Tired of big city media taking over political coverage in early rural primaries and caucuses, local media is elbowing in to demand that the parties and candidates address small town issues such as agriculture beyond basic talking points.
Led by the Nashville-based RFD-TV, the goal is to force candidates to get up to speed on rural concerns rather than focus simply on questions posed by the national media.
"Rural states set the tone," said RFD-TV founder Patrick Gottsch, noting that four — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — are the first to choose presidential nominees. "There aren't enough rural questions being asked," he added.
In a move endorsed by the parties, RFD-TV, working with SiriusXM and cable provider Mediacom, are planning a new one-hour interview program called "Rural Town Hall" that will feature one candidate at a time addressing rural issues and questions from group such as the 4-H.
Host Orion Samuelson said questions will range from agriculture to small-town education, water supplies, aging workers and migrant immigration.
One thing it won't be, added Gottsch, is gotcha journalism: up to 200 questions will be provided to candidates in advance. "Hopefully," he said, "we'll light a fire and create an understanding. We're in the business of building a bridge between urban and rural."