DAVID BENZING: A Tropical-Plant Biologist Exploits His Niche
by Linda Grashoff
David Benzings earliest memories are punctuated with plants. In particular he recalls the colorful portulacas in his kindly grandfathers gardena beautiful garden, he remembers, with a gazebo.
"We moved away, and my grandfather died, but I always remembered, he says. And except for his teenage years, when it wasnt cool to like plants, Benzing has since been fascinated with the plant world.
Today he chairs the Biology Department at Oberlin College, oversees the entire science division of the College of Arts and Sciences as convener of its advisory committee, and enjoys a healthy helping of prestige as an expert on epiphytes, plants that obtain their moisture and food from tropical-forest tree canapies rather than from soil. Widely published, Benzing was one of the first biologists ever to study this type of vegetation. He is also one of just a few biologists in liberal arts settings who are well recognized by the larger academic community in his specific area; most others work in universities.
Catching the interest of more than academics, Benzings knowledge of epiphytes has been tapped by government and industry as well. The National Park Service and the Florida Light and Power Company have sponsored his studies that use bromeliads to measure air pollution.
|The Malaysian murmecodia plant that David Benzing is holding is an epiphyte that harbors ants in its stem in nature (but not in the College greenhouse). The ants and the plant coexist in a mutually nourishing relationship.
Benzing has been interviewed for daily newspapers from the Miami Herald to the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram, and will appear in a syndicated television interview in April. He can make his work interesting to the public, and he likes to talk about it, but hes not just a lucky popularist. Over 50 papers published in academic journals attest to his strong academic credentials, as does the outside funding his work attracts: about $500,000 in current dollars over his career so far. Sponsors of his work include the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society, the National Park Service, and Oberlin College.
Benzing didnt discover his scientific niche until after he came to Oberlin, which he did 21 years ago, fresh out of graduate school at the University of Michigan. His Ph.D. thesis had been on a subject that he quickly dismisses today as not related to my current interests, but he had done some work in the universitys Matthaei Botanical Gardens with bromeliads, a kind of epiphyte.
At Oberlin, knowing he didnt wish to pursue the work he began with his doctorate thesis (although its findings were published, and he received a moderate amount of recognition for the work), he more or less drifted academically, reading and thinking about whatever caught his interest. His interest in bromeliads had begun a long time earlier, but had always been more that of a home indoor gardener than a biologist.
In eighth grade, on a Florida vacation with his parents, he had noticed plants that he knows today were epiphytes growing in swamp trees. Later that year he saw a rather sickly bromeliad that resembled those plants at a friends house, and asked whether the plant needed water. The friend said, noit just lives on air. (Not technically true, Benzing was to learn much later. The plant probably died soon after he saw it, he speculates today.) His interest in bromeliads continued as a relatively inactive horticultural one, but as he got older the fact that little was known about these plants became intriguing, and he began to read whatever came his way on the subject.
Browsing in the stacks of the Oberlin College library one day in 1967 he happened to read an article in a 1948 issue of Evolution Journal. The title of the piece he has since forgotten, but he says it had bromeliad in it. The article contained much information about these plants that Benzing had not come across before. It convinced him that more could and should be learned. The National Science Foundation agreed, and funded the first grant proposal he wrote to study epiphytes. He was off and running.
Except for indoor gardeners, few people in North America are familiar with the plants by which Benzing makes his living. This is at least partly because nearly all epiphytic species are found in South America, meso-America, and tropical regions of the Old World. (A notable exception is Floridas Spanish moss). In fact, one of the reasons Benzing was able to establish himself as an epiphytic expert so late in the history of science is that the physical access to these plants by civilization has been slowed by their inaccessibility in tropical American jungles.
Epiphytes are worth studying for several reasons, Benzing says. They account for 13 percent of all higher plant species; they have a substantial impact on the forest communities where they are abundant; and they are good systems by which to observe basic plant processes because their fundamental processes are exaggerated in comparison to other plants from less stressful environments.
Although epiphytes do not take nourishment or water from the soil, most of them are not parasitic even though they live in the tops of other plants, mostly trees. (An exception is mistletoe, which is a parasite.)
