The Campaign: Only for the Middle Class?

Ingram/ThinkStock
Ingram/ThinkStock

Poverty Issue "Nearly Invisible" in Election Coverage

" 'Middle Class First,' said the placards on display as Bill Clinton addressed the Democratic convention. And indeed, speaker after speaker has invoked the party's devotion to the lot of middle-class Americans in 2012," David Crary reported Friday for the Associated Press. "The rich also have featured in the rhetoric, albeit as a punching bag.

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"But the poor? Not so much. They've been mentioned only fleetingly.

"The discrepancy makes sense for President Barack Obama's strategy. A large majority of Americans identify themselves as middle class, while the poor lack political clout for a host of reasons. Yet for a party long known for its role as defender of the downtrodden, the rhetorical patterns are striking. . . ."

As for the Republicans, Thomas B. Edsall wrote recently in the New York Times that rather than ignoring poor people of color, the GOP is casting them as the enemy. "The Republican ticket is flooding the airwaves with commercials that develop two themes designed to turn the presidential contest into a racially freighted resource competition pitting middle class white voters against the minority poor," Edsall wrote.

These stories coincide with a new report by Mariana Garces and Steve Rendall of Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, "Media Not Concerned About the Very Poor: Study finds poverty not an issue in most election coverage."

". . . Poverty as an issue is nearly invisible in U.S. media coverage of the 2012 election, a new FAIR study has found — even though what candidates plan to do about an alarmingly growing poverty rate would seem to be a ripe topic for discussion in campaign coverage," Garces and Rendall wrote for the September issue of FAIR's "Extra!"

"Even before the economic downturn made the poverty picture significantly worse in the United States, the Urban Institute reported that half of all Americans (51 percent) experience poverty at some time before age 65 (Urban Institute, 9/10/09)."

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". . . To see how this crisis is addressed in coverage of the 2012 presidential election, Extra! looked at six months of campaign coverage (1/1/12–6/23/12) by eight prominent news outlets: CBS Evening News, ABC World News, NBC Nightly News, PBS NewsHour and NPR's All Things Considered, and the print editions of the New York Times, Washington Post and Newsweek.

". . . Despite its widely experienced impact, FAIR's 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.

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"Discussions of poverty in campaign coverage were so rare that PBS NewsHour had the highest percentage of its campaign stories addressing poverty — with a single story, 0.8 percent of its total. ABC World News, NBC Nightly News, NPR's All Things Considered, and Newsweek ran no campaign stories substantively discussing poverty.

". . . Previous FAIR reports and Extra! articles (7–8/06, 9–10/07) have discussed reasons journalists find the subject of poverty unappealing: 'For one, journalists like a story to have a resolution, preferably a happy one' — unlike poverty, which they see as 'a sad, intractable fact of life, a story that never gets better and generates little interest or news.' Perhaps more importantly, advertisers aren't fond of poverty stories, which don't provide a good media environment for their commercials. . . ."

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Julia Cass, Children's Defense Fund: Children of Hard Times (2010)

David J. Lynch, Bloomberg News: First Black President Can't Help Blacks Stem Wealth Drop

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Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: Poor are not part of narrative for either convention

Andrea Tantaros, Daily News, New York: Blue pills, green cards and gay marriage

Wendy Wang, Pew Research Center: Public Says a Secure Job Is the Ticket to the Middle Class (Aug. 31)

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Rod Watson, Buffalo News: Ignoring the obvious on low wages

Latinos Author Only 1/2 of 1% of Big-Paper Op-Eds

"Since 1990, the Latino population in the United States has more than doubled to 16 percent, but English-language U.S. news media outlets are simply not keeping up," Julie Hollar wrote for the September edition of Extra!, a publication of Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting. "While people of color and women have always been underrepresented in U.S. media, Latinos consistently stand out — in the coverage as well as inside the newsroom — for their exceptionally paltry numbers relative to their population size.

