In less than 24 hours, reporters from The Daily Evergreen drove to rural communities, many of which they had never heard of, seeking local stories about what makes their town unique.
Sponsored by a grant from the Solutions Journalism Network, students from Edward R. Murrow College of Communications attended the slump in rural reporting from Friday to Saturday.
Here are some of the experiences of The Daily Evergreen reporters.
The streets were empty except for a few cars that passed on Tekoa’s main street. We didn’t know what to expect when we arrived, but the small town exceeded our expectations at the end of the day.
My group and I arrived in Tekoa around 9am and as we parked and got out of the car, we were greeted by the local librarian, Shelly. The library wasn’t open but was working and saw us parked next to the building.
Shelly spoke to us for about 20 minutes and described the city and the people in it. It was obvious that she loved life in Tekoa and knew all about it. Shelly was the first of many Tekoa residents we spoke to, who provided an insight into the town and took the time to answer many of our questions.
My groupmate Alisa and I went to the local coffee shop called Eclair’s and encountered the color pink everywhere. The walls and chairs were painted pink and the menu had the most creative coffee drinks I’ve ever seen. The barista recommended the eclair, the signature coffee. The drink was rich in espresso and filled with custard.
My favorite part of this trip was unexpectedly meeting a Punjabi couple celebrating the one year anniversary of their local market in Tekoa. I didn’t expect to meet many people of color, let alone people of the same race as me.
Karan and Karam Kingra gave out free pizzas and said they had 500 with them. I spent a lot of time talking to the couple, especially Karam, who was also a teacher at the local Tekoa elementary school. She was very kind and reminded me of many women in my family who are strong and smart.
Karam described her love for Tekoa and the people who were kind to her. She said they embraced her and Karan and their culture. She said the fields of Tekoa reminded her of the fields of Punjabi, and she even once prepared Indian food and gave it out to the school’s residents, who loved trying it.
Karan and Karam’s story inspired me and I decided that if I ever got the chance to cover Tekoa, I would do a profile of their family and the market.
The Rural Reporting Plunge reminded me of one of the reasons I want to be a journalist: because of the people. I want to write about people like Karam and Karan who inspire not only me but also the general public. Every Murrow College student should take the opportunity to participate in this project because it will push you to be a better reporter and take you out of your comfort zone.
This weekend I traveled about a half hour west of Spokane to the small town of Reardan. With 471 residents in 2020, the city seemed very tight-knit.
The city’s fire station was run by volunteers, which really struck me on this trip.
My team went to the station twice this weekend to talk to as many volunteers as possible. On Friday night we heard about a “Hunter’s Breakfast” they were hosting the next morning. It turned out that this fundraiser was her only fundraiser each year.
I spoke to some of the volunteers on Saturday morning and it was clear that everyone was there because they wanted to and definitely not because they had to.
Every volunteer I spoke to said something to the effect that they wanted to help the community. The head of the volunteer fire brigade said it was “neighbors helping neighbors,” which moved me a lot. I could really see how much everyone in the community cared about each other.
The fire chief also let my team ride a fire truck that morning, and I got to spray a hose around a block for a few minutes. To be honest, it was a lot of fun. I’ve been in a fire truck before, but nobody drove it while I was in it.
Everyone at the station was open to helping us with questions and finding things to do in town.
Friday night we went to the Reardan High School football game vs. Lind-Ritzville. Even though Reardan High School lost, it was still a good experience. There weren’t many students in the stands, but a former soccer player said it was normal for the city.
On Saturday we found this incredibly beautiful dam. My phone kept going on and off, but this gave me a chance to really use the natural aspect of it. We were stopped at this fence which definitely calmed my nerves as the hill was so steep.
But it was still beautiful.
I’ve said this several times but my experience in this small town was amazing. The community members were more than willing to help, the sights were amazing and overall it was an eye opening trip for having only lived in big cities.
My team had to go to Pomeroy, which has around 1,200 residents. On Friday when we arrived, Pomeroy High School was having a home football game. It was just that it was their homecoming game that was so exciting!
Booths were packed with students, supportive parents and community members showing just how important sport is to this city. Coming from the rural town of Nine Mile Falls, Washington myself, playing this game brought back fond memories I have of my own high school games as the atmosphere was very similar.
Saturday was a little quieter in Pomeroy, with few downtown businesses open. As we were strolling around town, I entered an art gallery where I met a sweet lady named Bea. We chatted for a while and she told me about her life and the gallery where she volunteers as a shop sitter. Bea told me that as she got older she volunteered for different places in the city.
“I retired to volunteer,” she said with a hearty laugh, which in turn made me laugh.
That one sentence alone made it clear that she loves the city and the people so much that she still feels the need to get involved. This particular interaction stuck with me because it felt good to be in a journalistic environment and like I was just having a conversation and getting to know someone without already having a preconceived idea for a story in mind.
I think this trip was extremely valuable in honing my journalism skills. Especially when addressing people. I’m quite shy so the thought of approaching strangers and having conversations is a bit scary. This jump certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone, but it was also a great experience to develop myself.
When I got to Harrison it was quiet.
The city’s off-season had begun, a marked contrast to the busy summer months of parties and boating on Lake Coeur d’Alene.
My reporting group soon stumbled across the local restaurant/bar One Shot Charlies, one of the few shops open during the fall and winter months.
Glass bottles lined the back shelves next to a drinks menu written in colored chalk. Dim lights and loud laughter flooded us as we chatted with waiters, who regaled us with tales of staff shortages — college students left town in the first weeks of August — and tipped generously to make enough money to feed them through the winter.
Harrison treats newcomers like family, they said. Once you walk through the door you may be greeted with “‘Who are you? what’s your story What’s your name? Where do you come from? Tell me everything.”
And I found that somewhat true, at least with the locals my group had the privilege of speaking with.
When we entered the local public library the next morning, two young circulation specialists immediately greeted us with offers of hot tea in autumn-themed mugs, unhesitatingly starting an hour-long conversation about Harrison’s fire over 100 years ago and the struggles of local people own shops in the city.
The self-proclaimed “Guardian[s] From Worlds Countless” told us that they feel a responsibility to ensure that Harrison is cared for by their generation so that locals are engaged in the city and feel comfortable using the library as a “hub” of communication.
Whether it’s hosting community dances and sonnet-writing workshops for teens or planning the opening of a new bakery and coffee shop to meet the needs of locals, Harrison residents are finding ways to come together during the off-season.
As we left our lake view and returned to the wheat fields, we reflected on our time in Harrison. Although it was short, I definitely gained more insight into having conversations with strangers and finding stories that haven’t been told yet.
If you were to ask me if I’d rip open an Amazing Race-style yellow envelope to discover a new small-town destination and interview frenziedly nice residents again over the course of 24 hours… I think I’d say yes.