Some epiphytes collect rain and nutrients in tanks of leaves formed at the plant base, and some absorb nutrients and water through numerous tiny appendages on their leaves. In studying the second kind of epiphyte Benzing has learned that these umbrella-shaped hairs on the leaves act as one-way valves. When the leaves of these plants are moistened, the hairs expand upward away from the leaf, drawing in the water and nutrients. As the leaf dries, the expanded tops of the hairs flatten out over the cells that absorb the nutrients, protecting them from dehydration.
Although one of Benzings strongest interests is to determine the mechanisms epiphytes use to live free of soil, he is also interested in soil itself. The plant kingdom has a major influence on the cycling of minerals through the ecosystem. In tropical areas, where soils are often deficient in nutrients, epiphytes-most of which are in competition with rain-forest trees for food and water-trap nutrients moving through the system. What happens to the soil, Benzing wants to know, if trees and epiphytes are removed? Does it deteriorate, or can it be used for agriculture? One way he is finding out is by traveling to Ecuador and Venezuela, where rain-forest lands are being cleared for cattle-grazing, to study the situation first hand.
|David Benzing shows Mary Jackson how to use the College's microkjeldahl distillation apparatus, which she will use to determine the nitrogen content in the corn grown by Amish and by no-till farming methods.
In the spring of 1985 he traveled to Cerro de la Neblina, a remote flat-topped mountain in Venezuela 60 miles from the nearest settlement in the Amazonian jungle. There, with 24 other scientists who also collected plant and animal specimens unique to this ecological island, Benzing explored why some bromeliads are carnivorous while some are not. The expeditionduring which Benzing was nearly marooned and his helicopter almost crashed into the side of a mountainwas reported by one of the journalists who accompanied the scientists in the May 1985 issue of the Smithsonian. Another of the journalists wrote an article about it for the July/August issue of Science 85.
Why is Benzing at Oberlin? Because, he says, it is a place where he can be an active professional tropical biologist without dealing with the bureaucratic mechanisms more prevalent at universities. He also values Oberlin for the close contact it affords with good students and colleagues. And he finds that explaining things to students has a remarkable way of clicking things in his own mind and helping him see things in a different relationship.
His greatest teaching satisfaction comes from working with students who enter a field of interest similar to his. He derives a great deal of pleasure seeing such former students at professional meetings, and when they become close friends as well as colleagues, he delights in his impact having been personal as well as academic.
Several of his students have been helpful as research assistants, he says. Some have collected and helped to analyze data. Many illustrations and photographs he has used in his papers have been done by students; and a quarter of all the papers he has published have been coauthored by students. Such student help means he can publish findings faster. He remembers a few former students particularly.
Ned Friedman 81 is now a fifth-year doctoral student in botany at the University of California-Berkeley. We worked together for two and a half years while he was at Oberlin. We copublished a number of papers. He developed skills in electron microscopy that I never had the time to do, Benzing says.
Andrew Bent 83 is studying molecular plant biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Page Owen 85 is studying the structure and function of saltsecreting glands in plants at the University of California-Riverside. Rick Davidson 80 is at the University of North Carolina State.
Students also accompany him into the field. David Bermudes 83, now in graduate school at Boston University, went with him to Ecuador to collect orchids and other epiphytes. Betsy Berkhardt 82, now working in the Harvard University biological laboratories and studying forestry at a college in the East, accompanied him to Venezuela when he was there to study the adaptive biology of brocchinia, a primitive bromeliad.
Given Benzings preference to link to students through intense mutual interest, how did he wind up sponsoring Mary Jacksons honors project? Jackson is not studying tropical biology; she is not helping Benzing with a paper or any of the other work students frequently do for him. Jackson approached Benzing in August 1985 with a project on which she had already set her heart and mind: studying Amish agriculture. She was casting about for a sponsor for her honors project at the same time she was combing every mind she could for advice on how to focus her interest into a workable project. Benzings knowledge of soil, sampling procedures, and the analytical methodology to work with plant nutrients provided a common meeting ground, giving Jackson both the sponsor and the focus she needed.
Although it is unlikely that Jacksons work will further Benzings, he is willing to work with her from a sense of obligation to her as a consumer of an Oberlin education. But Benzing was not taken kicking and screaming into this project, either. With enthusiasm he says, Shes very bright, very able. It would be unfair, he says, to try to coerce her or anyone else into doing a project other than the one in which the student is truly interested. On the other hand, if another student were to approach Benzing with a project only tangential to his expertise, his agreement to help would depend on the individual circumstance. The student would need, as Jackson had, to have established other contacts and experience.
