Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 2, Spring 2009, pp. 95-119


Copyright 2009 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


The American print media are a powerful mechanism for communicating information about places and environment to the American public. When it comes to a landscape such as the Great Plains, experienced by many Americans as either sleep-through land in a car or flyover land in a plane, the print media may be their only real source of information about this landscape, excluding 30 second soundbites which occasionally appear in electronic media. Often perceived as monotonous or dull, the Plains has been overlaid with powerful images, of garden or desert, of Dust Bowl or Buffalo Commons. But recent media coverage of the Plains struck me, an American Great Plains scholar, as not just negative but morbid. I began working on Great Plains issues almost twenty years ago. As I've explored the Plains, I've become "Plains sensitive": my ears prick up when something about the Plains is in the air. My position is one of a Great Plainsperson and "pro-Plains." I have now lived the majority of my life on the eastern edge of the Plains (in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and in Omaha, Nebraska). I have spent my academic life engaged in Great Plains research, with my master's thesis and my PhD dissertation on Plains topics. The challenge for me is to NOT be overly Plains-sensitive as I approach the topic of the depiction of the Plains in the media.! But over the years, I've been disturbed by news coverage such as "Slow Death in the Great Plains" (Atlantic Monthly, June 1997), "Vanishing Point: Amid Dying Towns of Rural Plains, One Makes a Stand" (New York Times, December 1, 20m), and "The Emptied Prairie" (National Geographic, January 2008).