Across The Great Divide: A Reporter, A Bicycle & 900 Miles Listening To Small Town America

Nate Hegyi, rural reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, is embarking on a 900-mile cycling trip crisscrossing the continental divide in August and September, interviewing and listening to Americans ahead of the 2020 election. Follow his journey in the updated blog below:

Across The Great Divide was born out of the desire to reach the rural voices of our region. And what better way to do that than on a bike?

“It’s a tumultuous year,” says Hegyi. “A pandemic grips the region and the economy is in freefall. But the voices of folks in the Mountain West’s small towns and rural communities are often unheard in regional and national media outlets. So we’re embarking on this trip to learn more about the region’s residents and to hear their stories.”

The Mountain West is home to a quarter of the nation’s news deserts and, like much of the country, it’s enduring high unemployment, a surge in COVID–19 cases, as well as reckoning with a history of racism and police violence.

Hegyi will travel across four states in the Mountain West – Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado. He’ll begin his ride in the liberal college city of Missoula before winding down towards the small ranching towns of eastern Idaho; past Yellowstone National Park and down towards the Wind River Indian Reservation.

He’ll cycle deep into Wyoming’s oil and gas country and up into the mountain towns of Northern Colorado before ending his journey in Greeley.

We’ll read and listen to his regular reports as he speaks with folks who live in the frayed edges of rural and small town America – ranch hands, school teachers, oil and gas workers, wealthy retirees and tourism industry workers.

“This is an exciting and significant project for us,” says Kate Concannon, the Mountain West News Bureau’s Managing Editor. “What Nate hears will inform future reporting and help us connect the dots on some of the biggest issues facing our region ahead of the November election.”

People can follow Nate on social media, an online blog and on a specially designated “Where Is He Now?” map. He will also invite some of the people he meets to convene in online listening sessions after the trip. The sessions will be done in collaboration with the Local Voices Network.

Finally, the people Nate meets and the lessons he learns will be documented in a podcast set for broadcast in late October, 2020.

Do you have a story to tell Nate or want to follow his journey? Here’s how you can reach him:

Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

The Mountain West News Bureau is a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado and KUNM in New Mexico and affiliate partners across the region. It is also funded in part by the CPB.

This effort is supported by America Amplified, a 2020 community engagement journalism initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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