Working closely with another person seems to require from Benzing a common zeal; perhaps what he saw in Jackson was the common trait of zealousness. Scientific work is more than an occupation, he says; its a preoccupation, a compulsion."
To learn about Jacksons compulsion, read the accompanying article, Mary Jackson: A Biology Honors Student Looks at Amish Agriculture."
MARY JACKSON: A Biology Honors Student Looks at Amish Agriculture
by Paula Baymiller 75
When writer/farmer Wendell Berry came to speak on the Oberlin campus in February 1983 he unknowingly became the catalyst for a significant series of events that drew a biology professor, a student, and an Amish farmer into a venture that had never taken place before. Their joint efforts aim to answer the question whether the time-honored Amish method of conventional horse-drawn plow farming can compare to the modern method of no-till farming.
It all began at a reception for Berry held after his Finney Chapel assembly talk on People, Land, and Community. Drawn to Berrys attention was the presence of an Amish couple, an unusual sight at a liberal arts college. While Berry and the two Amish exchanged ideas about farming, another member of the audience, Professor of Biology David Egloff, began formulating a plan that could offer Oberlin College students new academic insight and that would eventually alter the course of one student in particular, Mary Jackson.
Before the Amish left, Egloff also spoke with them. The Amish Farmer* and Egloff agreed on the spot that to tour the Amish farm would be an educational opportunity for Oberlin students, and they made plans for the professor to take a class on a field trip to the Amish farm. Two years later, in the spring of 1985, Egloff took his second field trip to the Amish farm with his Environmental Studies 100 class. Jackson was a teaching assistant for the class.
Although she came to the class with an interest in small farms, during the field trip she was particularly taken with the Amish reverence for land. She was also impressed with how successful this particular farm operation appeared despite its reliance on techniques and equipmentdesign older than the farm itself.
Recognizing that this experience was more than a passing academic interest for Jackson, Egloff suggested that she write a book on Amish agriculture since it had never been done before. He recommended that she do an honors project. That summer she applied for and received a grant from the Mellon Foundation to study Amish agriculture. In August she returned to the Holmes County (Ohio) farm to discuss her intentions with the Amish Farmer, who agreed to help her with the project if she would choose a specific aspect of the agriculture to study.
|Mary Jackson talks with the Amish Farmer on his land. During her honors project Jackson developed an appreciation for the Amish Philosophy and religious beliefs that inspire commitment to nurture the land for future generations.
Now she had three organizational tasks before her: to narrow her focus of study, to arrange for course credit for her work, and to find a faculty sponsor. She asked Egloff and David Miller in the Biology Department for help. She also talked to members of the Environmental Studies Department, the Economics Department, the English Department, Wendell Berry, and Wes Jackson of the Land Institute in Kansas. Although all of the professors she approached were interested in the project, none had expertise in her area of study, and at Oberlin, as elsewhere, most professors are unwilling to advise an honors student working outside their own fields of research.
It was David Benzing, chairman of the Biology Department, who finally rescued Jackson by finding a thread that could connect her work with his expertise. What he found appealing in her proposal to study Amish agriculture was her interest in the long-term effects of Amish management techniques on soil structure and fertility. He suggested that Jackson study the Amish farm along with another type of farm, performing specific tests to assess the comparative viability of the farming methods.
From his own research Benzing knew soil and nutrients and could suggest some scientifically significant projects to help Jackson. Not only would he instruct her on general research techniques, but he would teach her how to run certain specific experiments, such as those to determine nitrogen content in plants. After five months of working together, Jackson says it was a good match.
"I have a lot of respect for him, she says of Benzing. Hes such an accomplished researcher himself. He can always point out the weaknesses in my line of thinking. And he is so excited about what hes doingabout plantsthat I have even become really interested in tropical botany, she says. Hes always accessible, always encouraging, and sincerely interested in what I am doing and what I plan to do next. Hes just been a big help all around."
