Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Most of America’s landscape is rural. But journalists don’t go there very often.

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Margaret Sullivan has some interesting observations in the Washington Post:

Washington journalists may be obsessed with President Trump’s Russia connections. Silicon Valley reporters may be focused on the next big tech merger. And New York media types may be hyperventilating about Vanity Fair magazine’s editor stepping down.

But while most American journalists stay inside their urban bubble, the Texas Observer’s staff is laboring in the fields.

Poisonous crop-dusting is on their minds. So are the wildfires that result when agricultural land goes fallow. And so are the many communities that don’t have a hospital within several hours’ drive — or even a nearby doctor.

“There are such fantastic stories to be found,” said Forrest Wilder, editor of the Austin-based Observer, which recently became a mostly digital operation, still publishing in print six times a year.

Now, with funding from the Emerson Collective, the nonprofit group founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, the Observer has added a full-time rural reporter, Christopher Collins, to its newsroom staff of about a dozen. The Observer will supplement his work with a network of freelancers.

“We’re going to really look for stories in far-flung, underreported — or unreported — areas,” Wilder said.

There are plenty of opportunities: 3.8 million of some 25 million Texans live in rural areas.

The underreporting in rural areas is a nationwide phenomenon, with an increasing number of journalists clustered in New York, Washington and on the West Coast.

And as metro dailies shrink their staffs, rural bureaus are often one of the first casualties, said Al Cross, who runs the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky.

“Larger regional papers used to do this as a public service even though there was no advertising base for it,” Cross told me.

Now, with less revenue coming in as a result of print advertising’s sharp decline, and with year after year of newsroom buyouts taking their toll, rural reporting has taken a hit.

“It’s triage,” Cross said of newsroom decisions about what to cover. Rural reporting rarely is seen as the most critical mission.

But that leaves huge swaths of the United States without coverage. And the buying-up of small papers by chains, more beholden to stockholders than to local concerns, has hollowed out the journalism even more.

The term “news deserts” aptly describes the results: In many communities, there’s no one to cover government meetings, hold officials accountable, or report on events, large or small.

That’s a real problem. Consider the succinct question-and-answer on the Kentucky institute’s website:

“Why is rural journalism important? Because 16 percent of Americans, some 63 million people, are rural, and so is three-fourths of the national landscape.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 September 2017 at 2:44 pm

Posted in Daily life, Media

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