Covering poverty and families– by Juanita E. Blount-Clark
Why you should cover poverty and families in your county:
- Mary Ellen Schoonmaker, an editorial writer and columnist for The Record in northern New Jersey, once asked the following question to a prominent journalist who specializes in covering poverty:
"How can a reporter cover that most persistent of problems, poverty, today without making it boring and predictable, or guilt-tripping readers and turning them off? Do you focus on one injustice - say a corrupt housing authority - or try to connect the dots and cover all of the reasons, both individual and systemic, that poverty is entrenched in certain places in America?"
Journalists often go into the profession with the belief that a single reporter can make a difference. In the same interview, the journalist, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr., responds to Schoonmaker:
"I think it's possible for a reporter to encourage a community to give more thought to issues related to poverty, and perhaps to think about them differently. It's important to make a case that there is a 'but for the grace of God go I' aspect to many of these stories. Readers who are not pore can relate especially to stories in which they could imagine themselves if their luck ran out, or if they were born into different circumstances. And because many people these days who aren't poor feel under various financial pressures, there are ways to link their situations to the situations of the poor."
- The reporter can provide leverage for policy change by shining light on a problem and raising questions about awkward issues that others cannot or are reluctant to champion.
- Given the state of the economy, the timing and significance of poverty is great. Concern about how families are faring during these times of uncertainty is on the minds of the public.