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"In Extra!'s recent study of the opinion pages of the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal (4/12), Latinos were granted less than half a percent of the op-ed bylines over the two-month study period — writing two columns in the Times, one in the Wall Street Journal, and none in the Post. None of these papers has a Latino among their staff columnists.

"In more than a year of political book interviews on [C-SPAN's] After Words and reviews in the New York Times Book Review (Extra!, 8/10), not a single U.S. Latino appeared among the 432 authors, reviewers and interviewers.

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". . . Even when the coverage directly involves and impacts Latinos, their voices are scarce. In a year's worth of cable coverage of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio — who was recently sued by the Justice Department for unlawful discrimination against Latinos — those actually targeted by his policies were included in the conversation only two out of 21 times (Extra!, 6/09)."

". . . As companies like Fox and NBC begin to target Latino audiences with special channels and websites (see 'Latinos in New Media,' Extra!, 9/12), will those audiences feel better served, or just ghettoized and exploited? And will that provide just one more excuse for those outlets to continue to marginalize Latino sources and reporters in their other news? . . ."

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Pundits Mixed on Obama's Convention Speech

"Pundits had a mixed reaction to President Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday night," Katherine Fung reported Friday for the Huffington Post. "Overall, the rapturous reception given to Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton was left at the media doorstep.

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"Most agreed that, rhetorically, Obama delivered a solid speech, saying that it was typical of the president's strong oratorical skills. Not surprisingly, MSNBC was home to some of the most glowing commentary. Chris Matthews remarked that Obama 'did it again' and delivered 'a home run speech.' Al Sharpton said the address was 'epic,' and speculated that 'Barack Obama won the election tonight.' Rachel Maddow called it a 'big, big speech.'

"On CNN, Wolf Blitzer said he suspected people in the arena and around the country 'were thrilled' by what Obama's words. Analyst David Gergen agreed with the positive assessment, saying that Obama seemed 'very presidential.' "

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Meanwhile, the president's speech "fueled a outpouring of tweets," Cory Bergman wrote Thursday for lostremote.com. "Twitter called it a 'record political moment,' adding that Obama's next two biggest spikes (43,646 and 39,002) surpassed Romney's peak at 14,239," referring to Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate. "In all, 9 million tweets about the DNC this week were sent by the conclusion of the president's speech."

Chris Ariens, TVNewser: FNC, NBC Claim Wins Over Six Days of Conventions

Jenice Armstrong, Philadelphia Daily News: Michelle Obama, Ann Romney show their strengths

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Kevin Cirilli, Politico: TV pundits split on Obama's convention speech

Michael Cottman, blackamericaweb.com: Obama Hits the Road

Bill Cromwell, medialifemagazine.com: Clinton talk proves a big draw at DNC

Mary C. Curtis, Washington Post: Obama’s speech adjusted for more constrained circumstances

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Michael Eric Dyson and Glen Ford with Amy Goodman on "Democracy Now!," Pacifica Radio: "Effective Evil" or Progressives' Best Hope? Glen Ford vs. Michael Eric Dyson on Obama Presidency

Sam Fulwood III, theGrio.com: Obama at the DNC: How different is America from what he hoped for in 2004?

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Krystal Glass, Clutch magazine: The Undeniable Aura of the First Black Lady…And Black Women in General

Emil Guillermo blog, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: The President's Speech: Obama's "New Deal" — America's Basic Bargain

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Rick Horowitz, YouTube: "Obama Hasn't Done Anything!" (video)

Tom Joyner, blackamericaweb.com: Unconditional Voting

Howard Kurtz, Daily Beast: Are the Media Going Soft on the Democrats?

John McWhorter, Daily News, New York: How Obama fell flat

Andrea Morabito, Broadcasting & Cable: NBC, CNN Top Ratings in Final Night of DNC

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Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post News Media Services: Ambivalent in Charlotte

Pew Center for the People & the Press: Obama in a Word: From 'Inexperienced' and 'Change' to 'Good' and 'Trying'

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Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: DNC and the Catholic nun on the bus

Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press:  For 4 young voters, Obama has more explaining to do

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Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: The tale of two conventions favors Obama

Alex Weprin, TVNewser:  Scott Pelley Gets First Post-DNC Interview With Pres. Obama

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BET's Lee Says GOP "Pandered" to Blacks, Women

"The Republican Party may have featured women like Ann Romney and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in prime slots at its convention in Tampa last week, but that was just 'pandering' and 'disingenuous,' according to Debra L. Lee, chairwoman and CEO of BET Networks," Katie Glueck reported from Charlotte, N.C., Thursday for Politico.

