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Ars Staff

This story was co-produced with NPR.

Imagine filing your income taxes in five minutes—and for free. You'd open up a prefilled return, see what the government thinks you owe, make any needed changes and be done. The miserable annual IRS shuffle, gone.

It's already a reality in Denmark, Sweden, and Spain. The government-prepared return would estimate your taxes using information your employer and bank already send it. Advocates say tens of millions of taxpayers could use such a system each year, saving them a collective $2 billion and 225 million hours in prep costs and time, according to one estimate.

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Hurricane Isaac sidestepped New Orleans on Wednesday, sending the worst of its howling wind and heavy rain into a cluster of rural fishing villages that had few defenses against the slow-moving storm that could bring days of unending rain. Isaac arrived exactly seven years after Hurricane Katrina and passed slightly to the west of New [...]

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April 22 will mark Earth Day worldwide, an event now in its 42nd year and observed in 175 countries. The original grass-roots environmental action helped spur the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act in the United States. Gathered here are images of our planet's environment, efforts to utilize renewable alternative sources of energy, and the effects of different forms of pollution. -- Lane Turner and Leanne Burden Seidel (35 photos total)
A ladybug in flight spreads its wings as it flutters from grass blade to grass blade at Rooks Park in Walla Walla, Wash. on April 2, 2012. (Jeff Horner/Walla Walla Union-Bulletin/Associated Press)

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Jessie Hoagland, 14, of Duff, Indiana, practices goat tying. The photo is from a story about Hoagland as the reigning Indiana Junior Rodeo Association Cowgirl of the Year.

Photo: Krista Hall

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“Where the hell is Dubois County and what the hell is The Herald?” you might ask, flipping through the 2012 newspaper picture editing winners from the prestigious Picture of the Year International awards.

Located in the town of Jasper in rural southern Indiana, among rolling hills and Amish communities, The Herald pops out in a list of papers you might actually expect to see — The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, etc. Shirking expectations of both its size and location, the paper has produced some of the country’s best documentary photography and most thoughtful presentations since the late ’70s.

“We’ve farmed dozens and dozens of great stories out of the community,” says Justin Rumbach, the current managing editor and the fourth generation of Rumbachs to run and own the paper. “And it proves that if a photographer can do it in Dubois county, you can do it anywhere.”

The paper, a tabloid instead of a broadsheet, has created a following mostly because of its now-famous Saturday photo stories, which combine thoughtful reporting and powerful photography. They’re run ad-free and take up the entire front page plus five additional pages inside, sometimes more.

“It all started in 1978 when my dad John went to a Flying Short [photography] Course in Bloomington,” says Rumbach.

Since 1946, The Herald has been a six-day-a-week afternoon paper — there is no Sunday edition. While the afternoon schedule facilitated a unique style of news gathering, it also meant that because of weekend schedules readers oftentimes weren’t getting to the Saturday paper until Sunday morning. By then, the front page was old news. The Saturday features came about, Rumbach says, because his dad John, the paper’s editor at the time, was looking for a solution to that problem.

“They wanted something with a longer shelf-life,” Rumbach says.

At the Flying Short Course, John came across a twice-weekly paper in California that kept its front page fresh by using a more magazine-like cover story that relied heavily on photos.

A writer by trade who also shot photos, John immediately liked the idea and brought it back to The Herald. In the process, he ended up creating not only a new way of laying out the Saturday paper but also a new way of thinking about photography.

“At many other newspapers the photography department is treated like a service department. The word side comes up with an idea and then it gets handed to the photo department,” Rumbach says.

But not at The Herald.

Because the new Saturday cover features were driven by photography, it was often the photographers who were out finding the stories instead of the other way around. This earned them a newfound respect that has since trickled down.

Today, photographers not only have a real voice in the Saturday features but also in the entire news cycle, bucking a trend of second-class citizenship that still plagues other photojournalists across the country.

“We now expect our reporters, when they are coming up with their ideas, to pitch them to a photo editor,” Rumbach says. “We are not going to put a photographer on an assignment that won’t produce a good picture.”

A tradition of smart, efficient, and thoughtful photo editing has also taken hold.

“We spend a lot of time editing the picture and picking pictures that make a point,” says Rumbach. “Every picture we run we want to run it with a purpose. Just because we have a lot of space doesn’t mean we run a ton of photos.”

The rise of photography and the Saturday features have also had an effect on the rest of The Herald. Unlike other small papers that only have time to react to that day’s news, The Herald has implemented a much more structured planning system.

Rumbach says they ideally try to work about four months out on the Saturday features. Sometimes it takes even longer than that.

“We don’t want to put a deadline on [the features],” Justin says. “We let [the photographers and reporters] tell the story until it’s done.”

