spectrum are eagerly exploiting the decline of reliable print publications, and according to NewsGuard, there are at least 1,265 websites determined to either be backed by dark money or purposefully masquerading as local news sites, outpacing the number of daily newspapers. The report found that nearly half of those sites are targeted to swing states, such as Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia and others, designed to influence elections. A majority of the sites are backed by conservative network Metric Media, according to the report, while others are funded by billionaires with a progressive perspective. Good: Graduations are always a time of celebration, but Rancho Cielo had even more to celebrate on Friday, June 14, when the nonprofit graduated 73 students from its educational and vocational training programs, the largest number in its 24-year history. Over 50 percent of the graduates are already registered at local community colleges or have secured jobs. Twelve graduates of the Drummond Culinary Academy are entering the first internship program of its kind that involves eight weeks of a paid internship at one of six Monterey County restaurants, including Bernardus, Quail Lodge and the Sardine Factory. The internships include guaranteed employment at the end of the eight weeks. Over 400 people attended the outdoor ceremony on campus in the Salinas foothills, joined by Salinas Mayor Kimbley Craig, Monterey County Sheriff Tina Nieto and other officials. GREAT: Great news for kids who attend Alisal Union School District in Salinas: The district has increased mental health services for its students. When the district didn’t renew a counseling contract with Monterey County Behavioral Health, it instead expanded its contract with its other contractor, Effective School Solutions. ESS therapists will double from six to 12. AUSD will keep its special ed services contract with the County. “We’re increasing the number of therapists by 45 percent,” says Superintendent Jim Koenig. AUSD approved a three-year contract, beginning the upcoming school year, for $2.2 million; these funds are part of the $4.7 million the district received from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act Grant. Now all of AUSD’s schools will have a therapist on campus. Services include individual and family therapy, professional development for parents and staff, and general academic services for students. GOOD WEEK / GREAT WEEK THE WEEKLY TALLY The average amount received in aid per household through the second phase of the Pajaro Disaster Assistance Program. A total of 341 households were eligible for the phase, which provides funds to repair damages caused by the March 2023 flood in Pajaro and replace personal property that was destroyed. The first phase, which provided grocery gift cards, netted 757 applications, 688 of which were eligible for assistance. Source: County of Monterey $6,500 QUOTE OF THE WEEK “If you’re scared to try Korean food, try deep-fried chicken first.” -Max Hong, owner of Bada Korean Kitchen in Seaside, speaking about how to ease into the world of Korean cuisine (see story, page 34). https://calkids.org More than $30 Million for Monterey County Kids! You can connect your CalKIDS and Scholarshare 529 accounts! Over eligible children in Monterey County 64,000 OUR KIDS HAVE A FUTURE WORTH SAVING FOR. CLAIM YOUR CHILD'S SAVINGS ACCOUNT TODAY!