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Why this photographer documented more than 100 newspapers across rural Kansas

Photographer Jeremiah Ariaz embarked on a journey across Kansas, capturing the newspaper offices that serve rural communities, and speaking to what their shrinking staffs mean for democracy in America.

Jeremiah Ariaz, a photographer born and raised in Kansas, visited his home state before the 2020 election on a quest to discover what democracy looked like in rural America. This goal landed him in a newsroom at a small rural newspaper in Kansas.

That visit was his inspiration for "the Fourth Estate," in which Ariaz visited more than 100 other newsrooms around the state of Kansas to document the shrinking number of outlets serving rural communities.

"My photographs celebrate the civic function, labor, and technology at the heart of local newspapers’ production, while also documenting an industry in free-fall," his website reads. "Faced with the gutting of local journalism facilitated by digital news, social media, and diminishing profit margins, these newspapers often struggle as they continue to serve their communities."

"I started photographing in the battleground states of the country and photographed things like small town campaign offices and sites of protest," Ariaz explains. "So after photographing newspaper offices across the country, I thought a better approach would be to return to my home state of Kansas and photograph the newspaper there that still remained."

Ariaz joined KCUR's Up To Date to discuss what he saw on his journey across Kansas, and UMKC professor Nicholas Matthew talks about what Ariaz's findings mean for rural newspapers across the country.

  • Jeremiah Ariaz, photographer and art professor at Louisiana State University
  • Nick Matthew, professor at University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC)

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