Where are the Poor? Not on Your Network TV Newscasts
But a report released last week by the liberal advocacy group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting noting that the three network newscasts ran just 58 stories on poverty in more than three years of newscasts simply confirmed what I had already suspected.
Despite promises in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to report more on poverty, and a Democractic presidential candidate who has made poverty one of his core campaign issues, the network newscasts covered more stories related to Michael Jackson in the period examined -- Sept. 11 2003 to Oct. 30, 2006 -- looking into Jacko-related issues in 69 stories.
FAIR also does a bit of math extrapolation to estimate that the 191 sources in the 58 poverty stories were likely less than half of one percent of all sources quotes by the newscasts in three years. But the study doesn't name two obvious statistics: What was the total number of stories aired on network news over the three years, and where did poverty rank in relation to other popular serious news topics such as the war in Iraq, crime and terrorism?
Also, poverty consistently ranks low on TV news coverage indexes because it isn't a very telegenic subject, and stories about poverty are often complex and time consuming to prepare. In a media world where commercials are constantly presenting a middle class universe relatively free from money troubles, stories on the crushing effects of poverty that aren't tied to a major disaster like Katrina are not very appealing, I'm afraid.
Another indication poverty may be undercovered: This very study hasn't gotten much more than a few mentions in the mainstream press. Back to stories about Anchorwoman, Britney Spears and the View (see! I'm doing it, too!)
Media Matters Study Says More Nationally Syndicated Newspaper Op-Ed Columnists are Conservative
I was gratified to see powerhouse Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts listed among the nation's top 10 newspaper columnists, as identified in a new study from the liberal advocacy group Media Matters.
What disappointed me about the study was that he was the only person of color in the top 10, which was led by conservative pundit George Will and included Kathleen Parker, Ellen Goodman, David Broder of the Washington Post, Cal Thomas, Steve and Cokie Roberts together, Charles Krauthammer and three from The New York Times: Thomas L. Friedman, Maureen Dowd and David Brooks.
Of course, Media Matters focused more on the political end of this equation, noting: "Sixty percent of the nation's daily newspapers print more conservative syndicated columnists every week than progressive syndicated columnists. Only 20 percent run more progressives than conservatives, while the remaining 20 percent are evenly balanced.
In a given week, nationally syndicated progressive columnists are published in newspapers with a combined total circulation of 125 million. Conservative columnists, on the other hand, are published in newspapers with a combined total circulation of more than 152 million."
Because the syndicates which distribute the columnists won't reveal where their clients are published, Media Matters contacted newspapers directly to get numbers of national columnists run frequently and occasionally. The group assigned political orientations to writers by reading the descriptions offered by their syndicate, looking at the writer's professional affiliations, reading the writer's own description of his or her politics or reading a selection of their columns. (they list Will as conservative, Pitts as progressive and Broder as centrist, for example)
The Times' Bill Maxwell, Robyn Blumner and Phil Gailey were included in the sample; Robyn even made the top 100 columnists listed by total reach, ranked at number 100 for reaching just over 1-million readers in 11 papers.
My big question: How did George Will, who writes some of the most impenetrable prose I've ever seen in a newspaper, wind up syndicated in one out of every four newspapers in this country?