Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Media haven't ignored rural, reporter-turned-professor says after researching 50 years' coverage

Alecia Swasy
A common post-election theme has been the supposed failure by the national news media to cover or understand rural America, but evidence over the last 50 years points to the contrary, Alecia Swasy, Donald W. Reynolds Chair in Business Journalism at Washington & Lee University, writes for The Poynter Institute.

Swasy, who wrote for The Wall Street JournalThe Tampa Bay Times and the Lexington Herald-Leader, reviewed articles from 1964 to 2014 in the nation’s largest newspapers, weekly magazines and the leading papers in the Southeastern U.S.  She writes, "The research shows reason for optimism: Reporters and photographers given the chance to travel to remote areas have done a terrific job of putting a face on the plight of the poor. . . . The research shows that, despite the criticism of the biggest newspapers as being out of touch, the best coverage of serious issues facing rural America has been delivered by The New York Times and The Washington Post," She writes. "Both look for stories that put a face on what really happens when policies made miles away in Congress hit small towns."

"The autopsy of the 2016 election must include some tough choices by news organizations on how to do a more consistent job of covering America’s heartland," she writes. "And those of us now teaching future journalists need to work harder to reinforce the basics of quality reporting. We must teach rigorous, critical thinking so young reporters will be more skeptical and dogged to find the best sources, unpack promises, reveal hidden agendas and follow the money trails. We must teach them that Twitter is not a replacement for knocking on doors and going to the picket lines." (Read more)

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