October 31, 2011

Journalism and Poverty: The Draft Essay

My recent essay about poverty and journalism is ready for Rhetorica readers to review. Here’s the link to Google docs.

I rely heavily on a criticism made by sociologists Herbert Gans and Michael Schudson — that journalism routinely fails to offer citizens “actionable” information. I largely agree with their assessments. So perhaps it is interesting that providing the poor and working class “actionable” business and economic coverage is exactly what I think newspapers should do to correct the (middle)  class bias of journalism.

Take a look. Let me know what you think.

10 Responses

  1. Tim 


    Read the essay. Seems obvious. I guess one question I would have is how the added content would differ from a help wanted ad and why would the poor/unemployed find the extra content buried in a story more economical than other sources? What, if any, sources do the poor/unemployed in Springfield have/use now? Could papers at those locations bought by the town or businesses make useful information more available?

  2. Tim… A big difference between what I’m suggesting and help-wanted ads (using just the coverage of jobs as an example) is that the news of economic development signalizes more than one event. To name two: 1) more jobs = more tax dollars for the middle class POV, and 2) more jobs = chance to be employed from the perspective of the poor or working poor. One might ask why economic development news belongs in the paper. Is there no other way for the MC to get that information? Then we can start asking that of just about anything a newspaper publishes, I suppose 😉

    Help wanted ads are fine except that they may not signalize the event with enough time for some people to take action. For example (with some important assumptions for the sake of this hypothetical example): 50 jobs coming, all require some specific training. Ads are usually published at the start of the hiring process. But the news in these simulations often comes long before that. A reader of the news monitoring for economics/jobs news would then have the ability to take action (get the training) before the hiring process begins.

  3. Tim 

    “Signalizes” more views of the same event versus more than one event?

    Who or what is “MC”?

    I think EconDev belongs in the paper from many POVs, but it is worth asking if useful information is never read by the intended user, does it still make a sound?

    I do agree that econdev with employment content can provide lead time and interim guidance for job seekers to better prepare and perform.

  4. Tim re: signalizes

    I mean to suggest that a single news situation is many things depending on the POV of the citizen.

    MC = middle class Sorry, was being a lazy typist 🙂

    And I struggle with the same question re: “does it still make a sound.” I took the position that if journalism has a certain primary purpose, then it ought to meet that purpose whether or not anyone reads it. Hmmmm…

  5. Tim 

    re: primary purpose

    I read your position as fulfilling its primary purpose at minimal or no (additional) cost. Which is a reasonable position.

    But I think for the same reason that cost is a factor, so is measuring impact. “This is more useful” is measured by the producer or the consumer?

    A valid criticism of journalism is only the pro-jo can judge what is (valuable/valid/made a difference/useful) journalism.

  6. Tim… What we need is a study of what the working/poor want from journalism. I do not think any such study has been done.

    “More useful,” in this case, is being asserted by me — the critic. That’s a big FWIW. But it’s not important to know now if it “works.” It’s important now that some newspaper try it so we can see if it works (or discover that it doesn’t). And, yes, the critic is also defining “works” 🙂

  7. Tim 

    re: study

    That would be useful, but w/o a study can you include in the essay metrics to show improved usefulness or meeting the primary purpose. What are your metrics for “works” based on your recommended changes?

    This is what I asked in the previous post: “Will this essay include the metrics and will there be follow up reporting (if implemented) to measure the predictive accuracy of your discovery ‘that hits all the hot buttons’?”

    How can you see if it works, or discover that it doesn’t, if you don’t at least propose metrics for collecting data and results in the essay? Include in the econdev stories an email address or phone number that people should call to provide anectodes of how they used the story to find, prepare, interview for jobs? Lower Springfield unemployment/fewer poor? Springfield government or NGOs using the stories in their efforts?


  8. Tim… What you’re asking for seems to me to be the next essay. Or, rather, it would be the next quantitative study following from the implementation of the suggestion.

    I’ll run this by a guy I know in the poli sci department who runs the MSU polling and data analysis project and let you know what he says.

    I’m interested in following up on this.

  9. Tim 

    Cool! I think a model for usefulness in this context would be useful. The model with metrics for collecting data would help determine the “predictive intelligence/accuracy of the model.

  10. acline 

    Tim… Agreed. It’s the next step along the way.