A More Formal Introduction, and a Question for You

Howdy, folks! Today marks the official baton transfer of Keep it Rural from Bryce Oates to me, Claire Carlson. Introductions were made in last week’s newsletter, but I thought it worth giving you a more detailed bio before heading off to the races. 

I’ve been at the Daily Yonder for almost a year now, reporting on the environment and agriculture policy. Much of my coverage has been on consolidation in the meat industry, which I think is one of our nation’s biggest food security concerns. Just a few corporations control the majority of meat and poultry production, and it’s given them an enormous amount of lobbying power in DC. This is very worrisome. 

My interest in agriculture does not come from working on a farm, as Bryce’s does. I grew up in Nevada with a hydrologist for a dad who taught me to say “bad cows” every time we drove through Nevada’s endless public lands dotted with sagebrush, snake skin, and lots of cows. My dad was always concerned about how ranching affected the springs and groundwater in the high desert, and so was I.

As I grew older, my perspective became a bit more nuanced, which means my “bad cows” chant ended as I learned about the rural ranching communities that often respect and care for the land they live and work on more than most. 

This is where my interests started, and I’m certain I’ll draw from this perspective in the coming months. Although Keep it Rural will have a different voice, I hope it’s one you’ll still enjoy!

Now, before I bore you too much longer, let’s dive in.

Where do you get your news?

Seriously, I’m curious. Do you have a routine for reading the news, or are you like me, someone with 20 random tabs open at all times and a terrible habit of checking Twitter in the middle of the night?

This is a question I’ve been asking people for months as I think about my own news consumption, which clearly is not as healthy as it could be. While I take responsibility for these poor habits, I also blame the way journalism has been transformed by the internet, which is built to suggest content that confirms what you already believe, no matter how factual that belief is. 

Our information is being curated by an algorithm whose goal is to keep you clicking, yet we still wonder why everyone seems to be stuck in their sectarian echo chambers.

As a rural news reporter, I think about this a lot, especially as it relates to the disappearance of the small-town newsroom. People trust local media more – look no farther than writing from Daily Yonder’s very own Tim Marema if you want to learn why. Yet, rural communities have been left behind by big publications that think relevant news only happens in and to urban areas. 

This is bad for a smorgasbord of reasons. Here are two of them. 

One: only covering issues affecting urban areas leads the general public and, alarmingly, lawmakers, to ignore the issues rural communities face. The health, infrastructure, and education disparities this causes are considerable, and are something that the Daily Yonder reports on extensively.

Two: without a local newsroom, small towns suffer. In my (un)professional opinion, a local journalism outlet, a library, and a grocery store are the three key ways to determine the health of a community. Too many rural areas lack a news outlet (and some don’t have this or a library or a grocery store), and it can have detrimental effects on the people left without these vital resources. Misinformation spreads like fire in an oil slick when the only media available isn’t written for your community. 

So, where does your news come from? What platforms do you use to consume it? How diverse are the voices behind the stories? (Really, reply to this email if you’re inclined to share. I want to know.) These questions matter because the media can change how we understand and react to an issue, for better or worse. Being conscious of this is the first step in fighting against misinformation and for rural representation.

Rural Reading List

Montana Wants to Be the Next Wine Country

Wine country… in Montana? In the two years I lived there, I did not realize this was a thing. Read this excellent article on an underreported industry from the Daily Yonder (fun fact: the author is a former classmate of mine!).

Privacy, Stigma May Keep Workers From Using Abortion Travel Benefits

There may be a catch to the promises corporations made to abortion seekers who need to travel for care, according to this vital reporting from Stateline. 

EXCLUSIVE: Investigation Confirms Nevada Gold Mines Violated Safety Rules, Contributing to Miner’s Death

This is the most recent article in a reporting series by the Nevada Independent and High Country News on a gold mine in Nevada with the worst worker safety record in the country. It is bone-chilling. 

One More Thing: It’s Voting Season, Y’all

It’s official: we are exactly three weeks away from midterm elections. If you’ve been paying any attention to the Senate or gubernatorial races in places like Pennsylvania and Oregon, this should come as a terrifying reminder, but an important one nonetheless. WE GOTTA VOTE, Y’ALL. 

Yes, one single vote probably won’t tip the scales (except in local elections!), but a handful of votes can, and aren’t a handful of votes made possible by the actions of individuals? Our collective power can’t be exercised without people choosing to be part of the noise. This system is flawed and frustrating and inequitable as hell, but voting is still important. 

Check your registration status here.

Until next time, everybody. Keep it real, keep it rural. 

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