In early 2007 it was another election season. Then, as now, there was much jabber on television and in print about what the “rural vote” was going to do. The presidential candidates were making their trips to Iowa and New Hampshire. And although these states were constantly described as “rural” there was hardly anything rural about the campaign.
Outside a required pledge of allegiance to ethanol and a few hay bales (always square) at campaign events, there was nothing remotely rural about what these would-be presidents were saying.
I remember talking with Dee Davis and Tim Marema about how we needed a news site on the web that would push real rural concerns in front of the candidates. They thought that was a good idea. So we —Julie Ardery, Tim, Shawn Poynter and me — started the Daily Yonder. Now it’s more than a decade and too-many-elections-to-count later. And if success is measured by showing up, then the Yonder has succeeded wildly.
Every weekday the Yonder posts stories about — and mostly by — rural people. Richard Oswald has provided some of the nation’s best writing on ag monopolies and farm state politics from his home in Langdon, Missouri. Roberto Gallardo, Brian Whitacre, and Sharon Strover have been relentless in their research on rural broadband. Bryce Oates has explored the complicated relationship of rural communities and public lands.
And this year, Tim Marema, Tim Murphy, Liz Carey, Donna Kallner and the rest of the team have led the way in following the many ways Covid-19 is affecting life in rural America.
Have we changed the world? That may still be a work in progress. But as I’ve said in the past, I can confidently report that the Yonder has changed my life. Seven years ago, Julie and I sold our house in a fashionably hip part of downtown Austin, Texas, and moved to La Grange, a town of 4,700 on the Texas prairie. We traded every empty urban amenity known in the early 21st Century for polka music, cattle trailers on Main Street and a community that can only be found in a small town.
When I talk to reporters – at the Economist, NPR, CBS, the Post, the Times – they all tell me they read the Yonder. I can see it in their stories. The Daily Yonder is shaping the way people think about rural.
A while back, I heard from a guy who lives in western North Carolina. His local hospital was closing its obstetrics wing. Women would now have to drive more than an hour to Asheville for care. He looked for information on rural hospitals and health care in the Daily Yonder and found it. He wrote to thank our writers. Maybe change comes at that pace. A person or two at a time. Heck, we’re just getting started.
In 2020, more people than ever have read, shared, or reached out in response to our reporting. You can help keep that momentum going by making a contribution during the Yonder’s end-of-year NewsMatch campaign.