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" 'They're pandering,' she said on a POLITICO LIVE show filmed here. 'That's the word that comes to mind.'

" 'I thought some of what went on at the RNC was very disingenuous,' she added. 'Ann Romney has to [give a] shout-out to women? We're over 50 percent of the population. We need a shout-out? It was the craziest-looking thing.'

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"Lee said it was 'nice' that Rice sat next to Mitt Romney at the GOP convention, 'but does the RNC really embrace African-Americans, really embrace women?' "

Nicole Balin, HuffPost BlackVoices: Interracial Dating in 2012 and What Paul Ryan's Ex Means

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Eugene Kane blog, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Can Romney win with just white votes? Depends.

Julianne Malveaux, National Newspaper Publishers Association: Who Built What?

Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star: Memo to GOP: Demography is destiny

Gary Younge, the Nation: Behind the GOP's Diversity Display

Bill Clinton's Role Seen as Shoring Up Whites

"Wednesday night, reporter John Frank tweeted that North Carolina delegates to the Democratic National Convention were sharing high-fives after former President Bill Clinton's epic 45-minute address," Chris Kromm wrote Thursday for the Institute for Southern Studies.

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"No surprise there: Clinton's tour-de-force was a huge hit with Democrats of all flavors in Charlotte and nationally.

"But the speech also had a specific goal: to help sell President Obama and the Democratic brand to whites — including Southern whites — who have been an increasingly challenging demographic for the party.

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"A pre-convention Gallup poll found Bill Clinton has a 63 percent approval rating among whites, compared to just 43 percent for Barack Obama. And as Richard Harpootlian, a Democrat from South Carolina told the Associated Press, '[Clinton] resonates with Southern white folks dramatically . . .' "

Michael Oreskes wrote Wednesday for the Associated Press: "The numbers tell a story. President Obama was viewed favorably by 43 percent of white men in an AP-GfK poll last month. It is a key reason this race is so close. Overall, [Mitt] Romney beat Obama 54 to 39 percent among white voters in that poll." As for Clinton, "12 years out of office, he is viewed favorably by 63 percent of white men, according to a Gallup Poll in July."

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Andrea Morabito, Multichannel News: Clinton Speech Perks Up Cable Ratings in DNC's Second Night

At Key Points, Spanish Networks Aired Novelas

A Journal-isms reader messaged Wednesday, "Would love to see you write and ask why the largest Spanish-language networks in the country, time after time, continue to take Spanish-speaking viewers for granted. Tonight the first undocumented immigrant to speak in a political convention took the stage… Last night the first Latino to address a DNC…. but you wouldn't know if you are watching Univision or Telemundo playing novelas instead… Yet complaining anchors like Jorge Ramos are asking for a Presidential debate and Latino journalist inclusion?

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Journal-isms posed the question to Univision and Telemundo on Thursday.

Monica Talan, a Univision spokeswoman replied by email, "We have offered comprehensive coverage, here is a link to the release with our plans, which included airing both acceptance speeches.

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Alfredo Richard, a spokesman for Telemundo, said by email, "All I can tell you is we have been covering and reporting from both the RNC and DNC on the ground every day. Jose Diaz Balart and the Telemundo News team, working closely with NBC News, [have] been covering in detail all aspects of the conventions throughout the whole day starting with our morning show Un Nuevo Dia, our news magazine Al Rojo Vivo and broadcasting our Noticiero directly from Tampa and Charlotte. In addition, tonight, just like with [GOP candidate Mitt] Romney, we're presenting a recap and highlights of the speech at 11:30pm ET and mun2, our young Latinos cable network, carried both acceptance speeches."

