September 23, 2021

‘Renewal’ at All Levels — The Personal to the Global. An Urgent Conversation with Two Leaders of the Movement

The Our Towns Civic Foundation and Jefferson Educational Society present a discussion featuring two people who have thought and done most to address the emergencies of this moment.

Anne-Marie Slaughter — best-selling author, former Princeton dean and State Department senior official, CEO of New America — has written a candid and riveting brand-new book. It is called “Renewal,” and it explores the personal, institutional, political, and ethical challenges of facing failures, and opportunities.

Josh Fryday — Navy veteran, lawyer, former mayor, and now first-ever California cabinet member as the state’s Chief Service Officer. For Climate Week, he has an ambitious state model of citizen action, to scale to the national level.

Leading them in conversation is James Fallows, co-author of “Our Towns,” co-founder of Our Towns Civic Foundation, and author of “Breaking the News” on Substack.

September 13, 2021

Named to the ‘Best of Inland Empire’ 2021

Nathan Gonzales, Archivist and head of Special Collections at A.K. Smiley Public Library in Redlands, CA, recently named Deborah and James Fallows’s Our Towns book and documentary to his “Editor’s Picks: 3 Great Local History Reads” for its insightful discussion of Redlands, Riverside and San Bernardino.

Read the article here.

September 05, 2021

Redlanders really want to know: ‘Do you have a citrus tree?’

David Allen reported on the Redlands version of the city “icebreaker question” as reported by Deborah Fallows in Our Towns. It’s “what high school did you go to?” in St. Louis; “where do you go to church?” in Greenville, South Carolina; and “what’s your parish?” in Chicago. In Los Angeles it’s “How did you get here?”, answered by a list of freeway numbers. In Redlands, Deb reports, it’s “Do you have a citrus tree?”

Read the article here.

September 06, 2021

Promoting Civic Engagement, Community Renewal, and Civil Dialogue

In their recent Inside Sources opinion piece, authors by Lindsay Lloyd, Christopher Walsh, and William McKenzie, moderators of the George W. Bush Institute’s Democracy Talks series, discuss the barriers to greater civic engagement, community renewal, and civil dialogue. Deborah Fallows is featured for her reporting on the role of libraries as places people gather to, “not only read books, but to attend pre-K classes, participate in community forums, gain access to the internet, and learn how to get green cards and become citizens.”

James Fallows is featured for his work on the contributions of immigrants, and how towns including Erie, PA, Dodge City, KS, and Sioux Falls, SD, see their immigrant residents as critical to rejuvenation.

Read the article here.

September 07, 2021

Opinion: Civil dialogue, engagement can renew democracy

Lindsay Lloyd, Christopher Walsh, and William McKenzie featured Deborah and James Fallows in their September 7, 2021 opinion piece in The Atlanta Journal Constitution. They write, “community leaders must identify city assets and be honest about improving them. . . . Deborah Fallows, who co-wrote ‘Our Towns’ with husband James Fallows, reports that libraries are now social and civic centers as well as educational and technology centers.”

Read the column here.

August 31, 2021

What America’s Small Towns Tell Us About Democracy

Ten Across Founder Duke Reiter talks to veteran journalists James and Deborah Fallows, who have recently traveled the country reporting from America’s small towns to explore the nation’s growing fragmentation and how we can look beyond artificial boundaries.

Listen to the podcast here.

August 22, 2021

Warrior-Scholar Project Prepares Veterans to Succeed in College

In his recent story on the Williams College Warrior-Scholar Project, Stephen Dravis discusses the contribution made to a recent Humanities Academic Bootcamp by guest speaker James Fallows. Fallows told the participant that the current decade, like the 1860s, the 1930s and the 1960s, will be a pivotal point in American history and that their generation of veterans will play a crucial role.

Read the article here.

August 01, 2010

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August 09, 2021

Featured by UCD Clinton Institute

In his recent column “American Renewal After the Pandemic,” Derek Shearer features Deb and Jim Fallows and their reporting in the Our Towns book and expansion of their work with the establishment of the Our Towns Civic Foundation. He’s giving copies of Our Towns to new ambassadors appointed to Biden’s America, and encouraging them to use the book and the Foundation’s monthly e-newsletter as guides for getting out of DC and seeing areas of the country that CNN and Fox News ignore.

Read the article here.

July 29, 2021

July 29, 2021
Our summer headline is that the trusty Cirrus, N435SR, which has flown us on Our Towns journeys since 2013, passed its annual inspection and is now back in the air. We flew north from Washington DC, through the mid-Atlantic states and along the incomparably stunning coast of Maine, landing at Knox County airport in Downeast Owls Head. Several lobster rolls later, we are in nearby Bucksport, to learn about their citizen-led Community Heart & Soul initiative to improve quality of life for its 5000 residents. More on their 82 projects (yes, 82!) soon. Earlier in July, Jim was in his hometown of Redlands, California for the annual Esri User Conference. Esri, as featured in the Our Towns the HBO documentary, develops software for the world to address problems and issues through geospatial mapping solutions. Jim and Esri president, Jack Dangermond, and former head of National Geographic, Gary Knell, discussed a topic on our minds, newly-emerging geo-journalism. Their conversation ranged broadly about the potential of mapping to enrich reporting and journalism. And it focused seriously on the early-stage need to develop in a transparent and responsible way.Before that, we tracked a local journalism story in the small town of De Smet, South Dakota, which Laura Ingalls Wilder fans will certainly recognize. When the more than century-old local papers in De Smet and nextdoor Lake Preston folded, citizen volunteers rallied to roll out a new two-community weekly online and print paper, which has been successfully publishing now for over a year. We are, as always, grateful for you sharing this journey with us. Until next time, stay up to date with our travels on social

Deb & Jim Fallows

Aerial view of coastal Maine from our Cirrus, N435SR, Saturday, July 24.