Now that she had an advisor and a plan, Jackson talked with agronomists at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, Ohio, as well as three other soil scientists in the United States and Canada to develop ideas for testing the soil for the long-term effects of different farming methods. A call to the Holmes County Soil Conservation Service gave her the name of a Holmes County farmer whose land had been under the modern no-till farming method for six years and had the same soil type, slope, and yields as the Amish farm. In this way, differences in soil characteristics could be attributed more reasonably to the different farming practices employed on the two farms.
In no-till farming, equipment ideally runs through the field twice in an entire growing season; once to plant and apply fertilizer and pesticides and once to harvest. Compared to conventional plowtractor farming, the no-till method produces less soil compaction, decreases erosion due to the continual presence of crop residues on the soil, cuts down on fuel costs, and saves labor. The Soil Conservation Service is convinced that the no-till method is also better for the soil and more cost-effective than traditional horse-drawn plowing practiced by the Amish.
Many Amish disagree. Amish farmers are not concerned with adopting laborsaving techniques because an abundance of help is built into their large extended families and community. Cutting fuel costs is hardly a relevant issue for farmers who do not use tractors. Its likewise difficult to imagine how the Amish could cut other costs with the no-till method. To change to no-till farming would mean purchasing a new planter for $4000, spending $35 to $40 per acre for chemicals to eradicate weeds, and buying special, more expensive, seeds. At the 120-acre Amish farm that Jackson is studying, $14 were spent for herbicides in 1985. Not per acre. Altogether.
The consistently abundant and high-quality crop-yields of Amish farms lead most Amish to believe that their farming techniques are good for the soil.
On the Amish farm that Jackson is studying, weeds are controlled with minimal herbicide use, a fact the farmer attributes to crop rotation and good timing. If the land is plowed and planted at the right times, he says, weeds dont grow because the crop plants crowd them out. He has never used insecticides, relying instead on a healthy population of natural insect predatorsbirds, spiders, and other good insects. He fears that the use of pesticides, besides being costly, is dangerous to his children and would harm the beneficial insects and the huge population of barn swallows that find shelter under the eaves of his barn.
He uses very little artificial fertilizer because a large and steady supply of manure (15 tons per acre annually) is produced by the 23 cows, six horses, several hogs, and many chickens on the farm. In addition, the traditional Amish rotation of corn, oats, wheat, and hay incorporates additional nutrients when the hay crop is plowed under prior to planting corn. On a no-till farm of equal size 400 pounds of artificial fertilizer are required per acre.
Jackson has learned that the Soil Conservation Service estimates by the Universal Soil Loss Equation that Amish farms situated on sloped ground lose about 15 tons of soil per acre each year and that this loss is attributed to plowing the land. The SCS uses this erosion rate to try to convince Amish farmers to switch to no-till. Jackson questioned the Amish farmer on this point and he insisted that these numbers cant be true.
"If weve been losing 15 tons per acre each year for the 200 years weve been on these farms, we should have no topsoil left. Yet our farms are productive, he says. Periodically, after storms, the Amish Farmer checks for soil runoff as evidenced by muddy water in drainage ditches and siltation accumulation in guIleys. He has not yet found any.
Jackson hypothesizes that the inconsistency between the SCS numbers and the apparent healthy condition of the Amish farm could be explained by the beneficial effects of horse-drawn agriculture that are not accounted for in the Universal Soil Loss Equation.
She asserts that the Amish tradition of plowing with horses instead of heavy machinery lessens soil compaction. Lower compaction means increased infiltration and less erosion from runoff. Erosion may also be greatly reduced because the soil is regularly replenished with such huge amounts of organic matter on the Amish farm. Cover crops are grown each season to put nutrients back into the soil and to protect the soil from the elements over winter.
Jackson set up seven major experiments to test her hypothesis. The first was an infiltration study, where she determined the rate at which water soaks into the soil over a 12- to 16-hour period. This would indicate the degree to which rain water runs off the field carrying valuable soil as well as important nutrients and expensive chemical herbicides and fertilizers. Infiltration rate is also a measure of the soils capacity to collect water for use by the crop.
She chose a corn field on each farm for the study. To begin, she hammered steel cylinders, constructed by workers in the Colleges physical plant, four inches into the ground at each testing site. The first ring, from which measurements were taken, was 14 inches in diameter and 12 inches high, and was placed inside another ring eight inches wider. Water in this outer ring saturated the surrounding soil to ensure that the water in the measurement ring was traveling vertically rather than laterally into dry soil. She kept a constant head of water on the soil inside the inner ring by admitting water from a tank through a siphon regulated by a carburetor float valve. By measuring the amount of water needed to keep the tank filled she could determine how quickly water soaked into the soil. Preliminary results showed that water infiltration on the Amish farm was seven times greater than on the no-till farm.