Isabel Bucaram, a spokeswoman for CNN en Español, said her network did broadcast the Republican and Democratic convention speeches with simultaneous translations.

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Paul Farhi, Washington Post: For media, convention coverage is expensive but essential

Sara Gates, HuffPost LatinoVoices: Julian Castro's Spanish Skills: Does It Matter That The Latino Mayor 'Doesn't Really Speak' Español?

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Tim Padgett, Time: The Time Has Come for an English Language Latino Network

Cherie Saunders, eurweb.com: Gwen Ifill: Come to PBS for True [Unbiased] Election Coverage

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Swanston to Be Unity's Interim Executive Director

Walt Swanston, longtime diversity professional and former executive director of Unity: Journalists of Color, Inc., has been named interim executive director of the alliance, now known as Unity Journalists, President Joanna Hernandez announced on Thursday.

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Swanston, a veteran journalist, resigned in 2009 from NPR, where she was its first director of diversity management, citing health reasons. She worked with the American Society of News Editors last year to organize two "Leadership in Diversity" sessions to reignite interest among diversity leaders.

Swanston also helped organize a benefit and roast in June for William Raspberry, the retired Washington Post columnist who died of cancer at 76 three weeks later. The benefit raised more than $50,000 for the BabySteps Foundation Raspberry founded to nurture parents and preschoolers in his hometown of Okolona, Miss.

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Swanston said by email, "Returning to UNITY, even in the short term, feels like coming home. I am familiar with all of the member associations, most of the people involved and the needs of the organization. I am heavily invested in making sure that the transition to a permanent executive director is done smoothly and as quickly as possible. I stepped in to help UNITY through the transition only. I am not a candidate for the permanent position."

The Unity alliance now includes the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association, the Native American Journalists Association and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association.

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The National Association of Black Journalists pulled out last year, citing financial and governance issues. Some Unity members have said that inducing NABJ to return should be the coalition's first priority. But the alliance is not the race-based one that NABJ left, having added NLGJA and dropped "Journalists of Color" from its name. 

The August Unity convention in Las Vegas, its first without NABJ, registered 2,385 people, according to Onica M. Makwakwa, Unity's departing executive director, contrasted with the 7,550 attendees at the 2008 Unity convention in Chicago on its final Sunday, though that figure includes sponsors and others who were not registered.

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Makwakwa is leaving after six years to return to her native South Africa, where she plans to develop consumer advocacy on the African continent for the Pretoria-based Consumers International.

The executive director is responsible for coordinating the activities of the coalition while board members hold their full-time jobs as journalists. The person in the job can bear the brunt of criticism for any administrative shortcomings.

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NABJ officials cited lack of timely information as one of the reasons for their decision to leave, though Makwakwa disputed NABJ's statements. Among Swanston's previous positions is executive director of NABJ. She also spearheaded the fundraising and operational activities of the Unity '94 and Unity '99 conventions, the first two joint conventions of the black, Asian, Native American and Hispanic journalism associations.

Unity board members are to elect new officers at their fall meeting, scheduled Oct. 6 and 7 in McLean, Va.

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Jeremy Lin Stars in Impromptu "60 Minutes" Short

"While in Taipei reporting a 60 Minutes story on Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin, CBS producer Pete Radovich found himself with some downtime and an idea for a short film," the CBS "60 Minutes Overtime" staff wrote on Thursday, posting a video.

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"So Pete teamed up with Lin and Golden State [Warriors] forward David Lee to make this flick. It's about Lin and Lee making a late-night escape from the press and paparazzi, in pursuit of a real-life pick-up ball game on Taipei's Xingsheng courts.

"The first part of the film is scripted and acted as Lin, going stir-crazy in his hotel room, dons a disguise to sneak by the press camped out in the hotel lobby. As the pro players head to the local courts, the action is real. There's no script here, just five cameras lying in wait, not visible to any of the Xingsheng players, who are still unaware of the surprise guests headed their way.

