Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Few Progressive Voices in the Nebraska Press

by Kyle Michaelis
I've done a lot of compaining in my time about the lack of in-depth and progressive commentary in our local press. I stand by that complaint, but I also think it's important to express appreciation for those strong voices we do have who aren't afraid to challenge Nebraska's status quo.

The Lincoln Journal-Star has featured occasional columns by Leon Satterfield for years. I've long enjoyed Satterfield's work as a satirist, but - unfortunately for our purposes - he focuses mostly on national politics rather than the Nebraska issues that I believe would be better served by his wit.

We are, of course, also lucky to have editorial cartoonist Neal Obermeyer - who freelances for the Lincoln Journal-Star while also making contributions to Omaha's alternative weeklies. Several years ago, I worked with Obermeyer at UNLs student newspaper, the Daily Nebraskan, and I have a great appreciation for how he's matured in his themes without losing his singularly irreverent touch.

Meanwhile, there's definitely been some change for the better with the Omaha World-Herald's hiring of Robert Nelson this spring (no offense to Rainbow Rowell). Sadly, the World-Herald continues to make all of its editorial and opinion articles available only by subscription, so I haven't highlighted Nelson's work as I would like.  

Nelson's style is sometimes a little over-bearing, but I appreciate that he seems to have been brought in to ruffle some feathers, push some buttons, and maybe even create a little controversy - all of which we could use a little bit more of if the people of this state are ever going to wake from their current political coma.

Finally, I want to especially highlight the work of columnist Mike Hendricks in - of all places - the McCook Gazette. Hendricks seems to have pretty free-reign in what he writes about and doesn't always talk about politics. But, with a plain, personal, and very straight-spoken style, he's proven himself time and again a proud voice of common man populism. Hendricks is sometimes a bit traditionalist and nostalgia-prone, but he separates himself with his very clear and admirable attempts to keep an open mind and consider the other side of an issue.

In Hendricks' two most recent columns, he takes on the Bush Administration and, then, the Republican Party, discussing their failures without any agenda of his own but simply as a matter of speaking the truth and saying what people need to hear. They are the sort of articles with which Nebraskans can relate - that would get even a lot of our die-hard Republicans to start rethinking some things if only they'd actually read them.

For those who aren't familiar with Hendricks, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised that such a bold voice has found a home in Red Willow County and south central Nebraska. Then again, McCook was the home of George Norris, so it seems only fitting that some of that spirit would survive in the town's newspaper. It's just a pity a little more of that spirit hasn't survived in more local presses across the state.

I'm sure there are other voices in the Nebraska media deserving of mention whom I'm forgetting or with whom I might not even be familiar. If so, please give them the credit they deserve in your comments, and - in the future - I'll work harder to get familiar with their work and highlight it here at the New Nebraska Network.

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