Although Jackson sent some soil samples to the Research Extension Analytical Laboratories in Wooster, where its staff used sophisticated equipment to determine soil alkalinity, cation exchange, and mineral content, she did other analyses in a laboratory in Oberlins Kettering Science Building. Using the Kjeldahl method (a standard laboratory experimentation technique) she analyzed corn-crop samples for nitrogen after putting them through a lengthy process of drying, grinding, and homogenizing. In an alkaline phosphatase assay, she measured the amount of microbial activity in soil samples from both farms. She used a constantvolume core sampler and gravimetric methods to determine bulk density, porosity, and hydraulic conductivity of the soil.
With the bulk of her laboratory work complete, Jacksons raw data show that in all areas of her study, the soil on the Amish farm has equal or greater sustainability for crop production than that on the no-till farm, but statistical treatment of the data remains to be done.
Where will Mary Jackson go with her information? For the remainder of the semester she will complete her laboratory experiments, run statistical analyses of the data, and continue to study soil-science literature to try to draw conclusions from the data. In preparation for a public seminar she will give toward the end of the spring semester to comply with her grant requirement, she is collecting information from the two farmers on the history of their land, the methods they have used in farming, and the equipment they employ to accomplish similar tasks.
To meet honors-study requirements, she will give a second public seminar this April, specifically on the research, and will defend her thesis before members of a subcommittee she selected: Benzing, Egloff, Miller, and Robert Thompson of the Chemistry Department. The subcommittee has turned out to be tremendous support, Jackson says. Egloff sends books and articles with notes saying, Take a look at this. A variety of Amish publications and soil-science news has left Egloffs hands and found its way under Jacksons laboratory door. Miller gives Jackson moral support in dealing with personal contacts Jackson must make.
"Whenever he sees me, he always asks how the project is going and whether he can help in any way, says Jackson. Thompson has made many analytical devices available to Jackson. With his supervision, she has used ovens and scales in the chemistry laboratories. The group meets formally twice a semester for updating on the project.
But Jackson is not through with her study. The idea of writing a book is still in the back of her mind. In the forefront, however, is her desire to begin a more comprehensive, detailed endeavor that would focus on 40 farms instead of two, giving more scientific credibility to the data she has already collected. After all, I am only a college senior with a limited amount of time and equipment. A thorough study needs to be done, she says.
Jackson would like to come back to Oberlin for a fifth year if she can receive funding for the continuation of her project. Although equipment is lacking, and there are no agronomists in Oberlin, she favors the location, especially the liberal arts setting. She sees a need for scientists who can approach agricultural issues from a liberal arts framework, as agricultural schools generally promote the most technologically sophisticated methods with little appreciation for the complex social and environmental effects.
"Social and moral implications aside, I really dont know whether no-till would be better or worse for the soil of Amish farms. I am in this because up to now there has been no research in traditional horse-drawn agriculture. Id like to find out whether it is really as bad for the soil as the Soil Conservation Service suggests. Whatever the results are, she says, I am in this because I want to learn the techniques and learn to do meaningful research."
*who preferred that his name not be used in this article
"Mary Jackson: A Biology Honors Student Looks at Amish Agriculture. by Paula Baymiller, copyright 1986 by Oberlin Alumni Magazine.
ALUMINUM: The Classic Case of Student-Professor Alliance
Less than eight months after his graduation from Oberlin-on February 23, 1886-Charles Martin Hall discovered the electrolytic process for extracting aluminum from its oxide. His discovery of an inexpensive, practical way to produce aluminum transformed the status of the metal from precious to staple, and his success as an inventor and entrepreneur benefited the College in ways that continue in importance.
On the 100th anniversary of Halls discovery, Professor Norman Craig recreated Halls original experiment on the campus. Through May the College will be commemorating Halls discovery and the professor-student relationship that helped produce it. (See Tappan Square Note-book in this issue.-Ed.)
