Sunday, July 23, 2017

Rural editor explains small-town papers, questions cable-news 'hysteria' about Trump and Russia

Gary Abernathy
Rural editor Gary Abernathy writes that he doesn't read many comments about his pieces in The Washington Post "because I’m an old-fashioned journalist who prefers signed letters to the editor, or even phone calls or emails. But friends and family told me that my last Post op-ed apparently inspired a lot of responses ridiculing me and, by extension, editors of small-town newspapers everywhere." So he offers to "explain a little more about small-town newspapers — which I have often said are the last newspapers practicing old-school, non-sensationalized journalism — and in so doing perhaps help the head-scratchers better understand Trump country."

"Small-town newspapers report hard news and local political controversies," writes Abernathy, editor and publisher of The Times-Gazette in Hillsboro, Ohio. "They do investigative reporting and in-depth analysis. They win awards from The Associated Press and other media organizations for their efforts." One commenter "surmised that for newspapers like ours," the biggest news is a dollar-store opening, he writes "We have done stories on dollar-store openings. In some tiny communities in southern Ohio, the opening of a dollar store is real news because it means that local residents no longer have to drive 30 minutes or more to buy some important household and grocery items. The reality of life in rural flyover country is lost on those who mock us."

Noting a recent Reuters story reporting that people in his area didn't seem concerned "about the Trump-Russia controversy," Abernathy explains, "One reason might be that they have more important things to do than sit glued to cable news. But in addition to the scarcity of grocery choices in some areas, broadband Internet has yet to reach many parts of southern Ohio. . . . The media’s Russia fixation may not be fake news in the way that Trump uses the phrase. But for millions of Americans, Trump’s claim strikes a chord because the Russia hysteria is not real news, either, not compared with the issues that impact their daily lives."

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