Chris Clayton will speak at the Anvil Rural Journalism Conference on April 8 in Lincoln. We took a moment to get to know each other a little better. Register to attend the conference (in person or online) here. And here’s our five questions for Chris.
Fly Over Media: What’s your current job? Or, what’s your particular area of focus these days?
Chris Clayton: I am the policy editor for DTN/The Progressive Farmer. I largely focus on government issues that affect farmers and rural America in different ways.
FOM: What’s your personal background? How did you come into your field of work and study?
CC: I grew up in a small town just south of St. Joseph, Mo., and knew I wanted to be a journalist. I did not intend to report on agriculture, but fell into the beat while working for the Omaha World-Herald. Over time, I melded the topics of agriculture, policy and politics into the job I have now.
FOM: Why is responsible rural journalism important?
CC: I would like to think it is important for all journalism to be responsible. What that requires is not avoiding uncomfortable topics for your audience, but reporting on those issues as accurately as possible. Because of the lack of trust in “the media” journalists also have an obligation to reach out to rural Americans and show them that journalism is a responsible craft.
FOM: What impact do you think coverage on rural communities has on a national audience? What’s the best result?
CC: Rural America is all about both the use and protection of natural resources. The people who make their home in rural America are responsible for food, fiber, energy, clean water, wildlife habitat and preservation of the country’s natural beauty. If you are going to cover any of these topics, you have to cover rural America.
FOM: Tell me about a time when the journalism you produced on a rural community had some tangible effect on change, big or small.
CC: I think my work writing on farm commodities has helped farmers develop a better understanding of the farm bill, as well as the issues around climate change. Getting into coverage in a community, I reported on a small-town law officer who was a bully that helped get him dismissed. Just recently I wrote about a small oilseed processor who was behind on payments to the area farmers, but trying to do the right thing and eventually get the farmers their money.