Articles by Salena Zito

A Different Kind of Celebrity on Twitter

RUSSELLTON, Pennsylvania—Despite his natural shyness, Trevor Donovan has shined in an occupation that demands extroversion both on the job and off. The Hollywood actor, who is currently best known for his roles in the highly popular Hallmark Channel Christmas movies, overcame his social awkwardness by deciding to use his high profile for a greater purpose. […]

He Makes a Village

SAVANNAH, Georgia—Tyler Merritt has taken the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” and turned it a bit sideways. He’s building a village, literally, to allow adults to raise themselves up. His village is a stabilizing rail, or a stepping stone to a better life. Merritt, a former Army captain and special operations […]

In the ‘Nicest Place in America,’ Community Thrives

COLUMBIANA, Ohio—The thing about a city earning a title such as the “nicest place in America” is that outsiders often assume the people who live there don’t have to work at being nice. Well, anyone in this lovely city that straddles both the Mahoning and Columbiana Counties would say you do have to work at […]

Dr. Laura’s Lasting Truths

When Dr. Laura Schlessinger got her foot entangled with shards of broken glass a few months ago, she cleaned the wound, cringed at the amount of blood and went about her business despite a lingering, stinging pain that nagged at her to do something. Apropos of what she does in her professional life as the […]

America’s Troubled Waters

CRESCO, Iowa—If you come to this rural Iowa town, you’ll learn about a problem that may sound familiar. In The New York Times, for instance, you’ve learned that many residents in Newark, New Jersey, have gone nearly two years without being able to turn on the faucets in their homes to take a drink of […]

Pennsylvania 2020:
It’s Complicated

Pennsylvania is not a slam-dunk for Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. That’s one takeaway from Tuesday’s elections, which turned the Philadelphia suburbs even bluer, as Republicans suffered additional congressional losses following last year’s midterms. The Democrats have gone from a 13-5 minority in the House to a 9-9 split. These results in the eastern part of […]

The Bellwether House Race for 2020 Is in Western Pennsylvania

MT. LEBANON, Pennsylvania—Army combat veteran Sean Parnell kicked off his race as a Republican running for the U.S. House here at Pamela’s Diner. It’s within a stone’s throw of the district office of U.S. Representative Conor Lamb, the Democrat he’s challenging for the 17th Congressional District seat in 2020. “My plan for today is just […]

Will the Democrats Miss Middle America Again?

COLUMBUS, Ohio—In the weeks, then months and now years after losing the presidential election in 2016, Hillary Clinton has repeatedly demonstrated in speeches and television interviews that she has no idea why she lost. She has blamed everything from racism to Russia, from the media to sexism, from deplorables to stubborn, backward-looking nostalgia. Now she’s […]

How Small Cities and Towns Can Right Their Ship

ERIE, Pennsylvania—Several large pieces of cobalt-blue glass panels bearing “Don’t Give Up the Ship” and a bold likeness of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry lay broken at the top of the third-floor stairs of the old Park Place building in the city’s main square. If ever there were a motto that exemplified a place and her […]

Old-School House Democrats Face Primary Challenges From Progressives Across the Country

PITTSBURGH—Jerry Dickinson is the Democrats’ perfect House candidate—and not just on paper. Yes, he’s young, accomplished, academic, and a charismatic liberal outsider who supports the ideals of the Green New Deal, the impeachment of the president and can self-raise an impressive amount of cash for his candidacy. He is all of those things and more. […]

Repurposing ‘America’s Hometown’

OAKDALE, Pennsylvania—Some towns die hard. This one nearly did. The Aetna Chemical Corp. plant exploded 101 years ago, leveling most of the town, killing nearly 200 people, maiming hundreds more. Some body parts landed nearly a mile away. The horrifying news ran across the front page of every newspaper in the country, with reports of […]

The Crackers and Frackers Could Hold the Keys to 2020

MONACA, Pennsylvania—All Darrin Kelly wanted for the energy workers in Western Pennsylvania was that the Democratic presidential hopefuls would talk to them before going to war against shale. That opportunity slipped away last Friday when Elizabeth Warren joined Bernie Sanders in calling for a total fracking ban. “On my first day as president, I will […]

It Will Take Hometown Heroes to Fix Broken Towns

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio—Greg Bricker is tired of his community looking through the rearview mirror to an idyllic past, rather than looking forward and trying to plot a better course. He feels this rearview mindset dominates his town, especially the local government. So after missing the statewide deadline for getting on the November 5 ballot, Bricker […]

Cancel Culture Isn’t Real Life—Yet

CLEAR SPRING, Maryland—It’s 7 a.m. at the McDonald’s drive-thru just off U.S. 40, and a cheery freckle-faced server emerges from the side door to deliver an order to a car parked in a waiting area. “Heeeere’s your Egg McMuffin, young lady,” she announces with a broad smile. For the next half-hour, a flurry of travelers […]

Small-Business Men Get a Front-Row Seat for Everyday Life

WAUPACA, Wisconsin—In another lifetime, the Park Motel and Supper Club sat along U.S. Route 10 and enjoyed both local patrons and famished travelers looking for a good homemade meal and a place to rest on this highway connecting Bay City, Michigan, to Fargo, North Dakota (including a 62-mile ferry ride across Lake Michigan). Over the […]

The Perils of Trading Social Interaction for Social Media

ESTES PARK, Colorado—I often say that what happens on Twitter isn’t a reflection of American life in the real world. The facts mostly back that up. Last month, a Pew survey showed only about 22 percent of U.S. adults say they use Twitter. Twitter users skew younger, identify more as Democrats, are more educated and […]

The Death of a Local Newspaper Rocks America to Its Core

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio—When the press stops rolling at The Vindicator this month, a lingering question will once again taunt the residents of the Mahoning Valley: How much collapse can one region take? The family-owned newspaper announced in June—just days after celebrating its 150th anniversary—that it is permanently ceasing production on Aug. 31. Started in 1869 just […]