Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Rural on the radio

I heard three stories about rural America on the radio today, all on programs of my Sacramento-based public radio station.

The first was on this morning's California Report. It is about the efforts of a Central Valley food bank to get food to needy rural residents. The food bank that has initiated this novel program, which uses church buses to make the rural routes, is in Fresno County. As one woman interviewed for the program noted, more food is grown in Fresno County than in any other county in the country, so no one there should go hungry. The link to the story, by Sasha Khokha, is here.

Two other stories were featured on NPR's "All Things Considered" this evening. The first featured the dateline Bristol, TN (population 24,821)in Sullivan County (population 153,048). From that corner of Appalachia, Adam Hochberg reported "Lessons from Tennessee, a Southern GOP Stronghold." You can listen to it here. This is territory where McCain gained ground over Bush's performance in the past two Presidential elections, and where many acknowledge that Obama's race played a role in the outcome. Among the phrases I jotted down as I listened: "strong Christian values"; "97% white"; "Americana"; race "in the background"; and "very white." One resident quoted in the story also called the place "very rural," though it is actually a metropolitan county. Perhaps it is a good illustration of how a place remains culturally rural, though no longer numerically so by U.S. Census Bureau and OMB definitions.

The last of the three stories today was about Marty Stuart, a musician and photographer who talked about his love of traditional country music and said he's trying to give the "roots end of country music a voice." It's a very rich piece, which you can hear here. At right is Stuart's photo of Johnny Cash, taken just four days before he died in 2003. See the accompanying slide show here.

The last mention of rurality that I heard on the radio today was a implicit one, also related to music: NPR informs us that Peter Orszag, the new White House Budget Director, is said to "follow country music." So, there is another hint of rurality (after Tom Daschle and Bill Richardson) on our "urban President's" team.

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