“Where are we?” says one sailor.
“I’m not sure. Do we even know where we’re going?” replies the other.
They share looks of consternation and confusion, a moment of despair.
Then they pull out their log books and their compasses. They calculate their place in the world, which way they’re headed and how far they’ve gone, not by stars, not by landmarks, but by their own travels—real data based on experience. This is called a dead reckoning.
And then the jolly mariners sail off, singing sea shanties and searching below deck for that one last orange.
The editors of Between Coasts are those sailors. We are at this moment standing on deck combing through our logbooks. We are not lost, per se, we are just doing what anyone should do after cobbling together four issues of a nascent online magazine—we’re deciding who we are, where we are, and where we’re going based on what we’ve published so far.
We started this online magazine with a manifesto written in the wake of the election of Donald Trump as pundits wrung their hands, shocked that he had won. Some blamed the white working class. Some blamed rural America, Appalachia, and so on.
It isn’t possible to get the full truth of what happened, but what we do know is that most in the media had missed the complex story because they failed to investigate and report on neglected areas of the country that, it turns out, also played a role in the outcome of the election. Indeed, there are still vast swaths of this country that are virtually ignored. Many of these places are between the coasts, in places out of the sight and mind of the national media. It’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always like this.
Since the election, though, all sorts of interventions have been launched to correct this serious oversight—The Guardian’s On the Ground project is working to cover class and inequality, and The Washington Post has bolstered its Team America. There is suddenly more interest in the Heartland.
This is a good thing.
But there’s still a lot of parachuting, a lot of drive-by journalism. We’re not going to fault the Washington Post for that—we can’t expect them to set up a bureau in New Sweden, Maine, or Saluda, North Carolina.
Looking out from our position on the deck, we think there remains a void to be filled: there’s still a need for people to write about where they live, and for editors to listen to what these writers have to say, or, if they must, send in reporters who can take the time to get to know a place before writing a story. Since last December, we’ve been trying to fill part of this void by publishing stories from local perspectives. We’ve told stories about a small-town librarian who hands out food to folks who need it, about a North Dakota high school and its teachers, about recent immigrants to Columbus, Ohio, and about how climate change is affecting one small mountain town in western North Carolina.
Between Coasts will continue telling local stories like these for a national audience. We are especially interested in stories about places that don’t usually make the national news, but where the experiences of the people who live in those places help make sense of what is going on nationally. We will support writers based in the places they are writing about, whether they are seasoned or first-time journalists and essayists. We hope to have a mix of both. Put simply, we want contributions from writers, photojournalists, and documentarians who report on Flyover Country.
If we can do all these things, we will stay true to our course. We hope you’ll join us, and maybe help us look for that orange.