Bursting The Beltway Bubble

NPR listeners and readers make their case for a less "D.C.-centric" point of view.
Dan Hanrahan works on his farm on October 10, 2019 in Cumming, Iowa. Hanrahan said that "the Iowa caucuses allow a rural area to have a say in the political process." Source: Joe Raedle

As I finish up my tenure as NPR's Public Editor, I've been looking back over some of the persistent themes that have run through the audience concerns I've heard. One in particular has come up routinely. Broadly speaking, many in NPR's nationwide audience say they feel that NPR's representation of the U.S. focuses far too much on Washington, D.C., and the largest East and West Coast cities, and not nearly enough on the non-coastal rest of the country.

These concerns have taken many forms:

Listeners, mostly in the rural center of the country, who tell me they feel they don't hear their lives reflected on the radio. As one Pennsylvania listener wrote: "I hear exactly the same news from the different programs you offer ... It's all national news." He added, "I always perk up during those precious few moments you allow for PA, OH, NY, DE and MD news because I live in this region. I also listen carefully to what's happening elsewhere in our country. I want to know what neighboring states in my region are doing and what cities similar to mine are doing."

Concerns during the run-up to the 2016 presidential election about NPR's overuse of "Rust Belt"

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