People Really Do Want the Media to Cover Poverty

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When we published this story, America’s Ridiculously Rich: the 2014 Edition, we never expected it to become a conversation about poverty in America. But it did.

After we posted, a Twitter follower, Lavender Blume, tweeted that the media covers too much of the “haves” and not enough on the “have-nots” in American society.

While actually does prioritize poverty and income inequality coverage — or at least, we certainly try to — her tweet led us to ask our Facebook audience: What type of coverage on poverty issues would you find beneficial? That led to over 2,000 comments and several long-threaded exchanges on our Facebook page. Here are some that stood out.

People who are struggling are not lazy

Larry Granroth writes that we should, “Debunk right-wing propaganda about people living extravagantly on government assistance programs,” adding that we should not ignore fraud, but quote facts and put things in perspective. His comment has 1,120 likes.

In reaction to Granroth some write that it is “impossible” to live extravagantly on public assistance. Maggie Scarborough says: “A person on food stamps cannot use them to even pay for toilet paper! And I know someone who is disabled, on food stamps, and her subsidy was cut to $120 a month. Try living on $30 a week for groceries and necessities that food stamps won’t even cover.” Loana Hoylman adds: “I do not look poor, but believe me, I am. Between a catastrophic hospital bill and the interest on student loans, I will never be out of debt. Ever. Social Security doesn’t come close to paying the rent, and I have no retirement, despite never going without a job for more than a few days in my lifetime. I cannot meet basic needs.”

The kids are not alright

More than 16 million American children — or about one in five — are growing up in families with incomes below the federal poverty level of $23,550 for a family of four. Poverty not only affects their day-to-day existence but also affects their development. Sher Brisebois says we should cover how poverty affects children’s mind, body and spirit. David Chevalier says we need to have a “hard and long” look at America’s hungry children and how these children will be impacted in the future. “What will they grow up believing?” he asks.

Judith Ward, a public school employee, says she sees the impact on children first hand when parents need to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. “In one case the kids had to go on a newspaper delivery route with the parent in the middle of the night because she couldn’t find anyone to stay with them at three in the morning. Without undisturbed, adequate sleep the brain cannot consolidate memory and children begin to have trouble in school.”

How do we mobilize?

Lots of people want to know what they can do to help beat poverty. As Marta Warnick Aldrich puts it: “How does the 99 percent counter the wealth, power and influence of the 1 percent and bring back balance and common sense to governance? After all, we are the majority, right? Who is at the forefront of efforts to gut Citizens United and how can we join them? How can we as citizens address the gerrymandered congressional districts that guarantee re-election to politicians intent on an an obstructionist government that caters to big money? I’m ready to follow, but whom should I follow? More on community organizing, please, along with “next steps” and populist strategies to wrest control of our government and our economy from power brokers intent on the status quo.”

Show the struggle

People want to know how unemployed, disabled and low-wage people can survive on such low incomes and to see what can be purchased with their money each month. Timothy Totten, among others, wants to know what the median wage and median household income are able to buy, including living expenses. He writes, “My thought is that Congress hasn’t a clue what it actually takes to survive in the USA. They collect their $177,000 per year salary and receive up to a $1.5 million expense allowance per year. They also get a handsome pension.”

Why do people vote against their own interests?

One issue that came up several times concerns tomorrow’s elections and why people who are middle class or poor vote Republican, which appears to be against their own interests.

Read more comments on the original Facebook post.

Karin Kamp is a multimedia journalist and producer. She has produced content for, NOW on PBS and WNYC public radio and worked as a reporter for Swiss Radio International. She also helped launch The Story Exchange, a site dedicated to women's entrepreneurship.
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