• 57°

Guest Opinion: Media narrative distracts from focus on improving lives

By Brian Depew

Each of the past several elections has thrust rural people into the media spotlight. Rural and urban people are divided, the pundits tell us. Neither understands the lives of the other, the news reports read.

I find the entire narrative rather tired. It is rife with inaccuracies that I won’t try to unpack here.

It is also a distraction. Spending our energy debating an unhelpful caricature of cultural divides keeps both voters and policymakers distracted from making changes that matter.

I suggest we focus our energy instead on a simple question: What action can policymakers take today to materially improve the lives of people regardless of where they live?

There are relatively popular ideas like investing in broadband and supporting entrepreneurship. Also critical is the need for acting on immigration reform, investing in clean energ, and near-term pandemic relief.

We must take our thinking a step further.

Elected officials should adopt policies to encourage a wider geographic distribution of economic growth. For decades, policymakers pursued the opposite, contributing to an acute housing affordability crisis in many urban areas and a lack of quality housing in many rural areas.

We should create the frameworks and support to encourage cooperative and employee ownership of businesses and assets to provide more ways for workers to share in economic growth and business success.

Policymakers must also confront corporate power. Rural advocates have long pressed for meaningful antitrust action against big corporate agriculture interests. Now-unchecked corporations are reshaping our communities and pose new threats to rural economies.

The conversation must also be more inclusive. Too often, the media narrative about rural falls prey to the trap of focusing solely on white people in the Midwest. Some white people are left behind by the current system, but so, too, are there Native Americans, new immigrants and black people across rural America who have been left out and who face overwhelming systemic barriers.

While the dominant narrative keeps us divided from one another, a renewed focus on how our elected representatives can improve the lives of everyday people could serve to unite. As people see government acting as a force to improve their lives and their communities, the perceived cultural divides will recede into the background.

Brian Depew is the executive director for the Center for Rural Affairs.

FOR MORE COLUMNS AND LETTERS TO THE EDITOR, CHECK OUT OUR OPINION SECTION HERE.

News

Frozen spaghetti with meat sauce recalled

News

Michael C. Silverman named new town manager for Nags Head

News

North Carolina bills seeking to preserve patient visitation advance

Business

Jennette’s Pier expands hours leading up to summer

News

Three serious fires in Kitty Hawk battled within 24-hour period

Lifestyles

Meet the winners of the Mutt Madness photo contest!

News

Household hazardous waste collections set at three locations in Dare

News

North Carolina criminal justice reform package approved by Senate committee

Business

Regulators approve 20-year extension of nuclear plant licenses

News

Cape Hatteras National Seashore night driving rules in place

News

North Carolina House ending COVID-19 proxy voting practice

Hyde

Ocracoke Fig Festival to host chef Vivian Howard

News

NCDMV suspends replacement of older license plates

News

North Carolina lawmakers to debate new abortion restrictions

Crime

Colington man arrested for felony drug and firearm charges

Schools

Tyrrell County Schools moves to in-person instruction on Wednesdays

Lifestyles

Theatre of Dare returns to in-person performances with ‘The Diaries of Adam & Eve’

News

Beaufort County woman scores $1 million prize on $10 scratch-off ticket

News

Dare commissioners have two meetings Monday

News

Kitty Hawk has budget discussion

Lifestyles

Osprey enjoys fresh fish dinner

News

Mourners gathering Monday for funeral of Andrew Brown Jr.

Crime

North Carolina man pleads guilty to production of child pornography

News

Weekly gas price update for North Carolina