Journalists do some unusual things to get a story.
Like stand outside rural diners asking people about President Donald Trump.
Early last month I spent a day camped outside country diners to ask if a Trump endorsement would influence Republicans in their vote in the local governor’s race. I flagged down diner after diner, only to get to the same answer.
Rural Tennessee does not care about Donald Trump.
But this doesn’t surprise me.
When I interned for The Federalist last summer in Washington, D.C., I found myself in a bubble. People cared about “covfefe” and clung to push notifications about bits of policy. When I tried to take these things home to discuss it with non-journalist friends, they were clueless. Or didn’t care.
A lot of people don’t.
As much as the national media might clutch their collective pearls and insist Trump has struck fear into the heart of the nation, the general population is not fainting at every new press release or policy. Push notifications on the Russia investigation are meaningless. They don’t have Twitter alerts for Trump or Clinton.
Most Americans are more interested in street renovations and whether they can buy alcohol on Sundays.
But the outlets that write these stories — the local, small-time papers — are disappearing. Soon, all we might have is pearl-clutching.
And I don’t want to spend my career writing about Trump tweets.
The importance of local outlets lies in the people they write about. Local reporters provide real stories. They pull apart the lives of everyday people. They shine a light on local corruption.
When local reporters talk to sources, they are talking to their own community. Their reporting is not just a job. It’s giving back.
There is nothing exciting about board meetings or wading through the bureaucracy of local government. Breaking news is mayoral scandals or an armed robbery.
But it’s just as important as national news, if not more. Because it’s real.
As I go through my internship at The Tennessean and really get a taste of local news, I am more convinced of the sheer absurdity of national news. It is absolutely important to cover national matters and the journalists who do so are not wasting their time, but to ignore the local news in favor of national would be a disservice both to the industry and the nation.
There is little manufactured outrage in middle America; the normal American doesn’t have time for it. They want to know about their taxes, the weather, and the school football team.
There has been a spotlight on local news in the days after the shooting at The Capital Gazette. The fact these journalists had the steel to report on the deaths of their coworkers reached a lot of people. It reminded the nation that a lot journalists care deeply about their topics, because they are topics that impact the journalists’ own community.
And that’s the kind of journalist I want to be.
Subscribing to the local paper is important. Not only to understand the community, but to prevent those journalists from disappearing.
I don’t want a career of articles on Trump tweets. And neither should you.