“Even journalists in this day and age have lost their mind on social media,” he says.
We can make space for “solutions journalism”, which, as Ford puts it, “is not about balancing bad news with puppies”, but highlighting constructive responses to the challenges that most worry our audiences. We might even take a leaf from Trump’s book by talking less like politicians and acknowledging the existence of communities such as Bowling Green. Most important, perhaps, we can start by admitting we have a deep-seated trust problem that will not go away on its own.
A week in Kentucky has also reminded me of what has not changed: the power of setting down the clearly attributed facts of a big story and the pleasure of well-crafted storytelling.
The year the fake news narrative took off has also seen some memorable journalism. The growth in subscriptions to organisations from the Washington Post to The New Yorker suggests high-quality reporting is being rewarded. Gallup and Reuters/Ipsos polls have even found the number of Americans expressing confidence in the press has ticked up in recent months.
I make one more stop as I drive to Nashville for the flight back to New York. Gold City Grocery is surrounded by fields. At the petrol pump outside, a tractor is refuelling under a sign advertising a cola brand that has not bothered Coke and Pepsi for decades. Inside is what’s known as a liars table, where regulars discuss the issues of the day. The walls are decorated with deer heads; rallying cries for God, the military and the Second Amendment; and a picture of a handgun with the warning to would-be miscreants: “We don’t dial 911”.