Jim McLean | KBIA

Jim McLean

Jim McLean is an editor and reporter for KCUR 89.3. He is the managing director of KCUR's Kansas News Service, a collaboration between KCUR and other public media stations across Kansas. 

Jim was previously news director and Statehouse bureau chief for Kansas Public Radio and a managing editor for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He has received awards for journalistic excellence from the Kansas Press Association, Society of Professional Journalists and Kansas Association of Broadcasters.

Go here to subscribe to the My Fellow Kansans podcast. This season, we look at the prospects of rural places.

DODGE CITY, Kansas — The history of this small city built on the cattle trade sets it apart from most towns in rural Kansas. The mere name of the place evokes recollections of the Wild West and the subsequent romancing of that age.

Yet Dodge City also stands apart from the region that surrounds it. This place is growing.

While population numbers decay across so much of the Great Plains in Kansas, Dodge City, Liberal and Garden City stand out as growth stories. Their cattle trade draws immigrants, and those newcomers drive change. Dodge City likes to play up its gunslingin' Wild West reputation, formed in its earliest days in the cattle business. Now giant industrial meatpacking plants define the economy of a modern cowtown.

Go here to subscribe to the My Fellow Kansans podcast. This season, we look at the prospects of rural places.

GREENSBURG, Kansas — The massive tornado that leveled this town in 2007 pretty much defines disaster.

Eleven people dead. The place in ruins.

Yet without the tragedy, Greensburg wouldn’t have had the chance to transform itself into “the greenest community in America.”

Greensburg, Kansas, already found itself in a struggle for survival before getting leveled by a tornado in 2007. Then outside help and new hope emerged with the idea of rebuilding the town as a green, environmentally sustainable place. But the town's still lost more than a third of its population since the twister. It hopes for a rebirth, but powerful forces continue to drive depopulation even after its makeover.

My Fellow Kansans Live

Nov 11, 2019

My Fellow Kansans is coming to Johnson County Library Nov. 13 for a live podcast event. Host Jim McLean will lead a discussion about rural issues with a panel of special guests, including state Rep. Eileen Horn. If you live in the area, we hope you'll join us. RSVP at KCUR.org/Kansans.

The closing of a rural hospital marks a particular loss for a community — greater distances to travel for health care, fewer jobs, and the sense that a town is on the wane. This episode of the podcast looks at the forces that have led to an epidemic of shuttered small-town hospitals, and some things being tried to resuscitate rural health systems.

Rural communities continue to empty out, victim to powerful economic forces that nudge people to larger cities and suburbs. If the depopulation in some places appears all but inevitable, some social scientists suggest it need not mean doom. There are ways to shrink smarter, focusing on improving the quality of life for people who remain rather than chasing businesses that might never come.

Go here to subscribe to the My Fellow Kansans podcast. This season, we look at the prospects of rural places.

ANTHONY, Kansas — Few things signal a rural community’s decline more powerfully than the closure of its hospital.

Like shuttered schools and empty Main Streets, an abandoned hospital serves as a tangible reminder of the erosive power of decades of population loss and unrelenting economic trends.

Go here to subscribe to My Fellow Kansans. This season, we look at the prospects of rural places.

COURTLAND, Kansas — Rural Kansas has a storied past, but decades of population decline stand poised to turn many once-vibrant places into ghost towns. 

The struggle for survival reveals itself in emptied Main Streets, shuttered factories and tired-looking neighborhoods dominated by houses built before World War II.

An exodus that started more than 100 years ago and gained momentum during the Great Depression has now thinned the population of most of the state’s 105 counties to fewer than 10 people per square mile.

Go here to subscribe to the My Fellow Kansans podcast. This season, we look at the prospects of rural places.

DIGHTON, Kansas — A billboard along Interstate 70 boasting about the productivity of Kansas farmers may say more about what’s happening in agriculture than those who put it there realize.

The message seems simple and straightforward: “1 Kansas Farmer Feeds 155 People + You!”

A closer look reveals it’s been crudely updated — an indication that the tally changes with some frequency.

Go here to subscribe to the My Fellow Kansans. This season, we look at the prospects of rural places.

PHILLIPSBURG, Kansas — The opening of a child care center attracts little notice in a city or suburb.

In rural Kansas, it’s cause for celebration.

The focus on young families, and the hope that represents, is remarkably rare in small towns fighting for survival against forces largely beyond their control.

Gov. Laura Kelly said Wednesday she’ll dispatch her lieutenant governor to a dozen small cities across the state in hopes of crafting a plan to aid rural areas.

Kelly created the Office of Rural Prosperity and named Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers to head it in January soon after taking office.