Hall hit upon the successful reduction method for obtaining aluminum while working in a woodshed behind his familys home on East College Street. A major factor making it possible for this 22-year-old inventor fresh out of college to make a scientific breakthrough of this magnitude was Halls mentor relationship with Oberlin chemistry professor Frank Fanfling Jewett.
|Frank Fanning Jewett
Jewett was a teacher of chemistry with worldwide experience, fully conversant with the latest trends and discoveries in the field; he had done his undergraduate work and some graduate study at Yale, did two more years of graduate work at one of Europes leading centers of chemical researchthe University of Goettingen in Germany, and then worked with Wolcott Gibbs, a renowned chemistry professor at Harvard. Jewett came to Oberlin directly from Japan, where he had served for four years as professor of chemistry in Tokyos Imperial University.
As a youth Charles Martin Hall had learned some chemistry by reading a textbook found on the shelves of his minister-fathers study and by doing experiments at home. An avid reader in many fields, he also followed closely the popular literature of invention in Scientific American. Young Hall already knew about the romance of aluminum when, as a freshman in the College in the fall of 1880, he went to Cabinet Hall (on a site just south of Peters Hall) to obtain some items for his experiments at home. There he met Professor Jewett.
Hall did not take a formal course in chemistry until two years later, but under Jewetts guidance he worked on aluminum chemistry in Jewetts laboratory in Cabinet Hall and in his own laboratory at home. When he took the chemistry course in 1882-83, Hall reportedly saw a sample of aluminum that Jewett displayed, and heard Jewett discuss the chemistry of aluminum, predicting the fortune that awaited the person who devised an econominal method for winning aluminum from its oxide ore.
|Charles Martin Hall
To accomplish his successful invention, Hall had not only to devise the method to isolate aluminum metal but also to fabricate most of his apparatus and prepare many of his chemicals. For example, he prepared aluminum oxide from alum and washing soda, which were common household substances. In this he was helped by his older sister, Julia Hall, who had studied chemistry at the College and who followed his experiments closely. (Julias close attention, along with Jewetts association, were to prove crucial in testimony leading to Halls winning the U.S. patent for aluminum reduction, which was contested by Paul Héroult, a French inventor who discovered the process nearly simultaneously.)
Hall went on to co-found the Pittsburgh Reduction Company, which later became known as Alcoa, and died a multi-millionaire in 1914.
What became of Jewett? He continued to encourage, advise, and help Hall even after Hall graduated, but meanwhile he devoted considerable energies to Oberlin. In the community he served on the Town Council for a number of years, played a major role in developing the original municipal water treatment plant, and acted as the official U.S. weather observer. He was also the long-time treasurer of the Home Missionary Society. In the College for 20 years he was the entire chemistry department, developing a full set of undergraduate courses and teaching hundreds of students each year. In 1895-96 he spent a sabbatical year in Berlin, where he advanced his knowledge of current chemistry and inspected modern laboratories. Severance Chemical Laboratory, built to Jewetts exact specifications and underwritten by the father of one of his students, represented another of his great contributions to the development of chemistry at Oberlin College. When it opened in 1901, the laboratory was among the best facilities for chemical science in any American college. Jewett retired from the faculty in 1912 after 32 years of service. He and Hall enjoyed an enduring friendship throughout their lives.
In gratitude to Oberlin, Hall bequeathed one-third of his estate to the College. Nearly half of Oberlins current endowment of $161.7 million can be traced to the Hall bequest, and so can Hall Auditorium and the arboretum, the oriental rug and Chinese porcelain collections in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, the Colleges acquisition of the finest 19th-century mansion in town (Johnson House, now used as a residence hall) and the creation and maintenance of Tappan Square.
Halls continuing influence can be felt not only in Oberlin but also in higher education worldwide. One-sixth of his estate went to Berea College in Kentucky; another one-sixth went to the American Missionary Association, largely for the education of blacks; and the remaining one-third went to fund education in Asia and the eastern Mediterranean nations. In all, some 22 institutions received endowment funds through this last one-third of the estate, including the Harvard-Yenching Asian Studies Institute and the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association.
This account includes excerpts from an article by chemistry professor Norman Craig, Aluminum, Chemistry, and Oberlin College, which appeared in the November 24, 1983, edition of the Observer, Oberlins faculty and staff newspaper.