Reporting On The Real Rural America

Reporting On The Real Rural America

5:16pm Aug 21, 2019
Government Shutdown Impacts American Farmers Awaiting Federal Funds
A farmer drives a tractor down a road near Ottawa, Illinois. Farmers who rely on Farm Service Agency (FSA) loans to meet operating expenses, buy seed, fertilizer and equipment became concerned during the government shutdown that they would not be able to
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Journalist Sarah Smarsh says “the trouble begins with language.”

Here’s what she means.

Elite pundits regularly misuse “working class” as shorthand for right-wing white guys wearing tool belts. My father, a white man and lifelong construction worker who labors alongside immigrants and people of color on job sites across the Midwest and South working for a Kansas-based general contractor owned by a woman, would never make such an error.

That’s from an opinion piece she wrote in The New York Times about the divide between urban and rural communities.

Members of the media have taken excursions to the heartland to try to get back in touch with rural America, after it seemed much of the country was taken by surprise by how much now-President Donald Trump’s messaging resonated while on the campaign trail.

But critics of this type of reporting suggest that these pieces pander to workers using racist rhetoric, or soft-pedal factual inaccuracies in the name of “getting to know these folks.”

Plus, the American desire for the heartland extends to our own homes. If they could live anywhere they wished, Americans would choose to live in a rural location, according to a U.S. Census Bureau poll.

What do we get wrong about rural Americans, and the issues that affect them? And why are some people choosing to move back to the rural spaces where they grew up?

Produced by Orion Donovan-Smith.


Sarah Smarsh, Journalist; host, “The Homecomers” podcast; @Sarah_Smarsh

April Simpson, Reporter, Stateline (a news service funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts); @AprilLeticia

Esther Honig, Reporter, KUNC public radio in Greeley, CO; @EstherHonig

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