Sunday, June 10, 2018

Farm-and-food columnist decries the loss of journalism jobs in rural and small-town America, and the effects of it

Alan Guebert
Agricultural journalist Alan Guebert used the 25th anniversary of his "Farm and Food File" column to look at the changes in journalism, how they are affecting rural America and the essential role of journalists in rural and small-town America.

He notes how five of eight U.S. newspaper jobs have disappeared since 1990, to 174,000, and are now exceeded by the 207,000 jobs in electronic “journalism,” as he puts it — and how 73 percent of internet publishing jobs today are on the east or west coasts. “That means only 27 percent of the remaining online reporters, as well as the ever-draining pool of traditional journalists, are located in the other 40 or so states,” he writes. “No wonder this vast territory — where you, me, and virtually all farmers and ranchers live and work — is 'flyover country' to most Americans.”

Guebert says the loss of journalism jobs between the coasts “is a critical reason why rural America has become increasingly easy to define (We’re red, right?) and increasingly marginalized. There are fewer on-the-ground public sources out here to challenge the beliefs that coastals — and politicians — perpetuate from their East Coast/West Coast enclaves. Worse, it’s an awful fact that less journalism is being conducted in rural America now just as its citizens face challenging public issues like water quality, poverty, declining population, eroding tax bases, exploding addiction rates, critical infrastructure needs, and failing schools.”

Those issues will be covered not by coastals, but by “local reporters armed with local facts drawn from local public officials and their non-local corporate sponsors so local citizens — you and I — can make the best, informed choices for our collective local future,” Guebert writes. “Their local quest, though, isn’t just professional; it’s also personal. They live in the community they serve. You can chat with them in their office or complain to them over a burger at the local diner. They’re at church, the school board meeting, the bank, the T-ball game. And, no, they’ll never have their own YouTube channel because they’re professional listeners, not overpaid shouters. They live to deliver numbers and nuance; information and insight; scoops, not scandals. To them issues are decided by one metric, facts, not a color like blue or red. They are rocks, not rock stars. It’s been my greatest professional privilege to be a part that local effort for 25 years. Thank you.” Read the entire column here.

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