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Spross reports: "The bad news is that poverty remains virtually invisible in the media, particularly when it comes to campaign coverage."

One in six Americans are living in poverty. (photo: Unknown)
One in six Americans are living in poverty. (photo: Unknown)

How the Media Ignore Poverty

By Jeff Spross, ThinkProgress

17 September 12


he Census Bureau recently found that the poverty rate stalled at 15 percent in 2011, unchanged from the year before, when analysts had expected an increase. That still means, however, that one in six Americans are living in poverty - a level the country has only briefly reached twice since 1970.

The bad news is that poverty remains virtually invisible in the media, particularly when it comes to campaign coverage, according to a new study from Extra!, the magazine published by Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting:

Extra! looked at six months of campaign coverage (1/1/12-6/23/12) by eight prominent news outlets: CBS Evening News, ABC World News, NBC Nightly News, PBS NewsHour and NPR's All Things Considered, and the print editions of the New York Times, Washington Post and Newsweek. [...]

FAIR's study found poverty barely registers as a campaign issue. Just 17 of the 10,489 campaign stories studied (0.2 percent) addressed poverty in a substantive way. Moreover, none of the eight outlets included a substantive discussion of poverty in as much as 1 percent of its campaign stories.

Discussions of poverty in campaign coverage were so rare that PBS NewsHour had the highest percentage of its campaign stories addressing poverty-with a single story, 0.8 percent of its total. ABC World News, NBC Nightly News, NPR's All Things Considered, and Newsweek ran no campaign stories substantively discussing poverty.

If the search was widened to include non-substantive as well as substantive mentions of the issue, that figure rose to 3 percent. If the search was expanded further to include mentions of "poverty," "low income," "homeless," "welfare" or "food stamps," it got to 10 percent. Meanwhile, "debt" and "deficit" were mentioned 18 percent of the time. your social media marketing partner


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+16 # dkonstruction 2012-09-17 14:28
Not only does the media not report on poverty in general but even when they do they merely repeat the surface official statistics but never mention that these (the 15% povery number) only reflects whether people were in poverty at the moment the survey was taken but does not look at poverty rates over time. When this is done the numbers go up dramatically. For example, if one looks at how many fell into poverty at any point (being defined as being in poverty for more than 2 months) the number rises to 28% and if we look at this over a 3 year period it jumps to 45%. This is much closer to Fornell West and Tavis Smiley's claim that nearly 50% of the country is either in or near poverty.
+7 # brux 2012-09-17 22:26
our media seems to busy subliminally criminalizing the poverty-stricke n to spend time talking about them and making them human.
+1 # mgwmgw 2012-09-17 23:31
15% is not 1 in 6.
1 in 6 is 16.67%.
+7 # Mrcead 2012-09-18 00:59
Well look at how our nation is structured. Suburbs have subdivisions, subdivisions have homes. what do subdivisions and homes have in common? A gate, wall or fence as a barrier. But these barriers serve 2 functions. The first function is to keep "bad stuff" out and at bay. The second function is to keep curious residents from wandering outside the "protection" of these barriers.

The result? Over time, people naturally won't think about what exists outside the barriers nor would they even care. If it isn't en route from A to B and back, it's not important.

Where do people who comprise "the media" live? No where near any poverty, so to them it's just numbers on a paper without any meaning.

So the media, isn't really fit to be the media because they can't even relate to most of the news they broadcast. Look at morning shows. Look at talk shows. Look at the significant personal investment and the money these people make. The focus is on keeping it coming in, not reporting about people who can't get enough to eat because that's not interesting enough to keep people happy and spending with the sponsors.

That's why I no longer watch television. I can't relate to it anymore.
+6 # RMDC 2012-09-18 04:44
The job of the media has always been to promote the belief that America is the greatest nation in human history. Most americans think they have the best social infrastructure in the world -- healthcare, road system, schools, courts, public services, and so on. In fact, the US rates rather low on all of these.

But the media will not stop cheerleading for America as a vast Disneyland where all the adults are like happy children with new cars stuffed with things they've just bought at the shopping mall. It has been this way since the 50s when consumerism became the national religion.

You have to look around to see that most of America is really quite poor and quite distressed. And Americans really do work long hours for the pay they get.

but who wants to know the truth?
+2 # Sweet Pea 2012-09-18 08:40
How true! Just recently my husband and I (who live in a comfortable suburban community) drove through the North end of Flint Michigan in which my parents lived when they were young. We were totally shocked by the massive poverty in the area.There were homes with windows with no glass, trash dumped in yards, and peole living in these ghettos.
This was a terrible awakening of how really how bad this country has gotten.
And worse,how disgusting it is that the wealthy are not even paying their fair share. My parents talked about how bad things were during the depression, but I think that they would be totally shocked that we have allowed such depression to return to many of the unfortunate people in the inner cities while the wealthy continue to turn government to their advantage. It's disgusting!
+5 # Glen 2012-09-18 07:00
This is an addition to the efforts against schools and teachers. This is the side that is never seen - communities where suffering schools and long suffering teachers reside. Hiding those communities has kept the rest of the country ignorant of the truth.
+3 # Vardoz 2012-09-18 10:34
35 million homeless and counting but they don't deserve hand outs and should just die in the gutter as those at the top swim in unbelieveable wealth, out source jobs,get paid billions in subsidies to the richest corporations, stash trillions off shore to avoid paying taxes and billions to our for profit prison system, the biggest in the world, but it's OK if tens of millions of homeless women and children just die. This makes ones blood boil! These guys believe in murder by cuts and economic terrorism.
+2 # reiverpacific 2012-09-18 11:00
If the statisticians are saying 15%, you can surely inflate this by at least a factor of 50% on the given figure, much as the unemployment figures which discount failed businesses, those who have given up looking and those who choose to live under the radar.
Of course there are also the "wasters" like the alleged 48% to 50% who don't pay taxes as many reactionaries like to trumpet ad nauseum (the true figure is that 96% of Americans pay taxes according to the Brookings Institute).
So where is the actual poverty line?
Depends where you live I suppose, and what pressures the established almost criminal credit-denial system imposes on you if you have been hurt by the depression, the equally criminal medical non-system or any other of the forces that the greed and death "winner-take-al l" culture have arraigned against you, as many are still discovering daily. I mean, try starting or try to resurrect a small, even formerly successful business or a fresh enterprise without credit, backing or aid of any kind or in the face of the millions and counting of bankruptcies that have created a strata officially named "The New Poor".
But nobody in the owner media or the halls of power are even choosing to look at this, so insulated and bought-and-lobb yist-paid-for are they.

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