More than 100 million Americans—one-third of the population—live in poverty or a category called “near poverty.” Yet the stories of the poor and the near poor, the hardships they endure, are rarely told by a media that is owned by a handful of corporations—Viacom, General Electric, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., Clear Channel and Disney. The suffering of the underclass, like the crimes of the power elite, has been rendered invisible.
This would be a great point, if there were even a shred of truth to it. But there isn’t:
“What ever happened to poor people?” asks Katha Pollitt in The Nation. Everybody talks about the middle class these days, she writes, and nobody talks about the poor.
She’s not alone. A few weeks ago radio host Tavis Smiley teamed up with Princeton prof Cornel West for a 16-city “Poverty Tour” whose aim was to “insert the word poverty into the American public sphere (where it rarely appears).” This is a common refrain on the left. If it’s not NPR’s Lynn Neary opining that Hurricane Katrina taught America we had been “ignoring poverty,” it’s The New York Times reminding everyone about America’s “forgotten poor.”
Pollitt wrote her piece shortly after the latest Census Bureau report showed a jump in poverty. Maybe you saw that story. It certainly was hard to miss. It got front-page treatment from The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and plenty of other papers, and the equivalent from TV.
Hmmmm. Maybe only the East Coast liberal elite pays any attention to such data. Then again, maybe not. “Census Shows High Poverty Levels in Peoria,” reported the Peoria Journal Star. “More Residents Sinking Into Poverty,” noted the Seattle Times. “SD Children Impacted by Poverty,” reported KDLT News in South Dakota. Those were just some of the more than 2,000 news stories on the Census report.
And yet the myth that America pays no attention to poverty lives on.
- Chris Hedges is dumb. The tendency of both media and society to ignore poverty has little to nothing to do with media oligopoly. It’s just that upper-middle class reporters and editors don’t know a whole lot about poor people. They don’t get particularly incensed about poverty issues because they aren’t affected personally. Contrast that with the hullaballoo over the AP wiretaps. The media’s favorite topic is itself. The further removed a story is from the reporter, the less likely it is to be covered.
- A. Barton Hinkle is an okay guy—but he’s not good at writing about poverty. The claim that the poor are “invisible” is not a claim that the poor have super powers and can literally disappear if they feel like it. The claim is that they aren’t are rarely addressed as humans. It’s not that it never happens. It’s just that it happens rarely enough that a publication would write an article with a headline like “Faces of the Poor.” You don’t see “Faces of the Rich” because the rich hugely disproportionate coverage. The fact that people even need to ask who the poor are or what they are like is, in itself, evidence of inadequate coverage.
- Get off my lawn.