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". . . Our 60 Minutes profile on Jeremy Lin will air later this fall. Charlie Rose is the correspondent and Pete Radovich, creative director of CBS Sports, is the producer."

Coverage of Native Americans Steeped in Stereotypes

"Other than stories about poverty and crime on reservations, mainstream media coverage of Native Americans and issues they confront is often steeped in stereotypes that portray Indians as lawless and living in the distant past," Joshunda Sanders wrote Aug. 30 for the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

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"While large media outlets such as The New York Times and The Associated Press sometimes have the resources to research and produce comprehensive stories, Native Americans must rely largely on tribal newspapers and alternative outlets for content about themselves and their communities.

"Mary Hudetz, a member of the Crow Tribe of Montana, an AP editor in Phoenix and a board member of the Native American Journalists Association, says lack of time and resources at media outlets contribute to fewer stories about Natives. In particular, she cites lack of reporting on how health care reform will impact them and lack of reporting in general, particularly in Indian Country and on reservations.

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"Moreover, Hudetz says, the mainstream media largely handle tribal governments gently, in part because the open-government laws that allow reporters to hold entities accountable don't apply to sovereign tribal governments. . . . "

Rob Capriccioso, Indian Country Today: American Indian Delegates Swarm Democratic National Convention

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Short Takes

"For nearly two decades from 1915 to 1934, Oakland Tribune columnist Delilah L. Beasley chronicled the lives and activities of African-Americans both locally and across the country," Annalee Allen wrote Sunday for the Oakland Tribune. "She was the first African-American woman to write for a major metropolitan daily newspaper, according to history files. . . . On Sept. 15, Progressive Oakland Women for Empowerment and Reform, or POWER, is hosting the annual Ms. Delilah Beasley Tea from 2 to 4 p.m. in the gardens of the historic Pardee Home Museum, 672 11th Street, in Oakland. . . . POWER also plans to bestow a lifetime achievement award to longtime television Belva Davis at the event."

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"Juan Williams says he's getting flak at the Democratic National Convention for working at Fox News," Politico reported Wednesday, posting a clip of Williams being interviewed in Charlotte, N.C., by Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly. Williams acknowledged he was "stigmatized," but quickly added, "I don't mind it. That's who I work for. I'm a proud employee. You guys bailed me out," an apparent reference to the network's signing Williams to a three-year contract worth nearly $2 million after he was fired in 2010 by NPR, where he was on contract. Williams had said that seeing airline passengers in "Muslim garb" would made him nervous, and his abrupt termination caused an uproar."

". . . The gay press and gay news blogs continue to have the most comprehensive coverage of LGBT issues (see especially Towleroad, the Advocate, The Washington Blade, and LA Frontiers)," Jennifer Vanasco wrote Friday for Columbia Journalism Review, "but the mainstream press is quickly catching up. The New York Times and the Associated Press may have occasional flubs but their strong coverage of LGBT issues overall is a shining example of how social minority groups should be covered: with respect and attention, writing both about a group's unique issues as well as including them in stories that highlight the ordinary, human qualities we all share." 

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"There will be no reprieve for the newspaper industry in 2012, judging by the second quarter of the year, which saw yet another round of dismal returns," Erik Sass reported Wednesday for Media Daily News. "Total advertising revenues dipped 6.4% from $6 billion in the second quarter of 2011 to $5.6 billion in the second quarter of 2012, according to the Newspaper Association of America. Print ad revenues dropped 7.9% from $5.2 billion to $4.8 billion, while online ad revenue growth remained anemic with a 2.9% increase from $803 million to $827 million."

"Apple and Google, the two biggest powerhouses in Silicon Valley, have stepped up the battle to make their smartphones smarter so they can grab ever-larger shares of the local advertising market," Alan D. Mutter reported Wednesday for Editor & Publisher. "Their efforts are a major threat to newspapers hoping to capitalize on the enviable power of their local franchises to become significant players in the vigorously growing mobile space. Unfortunately, newspapers are woefully behind. . . ." 

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