Monday, January 18, 2021

Rural journalist thanks urban member of Congress for helping save his newspaper and caring about rural America

Rep. Ro Khanna
A member of Congress from the San Francisco area, who identifies as a "progressive capitalist," has a message and a helping hand for rural America and its newspapers.

The story of Rep. Ro Khanna and rural Iowa was told in a story by Doug Burns of the Carroll Times Herald in the Iowa Newspaper Association Bulletin in May. Burns says it's still up to date.

Burns reports he and Khanna met in December 2018, at a gathering to recognize Accenture’s development of a software-development branch in Jefferson, the seat of Greene County: "Khanna knows many rural Americans, sweeps of folks in the countryside of Iowa, are angry over real and perceived losses to their ways of life. Recent elections, as Khanna is well aware, have seen that discontent manifest in anti-immigrant language or votes and vitriol hurled against political figures tied to the urban elite. Should rural Iowans feel this angry, is it earned and real, and if so, where should it be directed?"

Khanna told Burns, “Well, they should feel angry because the governing elite of this country have let them down. We have had a digital revolution that began in the 1990s and accelerated now. You have had concentration of economic success in places like my district, Silicon Valley, or Boston or Austin, and you have had a large part of the country left out. And their talent has been left out.”

Burns quotes Khanna from a Vanity Fair magazine story in February: “Donald Trump’s whole message is ‘I’m going to bring your jobs back. I’m going to bring your pay back. I’m going to bring your dignity back. You’ve been left out.’ . . . Our message has to be that we are going to bring more jobs, more possibilities, more opportunity to communities left out than they’ve ever had before. No person should be forced to leave their hometown to get a good-paying job. A community’s biggest export shouldn’t be their kids. So we’re going to rebuild and revitalize these communities to bring them the opportunities of the technology revolution. And people get that. They intuitively get that the economy is changing; they intuitively get that just bashing up on China or bashing up on immigrants isn’t going to ultimately provide more economic opportunity for their kids.”

Douglas Burns
Then Burns quotes himself in the story by Abigail Tracy: “The future of the country is riding on this, [not] rural America and urban America preaching back and forth at each other about whether you should use gendered pronouns or how many guns you should be able to own. Those are arguments that are going to continue to divide. What we’re doing is literally potentially preventing a civil war, because this wealth inequality just can’t stand and it just won’t stay up. We can’t have only a select number of winners in a select number of places where people are just sort of succeeding by geographic accident like that. That’s just not going to hold the country together. This isn’t a charitable arm of big tech. This makes sense for big tech, too, because there’s a lot of talent here.”

After their meeting, "Khanna visited Carroll twice, and he connected our newspaper with Silicon Valley innovators," Burns reports. "Khanna inspired us to launch a digital marketing company, Mercury Boost, to capture revenue beyond our web and print ads. He put us, and our friends at the neighboring, Denison-based Spanish-language La Prensa, in the room with key people from tech companies — most notably the Facebook Journalism Project. . . . Combined, the Carroll Times Herald and La Prensa received a $75,000 grant to pursue more digital subscriptions and to construct the Western Iowa Journalism Foundation, a non-profit organization involving Carroll, Jefferson, Denison, Storm Lake and Harlan. . . . Facebook awarded the Times Herald and La Prensa an additional $85,000 in grant money to keep our newspapers alive and churning out vital public-health stories during the coronavirus pandemic. That’s a $160,000 lift from Facebook to La Prensa and The Times Herald, with $35,000 for La Prensa and the remaining funds being used to boost Carroll digital subscriptions and create the non-profit organization that will support multiple western Iowa newspapers."

Burns concludes, "Our newspapers were only in the room with the Facebook opportunity because Congressman Ro Khanna made me believe rural Iowa belonged there, right along with brand-name urban communications giants. He’s bringing this same rural-in-the-rooms-where-it-happens advocacy to other industries, from tech to biomanufacturing. It’s often said in the halls of Capitol Hill that there are Washington friends, and there are friends. Ro Khanna is both to this newspaper. Our newspaper is alive to cover Ro’s fight for rural America, and indeed America itself, and for that, we are both humbled and inspired."

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