Poverty: America's Best Kept Secret
This money is allocated with the hope of helping Americans to reestablish themselves within the economy and to, as a result, help alleviate debt within the economy. Despite this, the Census Bureau recently reported that the poverty rate in the U.S. is currently at 15 percent, meaning that one in six Americans is struggling with poverty. The numbers of children included in these figures is staggering - 194 million youths are receiving free or reduced lunch aid, and 64 million are suffering from lack of food at home.
But while American citizens listen, watch and wait for the upcoming election, poverty is almost non-existent as a campaign issue. According to ThinkProgress, an assessment of eight major media channels, including CBS, ABC and Fox, showed a significant lack of coverage on poverty:
"FAIR’s [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting] study found poverty barely registers as a campaign issue. Just 17 of the 10,489 campaign stories studied (0.2 percent) addressed poverty in a substantive way. Moreover, none of the eight outlets included a substantive discussion of poverty in as much as 1 percent of its campaign stories."
With none of the eight major news outlets reporting on poverty in America, we must ask why. The media has become the lens through which people learn about and digest the world around them, and without including in that worldview the lives of millions impoverished in America, we must question what America truly values.
The issue of poverty is a direct consequence of the country's decisions to operate its economy within a capitalistic infrastructure. The vision of the American dream and its dependency on profit and consumerism has led to a society defined by the impulsive consumer.
It is safe to say that billions are spent a year on advertising, on sports and recreation, and millions have been spent during this 2012 presidential campaign alone, but how much of America's wealth this year has been allocated to improving the livelihoods of the American people? Yes, there are numerous food, medical and non-profit programs established throughout the nation with the goal of helping Americans in poverty, but in this economy, many have closed, decreased their services, or now face the same fate as the people they desire to help.
In order to shift the idea of what is important in America - its people - the news media need to focus on the people's struggles, despite media viewers' desires to hear other news. Knowing the latest film and entertainment news will not save the American people from an increase in poverty.
Although I myself enjoy reading and viewing communications from various news sources, the lack of reports on poverty call into question these news sources' journalistic ethics. Yet, perhaps the issue lies deeper within the system of communication than with journalists. Reporters are merely the messengers of facts and stories approved prior to the newscast. Perhaps the individuals choosing to ignore certain issues when determining what news they will broadcast are the ones that need to shift their thinking.
At what point should journalists focus their efforts on improving the awareness of the American people through implementing a policy of "right to know"?
Poverty is one of America's best kept secrets, and needs to be nationally exposed. Who is truly to blame for maintaining secrecy? Is it the media, which refuses to report on it? Corporate America, which turns away from it? Or politicians, who leave it unmentioned? More probably, it's a combination of all of them, and the only individuals who can hold each of these institutions accountable are the American citizens living in poverty and in pain throughout America - and you.
The question is, how will you help to change what is considered important in America?
Check out the Poverty Tour 2.0, hosted by Tavis Smiley and Cornell West here.