Changes Afoot at Keep It Rural HQ
Welcome, welcome, welcome . . . to this long-awaited next edition of the Keep It Rural newsletter. Thank you for your patience during our break (like I said, everyone needs — and deserves! — one). During that time we put our heads together, and we’ve got some news about how this here newsletter is going to move forward for a while.
First and foremost, know that we are committed to keeping things rural even though some changes are coming your way. The main thing you’ll notice right up front is that Daily Yonder reporter Claire Carlson is going to be taking over as primary author and your guide for weekly policy analysis, environment and conservation news, and whatever else she feels like writing about in the rural sphere. Claire is going to do a wonderful job. She’s one of the best talents and most rural-focused writers I know these days. Join me, if you will, in giving a big round of high-fives to Claire for stepping in to fill the Keep It Rural void.
In preparation for this handoff Claire asked me to chat about what it’s been like to write this newsletter for the past 2+ years and I was happy to oblige. In fact, it was such a nice conversation we’re publishing it here, as a way for you all to get to know her a little bit.
Second, I’m gonna be shifting my focus to covering rural politics and elections in a more in-depth manner through a new independent newsletter I’m hoping can complement my work at Daily Yonder and Keep It Rural. It’s called The Cocklebur, and for the next few weeks the topics will include rural voters and the midterms, corporate power in rural America, and how voting outcomes will impact policy decisions made in 2023 and 2024. For more details or to sign up, you’re welcome to email me directly at email@example.com. (The first edition should be out shortly!)
Thanks for your continued interest in Keep It Rural news and views. And thanks again, and always, to the Daily Yonder staff (especially Caroline Carlson and Adam Giorgi) for helping to make the last two-and-a-half years of newsletters enjoyable and successful.
And don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere very far. (Subscribe to my new newsletter and you won’t have to miss me at all.)
’til later, Keep It Rural, friends.
Claire Calls Bryce ☎️
Hi Keep It Rural subscribers! Claire here. I’m so excited to deliver rural thoughts and analysis to your inboxes every Tuesday while Bryce works on his new project. He was kind enough to field a phone call from me last week to chat about the newsletter, what we should be paying attention to this election season, and rural reporting at large. Enjoy, and “see” you next week.
Claire Carlson: Why did you create the Keep It Rural newsletter, and how did you go about putting it together?
Bryce Oates: I was craving an outlet to provide more framing to some of the articles I was writing. Sometimes I would want to say a couple things outside of the straight reporting thing and emphasize that people read a certain article, which didn’t have to be something I wrote.
Outside the Daily Yonder, I would look for what I would recommend people read, and it doesn’t have to be the most groundbreaking reporting or opinion pieces. It was always rural-oriented, and I like that I could include some of the more beautiful essays and things, whether it be in the New Yorker or the Atlantic or somewhere else that I thought people should know about.
How do you balance personal narrative with more third person, objective reporting? How did you go about merging those two things and bringing your voice into this newsletter?
I mean, that’s hard. It’s pretty clear where I come from, and I feel like that’s important. People need to know opinion and bias. I’m not everybody’s jam, and I know that. People who deny climate change, for instance: they’re not going to love my reporting, or my newsletter, most likely, because I just accept that we need to do something about climate change, and it needs to be aggressive. And even more to the point, climate change is a thing we need to talk about and people should care about because science proves it.
The biggest issue in my mind for rural people is that yes, climate is hugely important. But to me this also involves looking at the reality of rural economies, budgets, rural communities trying to have jobs, thrive, have schools, decent infrastructure, all the things. The reality is, rural communities are 100% dependent on federal government investment. That varies a little bit across the map, but the vast, vast majority of rural counties across all of America are way more dependent on federal spending and taxation than they are on anything else.
Social Security is the biggest anti-poverty program we’ve ever seen in this country. Because rural America is older, it’s disproportionately dependent on Social Security. That whole mythology that rural America is independent and not dependent on federal spending is a complete joke.
The goal of my reporting and what I want to contribute to the world is like, why not break through that bullshit, and just be like, hey, urban people don’t mind supporting rural America at all. You get more with honey than you get with vinegar. Let’s have an honest politics in rural America about it.
What’s important to pay attention to in the coming months that will affect rural America (and should be written about in Keep it Rural)?
We’ve got midterm elections, that’s important. You know, that’s going to change things when it comes to federal budgets. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the U.S. Senate, I don’t have a prediction on whether the Democrats or the Republicans are going to switch majority. But it seems like the Republicans are going to flip the House of Representatives, and that’s going to affect the Farm Bill, which is incredibly important in rural policy and budgets and will be renegotiated in 2023. To me, the future of the Farm Bill is what’s at stake for rural America in the upcoming midterms.
What’s next for you, Bryce?
I’m launching my own independent newsletter, hopefully very shortly here. I’m interested in some broad questions about why policies for public investment in favor of public lands and public healthcare are super popular in rural America yet voters elect Republicans who are often in favor of privatization. Like, what’s that about?
I understand why Democrats are unpopular in rural America for a million reasons. Democratic leadership, to me, has often failed rural America and has certainly neglected to invest in it. The Democratic Party has failed to lift up rural leaders and really failed to even acknowledge that rural people matter.
There’s that whole narrative about rural voters being Republicans where it’s like, “well, who cares about them anyway?” And that’s flawed, but also it’s real. For this new newsletter, I want to write about and share people’s perspectives that highlight why this issue is important and that rural people DO matter.