Over the course of 30-plus years, the photographers who’ve passed through The Herald have taken all this freedom and responsibility seriously, telling stories about love, tragedy, family and everything in between with an intimacy that’s unheard of at papers with an 11,300 circulation.

“Our readers have a history with us and there is that built-in trust, we don’t have to sell people on letting us photograph them,” Rumbach says. “They know what we want to do and they are open to it.”

It’s not all rosy. The paper has felt the financial crunch effecting the rest of the journalism industry and revenues are down. But a strong local readership and the family structure of the paper have prevented a precipitous decline. Rumbach says the paper has had no layoffs and has given the staff a raise each year.

Like the rest of the media world, the paper is still trying to figure out how to fully harness the power of the internet. With an emphasis of visuals, The Herald is perfectly positioned to join the world of multimedia, but Rumbach says they’ve intentionally stayed away.

“I’m a fan of multimedia and if they gave me a full-time position to just work on just that it would be great,” he says. “But I don’t want to saddle our photographers with multimedia because making pictures and doing it correctly is hard enough.”

Ultimately, Rumbach says the paper’s plan for the future is still pretty simple.

“We want to continue our history of storytelling and continue to print it on newspaper for as long as possible,” he says.

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Exile Without End

There are nearly 4.7 million refugees that have been displaced from Palestine after the creation of Israel more than 60 years ago. Many fled to neighboring countries in hopes of returning after the violence in Palestine had ended.  CBC News correspondent Nahlah Ayed and Radio Canada’s Ahmed Kouaou and Danny Braün spend two weeks in Shatila, a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut.  Shatilla is one of the poorest and most densely populated refugee camps in the Middle East.  Interactive graphics map out the historical events that affected millions of people.  Still photographs and videos paint a picture of everyday life for the inhabitants of Shatila.  It is a life where displacement has torn the identities away from these people, where their opportunities are stifled.  Children play in the streets with makeshift guns, many resigned to living in encampments.

Hotel Poverty

San Francisco has the third-highest median income in the United States.  Hidden in the shadows of San Francisco’s Financial District are 30,000 people living in single-room occupancy hotels.  Shane Bauer’s project Hotel Poverty reveals masses of people dealing with their daily struggles of turning their lives around, feeding themselves and surviving in the midst of rampant drug use, cutthroat hustlers and substandard living conditions where private showers or toilets are rare.  Various circumstances have  have brought them here, but they share a life in the shadows of society.

Under One Roof

Meet the Lee family; they are three generations of Chinese Americans who share living in their family’s Chinatown building in New York.   According to the Census Bureau, 10% of households in New York City span three or more generations.  The New York Times explores the multi-generational dynamics through innovative use of video that “simulcasts” the three generations at the same time.

Made by Hand
“Distillery” is the first film in the Made by Hand project, a series that celebrates the artisan handmade movement.  The premise is that  the things we use, consume, collect and share are part of who we are as individuals.  Each film in the  series aims to tell the stories behind locally made, sustainable crafts and the spirit of artisans.

Brad Estabrooke is a modern-day entrepreneur who was disgruntled after being laid off from his “lousy job.”  Inspired by local artists in his neighboring borough of Brooklyn, Estabrooke works to realize his dream of learning the craft of distilling to open the first gin distillery in Brooklyn since Prohibition.

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At least 40 people have been killed by a magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck northeastern India, Nepal and Tibet on Sunday. Rescue efforts were hampered by rain, landslides and severed communications. Near the epicenter, in India’s northeastern Sikkim state, officials expect the death toll to rise after emergency workers reach isolated communities.

Read the full story.

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Billy Stinson (L) comforts his daughter Erin Stinson as they sit on the steps where their cottage once stood August 28, 2011 in Nags Head, North Carolina. The cottage, built in 1903 and destroyed yesterday by Hurricane Irene, was one of the first vacation cottages built on Albemarle Sound in Nags Head. Stinson has owned the home, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, since 1963. “We were pretending, just for a moment, that the cottage was still behind us and we were just sitting there watching the sunset,” said Erin afterward.

Hurricane Irene moved along the east coast causing heavy flooding damage as far north as Vermont and shutting down the entire New York mass transit system.

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Los Angeles Times photographers took to the street as triple-digit temperatures hit the region and a heat alert was declared in Los Angeles County.

The high temperature on Thursday was 105 in Lancaster, 103 in Burbank, and downtown Los Angeles topped out at 90 degrees. Along the coast, the Santa Monica Pier recorded a high of 71 degrees while Ventura was 75.

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Nov. 19, 1946: Early morning view of scores of jackrabbits watching activities at Los Angeles Municipal Airport, slated to open to major airlines about three weeks later.

