Next month I’ll be starting a full-time job as a reporter with the Perry County Times, the local newspaper around here. Perry County is rural—mainly agricultural, but also with a few river towns from which lots of people commute to Harrisburg. The Appalachian Trail also goes right through the town I live in.
Since I only moved to Perry County a few months ago, I have lots to learn, and being a reporter provides many opportunities for that. I don’t like writing fluff, though. My start in journalism was in Honduras just after the 2009 military coup and the next experience was in Occupied Palestine.
In many ways, writing in those places is worlds away from Perry County, yet some fundamentals remain the same: people matter. Their stories matter. I’m only interested in being a journalist as long as I hold that central.
The words of an award-winning rural journalist will remind me of that as I work:
Often, I learn that we don’t expect enough from people. I mean we don’t expect enough from our own journalists and from the people we cover. Setting the bar high usually works. I hate to see people at smaller papers accepting crumbs. If you don’t do good journalism at small papers —and doing good journalism includes filing open records requests and complaining when the open meetings law is violated —then you are telling people who live in rural areas that their place in life, in the world, is not that important. -Jennifer P. Brown
I intend to write stories that tell a different message: rural people matter.