Back in the 1980s, a big-city reporter couldn't come to Appalachia and write a piece without using the words "bucolic" or "quaint." A few years ago, the word of choice for parachuting journalists was "hardscrabble." Funny, few of them have ever used the word "softscrabble" that I can tell.
For what it's worth, "hardscrabble" refers to rocky soil of poor quality for farming. It's often used as a synonym for "poverty." A more literal meaning is "difficult struggle." Maybe those of us here in hardscrabble country need to start referring to our more urbane counterparts as softscrabble people - the folks with connections who went to the best schools and landed the best jobs.
With a presidential election coming up next year, we hardscrabble people might see a few national journalists drop into Trump Country to determine if we're going to vote for Donald Trump again or if we have decided to return to our Democratic Party roots.
Parachute journalism is easy. I've done it. You go into an unfamiliar place, find a few people to talk to, get the quotes you need and leave town. You write your story with little fear of repercussions, as you don't have to live with the consequences of conveying a false impression of people or a place.
Although I've done it, I don't like it, and on the rare occasions nowadays when I do travel to an unfamiliar place, I remember what my wife - who grew up in a hardscrabble area of southern West Virginia - constantly tells me: You don't walk into someone's house and tell them they live in a dump.
Remember a few years ago during the pain pill epidemic? It seemed every national news organization had to visit downtown Portsmouth, Ohio, to let the world know how pain pills had ravaged that city. Now that we've moved on from pain pills, no one cares about Portsmouth.
Go back a couple of years when heroin was the big thing, and people came to Huntington. But we've moved on from heroin and we're back to meth, so Huntington's drug problem has fallen off the national radar.
No matter where you go, find the most stereotypical person you can find. You can't go wrong if you can quote someone saying that there are no jobs here and nothing to do.
Three years ago, another publication paid me to make a couple of trips into southern West Virginia to see what was going on with the elections for president and governor.
I drove from Huntington to Gilbert on two-lane roads and looked at the political signs people had put up.
I also attended the United Mine Workers of America annual picnic in the Boone County community of Racine. It struck me that no one there wanted to mention the name of the Democratic candidate for president.
If you had sent me to do the same type of article in the affluent suburbs of Indianapolis, I would have been lost. Because I was familiar with southern West Virginia, I was able to read the pulse much more accurately, and when the election results came in, I was not surprised at all.
Maybe the national media will be interested in us here in Trump Country next year. Maybe not. If they are interested, let's see who they send and to whom they talk to.
The less softscrabble they are, the more I will trust them.
Jim Ross is opinion page editor of The Herald-Dispatch. His email in email@example.com.