Flyover Country: The Real News About Floods

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Flyover Country: The Real News About Floods

The national media haven’t paid a lot of atten­tion to the Mid­west floods, which, as it turns out, is a good thing.

As a result, I have read and watched the local news cov­er­age in fly­over coun­try and looked at social media posts from friends who live in the Mid­west, which pro­vide a far more robust and accu­rate view of what’s hap­pen­ing on the ground.

When dis­as­ter strikes, the national media focus on the despair and help­less­ness of those affected; the local media empha­size the strength and determination.

As an exam­ple, a recent CNN head­line barked: “The Mid­west flood­ing has killed live­stock, ruined har­vests and has farm­ers wor­ried for their future.” The story recounted the tri­als and tribu­la­tions brought about by the recent floods.

The Ante­lope County News in north­ern Nebraska pro­vided a much more com­plete under­stand­ing of how com­mu­ni­ties bat­tled the onslaught.

The news­pa­per recounted the story of a local man’s hero­ism. “With sleet spit­ting in his face, James Bolling spent 3 ½ hours mov­ing ice­bergs from beneath the bridge — the same bridge his back­hoe was sit­ting on as he piece-​by-​piece broke an ice jam on the Elkhorn River.

But know­ing the ice­bergs could lift the bridge at any time and throw him and the oth­ers into the river wasn’t the scari­est part of the night for the Clear­wa­ter man. Much worse was ear­lier hav­ing to res­cue his friend who was stand­ing on the roof of an F-​350 with the river rush­ing through its win­dows and ice­bergs bounc­ing off the side pan­els. Here is the com­plete story:

https://​www​.myan​telopecoun​tynews​.com/​a​n​t​e​l​o​p​e​-​c​o​u​n​t​y​/​b​e​f​o​r​e​-​s​a​v​i​n​g​-​b​r​i​d​g​e​-​b​o​l​l​i​n​g​-​r​e​s​c​u​e​s​-​f​r​i​e​n​d​-​f​r​o​m​-​e​l​k​h​o​r​n​-​river

The Omaha World-​Herald recounted the story of a man who died try­ing to help oth­ers. “When Colum­bus farmer James Wilke learned that ris­ing flood­wa­ters had stranded a motorist along a nearby county road early Thurs­day, he fired up his trac­tor and went to help in spite of the wind and rain.

Guide by vol­un­teer first respon­ders, Wilke set off down Monastery Road and across the bridge over Shell Creek. But the bridge col­lapsed under the tractor’s weight, throw­ing the 50-​year-​old into the flood-​swollen creek….

He was always the first to go help some­body,” said his cousin, Paul Wilke, who grew up with James just north of Colum­bus. “He was a per­son who wouldn’t just talk about mak­ing things bet­ter. He would do it.” Here is the story: https://​www​.omaha​.com/​n​e​w​s​/​n​e​b​r​a​s​k​a​/​c​o​l​u​m​b​u​s​-​m​a​n​-​w​h​o​-​d​i​e​d​-​t​r​y​i​n​g​-​t​o​-​r​e​s​c​u​e​-​m​o​t​o​r​i​s​t​-​f​r​o​m​-​f​l​o​o​d​w​a​t​e​r​s​/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​_​2​b​b​94453​-​e​c​d​9​-​5​a​6​a​-​8​c​4​b​-​b​9831​a​7​a​f​955​.html

Even when national reporters like David Brooks of DaTimes ven­ture out from behind their desks to the hin­ter­lands, the rel­a­tively pos­i­tive sto­ries paint a pic­ture of some anachro­nis­tic tribe from a for­eign land.

One farmer said there is a feu­dal mind-​set among many of his friends. They’re too proud to admit any depen­dence. They’re afraid of vul­ner­a­bil­ity. The atti­tude is: I’m a farmer. My busi­ness is my busi­ness, and your busi­ness is your busi­ness. Their lone­li­ness is dri­ven by fear and pride,” Brooks wrote recently.

A local reporter prob­a­bly would see these qual­i­ties as pos­i­tive ones: strength and inde­pen­dence rather than weak­ness and dependence.

That’s why it’s use­ful to see the dif­fer­ence between how the national media mis­un­der­stand the response to the Mid­west floods and the local media get it because they live in these com­mu­ni­ties rather than para­chute in when tough times happen.

The national media haven’t paid a lot of attention to the Midwest floods, which, as it turns out, is a good thing.

As a result, I have read and watched the local news coverage in flyover country and looked at social media posts from friends who live in the Midwest, which provide a far more robust and accurate view of what’s happening on the ground.

When disaster strikes, the national media focus on the despair and helplessness of those affected; the local media emphasize the strength and determination.

As an example, a recent CNN headline barked: “The Midwest flooding has killed livestock, ruined harvests and has farmers worried for their future.” The story recounted the trials and tribulations brought about by the recent floods.

The Antelope County News in northern Nebraska provided a much more complete understanding of how communities battled the onslaught.

The newspaper recounted the story of a local man’s heroism. “With sleet spitting in his face, James Bolling spent 3 ½ hours moving icebergs from beneath the bridge—the same bridge his backhoe was sitting on as he piece-by-piece broke an ice jam on the Elkhorn River.

But knowing the icebergs could lift the bridge at any time and throw him and the others into the river wasn’t the scariest part of the night for the Clearwater man. Much worse was earlier having to rescue his friend who was standing on the roof of an F-350 with the river rushing through its windows and icebergs bouncing off the side panels. Here is the complete story:

https://www.myantelopecountynews.com/antelope-county/before-saving-bridge-bolling-rescues-friend-from-elkhorn-river

The Omaha World-Herald recounted the story of a man who died trying to help others. “When Columbus farmer James Wilke learned that rising floodwaters had stranded a motorist along a nearby county road early Thursday, he fired up his tractor and went to help in spite of the wind and rain.

“Guide by volunteer first responders, Wilke set off down Monastery Road and across the bridge over Shell Creek. But the bridge collapsed under the tractor’s weight, throwing the 50-year-old into the flood-swollen creek….

“He was always the first to go help somebody,” said his cousin, Paul Wilke, who grew up with James just north of Columbus. “He was a person who wouldn’t just talk about making things better. He would do it.” Here is the story: https://www.omaha.com/news/nebraska/columbus-man-who-died-trying-to-rescue-motorist-from-floodwaters/article_2bb94453-ecd9-5a6a-8c4b-b9831a7af955.html

Even when national reporters like David Brooks of DaTimes venture out from behind their desks to the hinterlands, the relatively positive stories paint a picture of some anachronistic tribe from a foreign land.

“One farmer said there is a feudal mind-set among many of his friends. They’re too proud to admit any dependence. They’re afraid of vulnerability. The attitude is: I’m a farmer. My business is my business, and your business is your business. Their loneliness is driven by fear and pride,” Brooks wrote recently.

A local reporter probably would see these qualities as positive ones: strength and independence rather than weakness and dependence.

That’s why it’s useful to see the difference between how the national media misunderstand the response to the Midwest floods and the local media get it because they live in these communities rather than parachute in when tough times happen.