Former Los Angeles Times staff photographer Art Rogers remembers “someone was using a jackhammer and suddenly stopped and all the rabbit ears went up.”

This photo ran the width of the page across the top of the daily L.A. Times picture page. It was well-received by editors and readers everywhere — except at City Hall.

Los Angeles Times columnist Gene Sherman explained Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron’s reaction in 1948:

About two years ago you may recall the startling picture taken by Times Photographer Art Rogers. It showed Los Angeles Airport framed above a row of bunnies alert along the east end, ears aloft. For some peculiar reason the picture created quite a stir….

… Setting some kind of precedent, Mayor Bowron categorically denied the photograph. When the picture later appeared in a national magazine, the mayor again challenged the integrity of photographic plate and flash bulb and informed the world that the idea of jackrabbits on the airport was pure poppycock….

… From time to time passengers in giant air liners are amused when giant jacks race the plane on take-off. Until now, none of the rabbits has left the ground. …

A week later Mayor Bowron capitulated and visited Sherman at The Times office. Bowron presented Sherman a real airport bunny. Sherman named the rabbit “Poppycock.”

In a 1955 column, Sherman wrote:

Mr. Robert A. McMillan, general manger of International Airport, received a desperate request from a lady named Willie Mae Rogers in New York who happened to mention over a lunch table that she’d seen hundreds of rabbits scampering over the runways down in Inglewood during a take-off some years ago. Apparently everyone had laughed at her. …

… Mr. McMillan got a copy of [Art Rogers'] picture and dispatched it hurriedly to Miss Rogers with a letter. “Yes Willie Mae, there are rabbits at Los Angeles International Airport.”

In 1959, The Times published a full page of photos by Art Rogers of wildlife — including more rabbits — at the airport. A week later Sherman followed up with:

Art Rogers, the Audubon of the airport, had a fascinating page of pictures of various fauna that inhabit L.A. International in The Times last week.

It was Rogers, who can shoot A-bombs and zebras with equal skill, who straggled Angeltown a few years ago with a picture showing a horde of cottontails hippity-hopping down the airplane trails.

Much to the consternation of former Mayor Bowron, the place thereafter was referred to as International Hareport.

In a 1961 publicity stunt for dedication of a new terminal, a 6-foot-tall “rabbit”  named Harvey joined the festivities. As reported in The Times:

A 6 ft.-1 in. rabbit named Harvey Lepodorae flew into Los Angeles International Airport by jet Thursday to attend opening ceremonies for the $70 million new terminal. …

“When I left here in 1946,” he said … “this place was strictly Rabbitsville.”

He was referring to the embarrassing fact that when the airport first became a terminal for major airlines back in 1946 there probably were more rabbits on the scene than passengers.

The rabbits were such a feature of the early days that they became nationally famous through a prize-winning picture made by Times photographer Art Rogers, who crept up on the airfield one day at dawn and caught hundred of them flocking around a couple of DC-3s.

By 1990, the wildlife at LAX had changed. Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Harvey reported that pigeons had replaced rabbits as the scourge of LAX.

Four decades ago, Times photographer Art Rogers (now retired) took a striking shot of the fearless intruders.

Most of the rabbits, says Mario Polselli, the chief of airport operations, were eventually eliminated by a local force: Foxes.

Now, however, “most of the foxes are gone” as well, Polselli noted this week. “Some of them were run over, I guess. I hadn’t seen any for a long time and then one day, three or four weeks ago, I saw one running parallel to the runways.”

Destination unknown.

The jackrabbit photo by Art Rogers was published in the Dec. 2, 1946 edition of LIFE  – - pages 36-37.

Middle: Cartoon published with Gene Sherman’s Cityside column on April 6, 1959.

Bottom: A six-foot rabbit named Harvey Lepodorae arrives at LAX to dedicate a new jet terminal. Photo published in the Los Angeles Times on June 23, 1961. Credit: Los Angeles Times.

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Sept. 8, 1974: A movie set of fake brownstone structures burns on “Boston Street” at the Burbank Studios ranch. The set was a total loss. The multimillion-dollar fire destroyed three soundstages and four movie sets.

The Sunday morning fire occurred during a two-day community fair. Some of the rides, exhibition booths and several antique cars were destroyed. According to an Oct. 6, 1974, Times article, the cause was believed to be sparks from an electrical cord.

The site was formerly the Columbia Pictures ranch and became Burbank Studios after a merger of Columbia and Warner Bros.

This photo by retired Los Angeles Times staff photographer Boris Yaro was the lead image on Page 3 the next morning.

When Burbank Fire Department units arrived on the scene, according to Yaro, they first tried to hook up to hydrants that they quickly discovered were nonworking props. After the blaze, special markings were added to the real hydrants.

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