  Reports from the Road and Sky

Why Maps Matter Starting in Childhood and Even More Now
In the first installment of a series of dispatches from the Esri User Conference in Redlands, Jim Fallows reflects on why maps have played such an important role in his own imaginative life and on the potential for geo-journalism to expand storytelling, connection, and knowledge-sharing, rather than misinformation, in the technology space.

A New Citizenry Around Truth
Mapping technology is at a promising and perilous early decision point. Will this technology continue the trajectory of other technology sectors, such as social media, and be breeding grounds for the spread of misinformation? In his second installment from the Esri User Conference, Jim shares a video clip in which the former head of National Geographic, Gary Knell, and the founder and head of the Esri mapping company, Jack Dangermond, make an unprecedented declaration to combat misinformation and encourage their mapping colleagues to stand up for the honesty, the responsibility, and the honor of their craft.

The Rise of the Kingsbury Journal and the Future of Local JournalismThe story of towns losing their local journalism outlets is a familiar one. Jim Fallows reports on how two communities in South Dakota came together after the closure of their longstanding local papers to develop an unconventional approach to a volunteer publishing alternative in the Kingsbury Journal.

 Voices from America

Meet Erie:Part IV – Social Impacts of a PandemicIn the final “Meet Erie” (watch parts I-III here) installment, Jessica and Nick Taylor explore how the pandemic exposed systematic issues, including racial inequality and community and police relations that have been present in Erie — and the nation — for a long time. Read Ben Speggen’s writeup on how Erie has grappled with questions surrounding justice and equity amidst a devastating pandemic and watch the video embedded in the post or here on our YouTube channel.  

Organizational Irony in Small Town USAWhat could a look at the paradoxes of power and failed leadership teach communities, and what recommendations could come from a closer study that might lead to changes in practice at the community level?Carl W. Hunt and Lawrence A. Kuznar from Paradoxes of Power wrestle with these ideas in part I of the essay series featured in Our Towns’ Voices of America section. Stay tuned for parts II-V.

 From Your Towns to Our Inbox

The July “Our Towns” Reader Response Roundup features film screening feedback, a unique effort to support libraries nationwide, and national perceptions that can be addressed by looking at the local level.
We want to hear from you – the Our Towns Community. Write in to our team at or tag us on social media – Twitter/Instagram @ourtownscivfdn – to fill us in on your response to the Our Towns journey. 

 Our Towns in the Media

If you are flying United Airlines, you may notice that Our Towns the HBO documentary is reaching new heights, literally!
Our Towns hit the skies July 15, this time as an in-flight viewing option.

Jim and Deb Fallows sat down with Whitney Kimball Coe of “Everywhere Radio,” a podcast produced by The Daily Yonder, to talk about the “Our Towns” story in the on-going Red-State-Versus-Blue-State narrative that continues to grip the nation. Listen to the episode here.

See the “Our Towns: Meet Erie” Series featured in Real Clear Public Affairs curation of “noteworthy research, analysis, commentary, and news stories” in Pennsylvania.

In “Creating a Sense of Us,” Jim and Deb Fallows speak with Chris Walsh and William McKenzie from the George W. Bush Institute about a few core areas of the Our Towns story: the role of libraries and journalism in catalyzing community engagement. 

 What We’re Reading
The Progress Network | The Progress Network’s multidisciplinary team of contributors are convinced that progress is possible, and their weekly newsletter shares a dose of hopeful news. Their recent piece on the Threads of Texas research project details how Texas can serve as a proxy for how communities can stay unified despite experiencing substantial change and growth. Subscribe to their newsletter here

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July 30, 2021

Referenced in Baptist News Global

In their column “Let’s reimagine how your church property might serve the community,” Brian Foreman and Justin Nelson reference “Our Towns” and the travels of Deb and Jim Fallows. They note that the downtown area of a community “is probably the quickest single marker of the condition of a town.” The authors go on to remind churches that their built capital can be used to “provide and advance human and social capital.”

July 08, 2021

Creating a Sense of Us

James and Deborah Fallows discuss the role of libraries in expanding community engagement, the impact of immigrants in revitalizing communities, and how some communities are rebounding from the decline in local journalism.

April 15, 2021

Seeking the Heartbeat of “Our Towns” with Deb & James Fallows

Deb and James talk with Whitney Kimball Coe about showing up and finding hope while telling the complex stories of America’s small towns.

May 03, 2021

Writers discuss state of the US in documentary ‘Our Towns’

James and Deborah Fallows join Hoda and Jenna to talk about their documentary of the month “Our Towns,” which looks at the resilience of communities across America.

May 29, 2021

Opinion: Biden’s American Families Plan could rewrite American politics

The Washington Post’s David Ignatius referenced Our Towns highlight of the value of community colleges in his April 29, 2021 column reviewing President Joe Biden’s American Families Plan. “The value of community colleges in giving students technical skills for the jobs of the future was explained powerfully in “Our Towns”, the superb HBO documentary based on a book by journalists James and Deborah Fallows,” said Ignatius.

April 30, 2021

Too many Americans are forgotten or misunderstood. ‘Our Towns’ tries to change that.

Nicholas D. Sawicki reviewed the HBO documentary for America The Jesuit Review. “Our Towns,” he says, “recalls the America that was, captures an America that is and foretells an America that is to come—a past, present and future constantly in tension and in conversation with one another in the daily lives of Americans throughout this land.”