In June 2014, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) published a study showing that ABC World News, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News give more media coverage to the 482 billionaires in the U.S. than to the 50 million people in poverty, airing almost four times as many stories that include the term “billionaire” as stories including terms such as “homeless” or “welfare.” According to the report, an average of only 2.7 seconds per 22-minute nightly news program were devoted to covering stories where poverty was mentioned.
Journalists spend less time reporting on poverty because the issue is a depressing one, choosing instead to feature stories that show the richest people in the U.S. in a favorable light. “The notion that the wealthiest nation on Earth has one in every six of its citizens living at or below the poverty threshold reflects not a lack of resources, but a lack of policy focus and attention — and this is due to a lack of public awareness to the issue,” writes Frederick Reese of MintPress News. Contrary to widespread media portrayal, the U.S. has one of the highest poverty rates of major Western nations. In order to increase awareness of poverty within the nation, writes PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley, the media must become an accurate and comprehensive source of information—and not only in reaction to a political agenda. According to Smiley, we must call on the news media to “promote our collective appreciation of the inherent values we all share in alleviating domestic poverty.”
As of November 13, 2014, no corporate news outlets have yet acknowledged the disproportionate media coverage of the wealthiest and poorest people in the U.S.
Steve Randall, Emily Kaufmann, and Sara Qureshi, “Even GOP Attention Can’t Make Media Care About Poor,” Extra! (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), June 1, 2014, http://fair.org/extra-online-articles/even-gop-attention-cant-make-media-care-about-poor/.
Frederick Reese, “Billionaires Get More Media Attention Than The Poor,” MintPress News, June 30, 2014, http://www.mintpressnews.com/billionaires-get-media-attention-poor/193174/.
Tavis Smiley, “Poverty Less Than .02 Percent of Lead Media Coverage,” Huffington Post, March 7, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tavis-smiley/-poverty-less-than-02-of_b_4921119.html.
Monica Roth, “Lack of Media Coverage on Poverty,” BORGEN Magazine, August 6, 2014, http://www.borgenmagazine.com/lack-media-coverage-poverty/.
Student Researcher: Feather Flores (Pomona College)
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Lee Roth (Pomona College)