One of National Public Radio’s national correspondents Kirk Siegler remembers hopping on a flight from Los Angeles to Boise in 2016 to cover the Bundy standoff in Eastern Oregon. The population of his flight was roughly half national journalists. The other half: Syrian refugees coming to Boise to be reunited with their families.
“All the cameras and all the reporters drove out to Eastern Oregon,” he said. “We were missing the new west right there.”
In an announcement that shook the Boise media market, NPR has chosen to move Siegler to Boise and form an official “Boise bureau,” which will have a newsroom of one. Siegler will cover the "urban-rural divide," which is more or less what he has covered for NPR.
Siegler, a Missoula, Montana, native, has been based in Los Angeles for the past seven years. Before that, he was in Denver, Colorado.
“My editors and I just got to strategizing,” he said. “Why not look to move me to a place where I’m living closer to rural communities?”
Siegler covers rural issues and communities throughout the west, so for him, living in Los Angeles only to frequently fly into the smaller places of the west was impractical. He did, however, require a city with a reliable airport. He and NPR editors considered Denver and Salt Lake City, Utah, as options, but ultimately landed on Boise.
“I actually ended up pitching them on Boise,” he said.
Siegler has reported from North Idaho and Orofino before, but also looks forward to mining into some of the issues the Treasure Valley now faces with growth and its effects.
“It’s been in the works for most of the year, kind of planning the best place to relocate me,” he said.
While it’s not set in stone yet, Siegler may share office space with Boise State Public Radio, and plans to collaborate with the local NPR affiliate.
To Siegler, the west along with many other rural areas of the country is often painted as a political monolith. These areas are portrayed as either red states or blue states with little nuance.
“It’s easy just to fly in and say it’s one way and not the other,” he said.
He hopes to help shift that national media shortcoming, and getting closer to the action seems to be an effective start.