Rogers will travel to 12 rural communities this summer to “listen to Kansans” and develop “long-term, sustainable solutions” to problems that have spurred decades of population decline in all but a handful of the state’s 105 counties.

Battles over a Republican tax cut proposal and Medicaid expansion persisted through the last day of the Kansas Legislature's 2019 session … and remain unresolved. On ​Statehouse Blend Kansas, Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning tells host Jim McLean he plans to address healthcare and tax policy next session, when maybe he'll be Senate President. 

Subscribe to Statehouse Blend Kansas wherever you listen to podcasts.


Battles over a Republican tax cut proposal and Medicaid expansion persisted through the last day of the Kansas Legislature's 2019 session … and remain unresolved. Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning says he plans to address healthcare and tax policy next session, when maybe he'll be Senate President. 


Overflowing rivers and reservoirs across Kansas are already producing significant flooding, particularly in the southeast corner of the state.

But, forecasters say, things could get much worse over the next several days as slow-moving thunderstorms develop over central and northeast Kansas.

A deal to clear the way for Medicaid expansion next year that some Kansas lawmakers thought they had brokered in the waning hours of their just-finished legislative session appears to be unraveling.

Instead, the conservative leaders and moderate rank-and-file Republicans find themselves splitting in an intra-party fight.

All Kansas lawmakers really had to do to end the 2019 legislative session was pass a budget. They did that, with gusto. But also without passing Medicaid expansion. On Statehouse Blend Kansas, host Jim McLean talks with freshman Rep. Brandon Woodard about some of the other things left on his to-do list for next year.

Subscribe to Statehouse Blend Kansas wherever you listen to podcasts.


All Kansas lawmakers really had to do to end the 2019 legislative session was pass a budget. They did that, with gusto. But also without passing Medicaid expansion. That's one of the items left on freshman Rep. Brandon Woodard's to-do list for next year. 


Supporters of expanding Medicaid in Kansas proved Wednesday they’ve got the votes in the Legislature — if they can get a vote.

But they lacked enough lawmakers on their side to bypass Republican leadership and force that vote.

In a recent national survey, farmers said the biggest threat to their livelihoods wasn’t low commodity prices or global trade policies. It was the rising cost of health insurance.

It’s one of the reasons why state farm bureaus have jumped into the insurance game in Iowa, Tennessee and Nebraska, and are trying to in Kansas.

Things got a little chippy during the final week of the regular legislative session, but Kansas lawmakers came away with a school funding plan and a permanent commerce secretary. On Statehouse Blend Kansas, Sec. David Toland talks with host Jim McLean about moving on to reinvigorating the state's economic development efforts.

Subscribe to Statehouse Blend Kansas wherever you listen to podcasts.

 


Things got a little chippy during the final week of the regular legislative session, but Kansas lawmakers came away with a school funding plan and a permanent commerce secretary. And now Sec. David Toland is ready to move on to reinvigorating the state's economic development efforts. 


The stakes run high for 130,000-some low-income Kansans who stand to gain from expanding Medicaid coverage — and for the political players who will decide the contentious issue.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly made expansion a centerpiece of the election that put her in office. Two Republican leaders — Senate President Susan Wagle and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning — could see their elevation to higher office also turn on the issue.

The Kansas Senate has agreed to give school districts raises. The House has not. Instead, negotiators are headed to the bargaining table with a stack of new requirements for reporting how schools spend their money. On Statehouse Blend Kansas, Jim McLean talks with Rep. Kristey Williams, who is leading the charge for more accountability from districts.

Subscribe to Statehouse Blend Kansas wherever you listen to podcasts.


The Kansas Senate has agreed to give school districts raises. The House has not. Instead, negotiators are headed to the bargaining table with a stack of new requirements for reporting how schools spend their money. Rep. Kristey Williams is the one leading the charge for more accountability from districts. 


Grievances generated by policy and personality clashes in a southeast Kansas community have spilled onto the statewide stage in the battle over Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s nominee to head the state Department of Commerce.

David Toland often found himself at odds with Virginia Crossland-Macha when he was the CEO of Thrive Allen County, a community health-improvement and economic development organization based in Iola.

As the first Kansas legislative session with Democrat Laura Kelly as governor proceeds, social media has caused a bit of trouble for the new administration. On Statehouse Blend Kansas, Washburn University political scientist Bob Beatty and host Jim McLean discuss why Republicans are so quick to pounce on the missteps.

Subscribe to Statehouse Blend Kansas wherever you listen to podcasts.  


Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's new administration experienced some social media mishaps this past week, and conservative Republicans pounced. Washburn University political scientist Bob Beatty says there's more going on than meets the eye. 


A coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans powered past objections from conservative leaders in the Kansas House Wednesday to approve Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s Medicaid expansion proposal.

Albeit a slightly revised version.

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