Why you should cover poverty and race in your county:

  1. Race and poverty are inextricably linked to each other.
  2. Racial minorities experience poverty and economic disenfranchisement at a higher rate than whites.
  3. Racial minorities who are in poverty are less likely to earn a high school diploma or attend college than whites.
  4. Racial minorities experience higher birth and mortality rates than whites.
  5. Racial minorities live below the poverty level more often than whites.


How to measure the opportunity to cover poverty and race in your county:

Answer these five questions:

  1. Of the overall unemployment numbers, which percentage is made up of racial and ethnic minorities?
  2. How do ethnic and racial minorities compare to whites when using government assistance to meet basic needs?
  3. How many minorities choose to invest in quality education over more immediate needs?
  4. What quality of education is offered to racial and ethnic minorities in your community? Do whites have access to the same or better education?
  5. How does quality of life compare for racial minorities versus whites?


A step-by-step approach to finding and reporting important and engaging stories

Look at your answers to the questions above. Which topic (or topics) offers the most opportunity to cover poverty and race in your county? Pick one for this step-by-step approach to finding and reporting important, engaging stories.

As with any story, you’ll need to:

  • Consult secondary sources
  • Locate key documents
  • Mine key sources of data
  • Interview sources
  • Observe the story in play

Let’s take, as an example, the topic of race and toxic waste sites. What steps might you take to find and report a story about race and toxicity in your county?

Step one:
Go to the Environmental Justice Resource Center sponsored by Clark Atlanta University. This site provides excellent definitions of environmental justice. Browse through material under the “Programs” tab to gain a better understanding of how environmental issues affect racial and ethnic minorities. Try entering “Environmental Justice Resource Center” in a Google search for additional information.

Step two:
Find the People of Color Environmental Groups Directory or click here.
Choose a group closest to your geographic location or to the subject you plan to cover in your story. Cont act officials within that organization for interviews. Generate a list of interview questions about the group’s mission, goals and upcoming events and how those could potentially tie into the story. Keep in mind that you may get different information from members with varying statuses (i.e., paid versus volunteer).

Step three:
Carefully approach writing the story and consider how to include issues of social justice and the role of racism in your story. This approach will show itself later in your story when you are able to include background racial information and culturally sensitive information. Stories covering race should include exhaustive interviews with people of color. By contacting these sources, you create contacts for future stories and show that mainstream media can present balanced and culturally sensitive copy.


Essential resources

Here are essential resources that should help you cover poverty and racism in your county:

Key sources of data

Environmental Justice Resource Center is housed at Clark Atlanta University and offers books, articles, testimonials and bibliographies on the impact that environmental justice is having various segments of the African American population throughout the Atlanta area.

National Center for Education Statistics includes data showing how poverty and racism have a direct impact on an individual’s educational experience.

Digest of Education Statistics is a specific page within the National Center for Education Statistics. It shows household income and poverty rates by state.

Civic Index for Quality Public Education represents public opinion about what civic behaviors are critical to ensure quality public education for all children. HYPERLINK “http://www.civicindex4education.org/main/index.cfm” http://www.civicindex4education.org/main/index.cfm

Center on Reinventing Public Policy engages in independent research and policy analysis on a range of K-12 public education reform issues, including choice and charters, finance and productivity, teachers, urban district reform, leadership, and state and federal reform.

American Institutes for Research provides a wealth of information on all things relating to education and assessment.

Key sources of documents

Race and Poverty in the Americas is a guide created by Temple University that includes several databases containing documents on poverty and race.

Poverty and Race Research Action Council is an online guide to racial disparities in health.

Getting Ahead or Losing Ground: Economic Mobility in America is a special report published by the Brookings Institute. This site also contains many other resources of information on race and poverty.