Jim McLean | KCUR

Jim McLean

Reporter and Editor, Kansas News Service

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.

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Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and a key Republican lawmaker said Thursday they’ve crafted a deal to make roughly 130,000 more Kansans eligible for Medicaid.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

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.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

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.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

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.”

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

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.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

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.

Chris Neal/Kansas News Service

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.

Many of Kansas’ small towns look weathered, worn and neglected after more than a century of exodus. The unending trend toward bigger farms, and fewer farmers, has sped that depopulation. That rise of modern farming techniques continues to pose a threat to rural cities and towns, particularly across the commodity crop-growing Great Plains.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

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.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

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.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

One decade after the next, since the days of the Homestead Act, remote Kansas cities and towns have seen their sons and daughters move on to bigger, more vibrant places. That's had profound impacts on rural economies, rural health care and the vibrance of communities whose past looks rosier than the future. Jim McLean examines the factors that could make a difference between towns withering away or making the best of a modern, rural reality.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

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.

Chris Neal/Kansas News Service

Rural Kansas has a storied past. But as once-thriving towns continue to shrink — does it have a future? That depends on who you ask. In season two of My Fellow Kansans, host Jim McLean explores rural Kansas to discover what the future holds for rural communities across the state. 

Our conversation begins October 18. Subscribe now.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

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. 


Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

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.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

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. 


Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

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.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

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.

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