In a Facebook Live chat at SXSW, NBC News’s Chuck Todd talked about his organization’s plans for the heartland. “We’re trying to have a Denver bureau again. We haven’t had a Denver bureau in a while,” said the “Meet the Press” moderator in a talk with Shira Lazar. He also spoke of expanding the Chicago bureau.
Asked about this matter, an NBC representative said, “Chuck misspoke — there are no plans right now for a Denver bureau, but there is a plan for much more on-the-ground reporting from the mountain states.”
The idea, said Todd in the interview, is to ratchet up contacts with rural America. “We didn’t go out there and hear the stories of the opioid crisis,” said the NBC News political director. “We may have reported on it statistically, but we didn’t do that person-to-person stuff. . . . Then you would get an idea, oh, these little towns, this opioid crisis, it’s connected to this lack of employment, which is connected to the lack of educational opportunities, which is connected to — then all of a sudden you realize, no wonder these people are so pissed off, and no wonder they think everyone has abandoned them. Their town looks abandoned.”
Summing up, he said, “I think it’s clear mainstream media needs to do a better job of reporting on rural America.”
There’s no question that rural voters surprised a lot of onlookers, not only in the media but also in adjacent professions like politics and academe. More familiarity with this part of the country would be an improvement. However, let’s not pretend that the political reporting establishment has somehow attained mastery of suburban and urban voting demographics. Oliver Willis, a senior writer at ShareBlue, tells this blog in an email, “My argument has often been, too many reporters are able to see their own families in rural white America, whereas what black/latino voters think is just taken for granted.” Willis writes, “For every 40 trips to coal country there’s 1 trip to a black barber. And even that tends to ignore middle class minorities, esp blacks, who were key to Obama winning both times.”