Seeing the Round Corners

HEADS UP, the new day for Seeing the Round Corners “GOING LIVE” is Tuesday each week.

The columns from the archives appeared several years back but are closely related. Readers are encouraged to ask, has news reporting changed in the last five or so years? How many issues are followed up on by the mainstream media once the news of the day has faded into the television station’s archives? Much to the chagrin of Denver City officials, one issue that seems to not go away is Denver, Colorado’s homeless issue and the ability of the homeless to set up their tents on sidewalks of the City.

THE AMERICAN MEDIA DISCONNECTED             January 18, 2016
The Presidential debates could be one of the most informative opportunities for Americans to see how potential candidates react under pressure, but debates conducted in the manner the October 28th one was conducted does not find itself in that category.

In the October 28, 2015 debate, Republican Presidential candidates found themselves facing a cadre of CNBC moderators/narrators not usually found at such a headline event. To say these “questioners” were news people/reporters, is a real stretch and far too generous, in this writer's opinion. Yes, for the first time in this writer's memory, the moderators/narrators were booed at some of the questions they asked. CNBC's people came across as lightweights, uninformed and uninterested, or maybe there was a contest to determine who was the best looking on camera.

It is difficult to get across to such people that a level of intellect, a familiarity with the reason for such a debate, and other such descriptive reasoning is demonstrated by the questions asked of those standing at the podium. The quality of the questions did not go un-addressed by the candidates.

Probably one of the most quoted statements made in the October 28th debate was one by Senator Marco Rubio, who charged, “... the Democrats have the ultimate Super PAC, it's called the mainstream media.”

At one time, one of the CNBC people even resorted to the most basic and typical question an interviewer can ask a job applicant – “Name your biggest weakness.” Give me a frigging break!! CNBC cannot dredge up more informed, professional people than this?? If not, at least give those dredged up a list of questions to follow verbatim that purport an appearance of intelligence or intellect.

Too many media types make the presumption that the ordinary American citizen is stupid and uninformed. Granted, with what goes on in Washington, it may seem that way to the high and mighty of the mainstream media, after all, we vote and send those representative to Washington. With the incredible demise of the print media across the country, this writer would say, “not the case,” just refusal to pay for lack of quality in the news. Regarding on-air news, there is just no way of knowing how many people click off the local news or never turn on the “news magazine” shows such as CNBC and Fox News broadcasts.

This writer is not one to listen to the word of Governor Chris Christie, but Christie did get in one of the strongest put-downs of the night when CNBC moderators were talking over, or at the same time as candidates were talking: “Even in New Jersey, what you're doing is rude.”

How many of the Presidential candidates are aware of the large number of Americans who live in poverty? Only one has demonstrated recognition of it – John Edwards.  His answer regarding the issue at the end of the column.

Ever notice how the major networks run stories just before Thanksgiving and Christmas on food banks running short of donations, but ignore the subject the other ten months of the year? Is it realistic to believe food banks are running over with donations the other ten months of the year or the poor are not hungry during those ten months?

The stories generated by Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath will be with us for a long, long time, but maybe the media should never “let it go” for the simple reason American should not be allowed to forget what concentrated poverty can mean and the consequences.

In stories presented by NBC in December of 2005 and January of 2006, residents of the area of New Orleans most devastated by the Hurricane – the Lower 9th Ward – accused City officials of delaying restoration of services to their neighborhood as a means of setting up a “land grab” for developers. Low-income homeowner Margaret Tolliver said, “I see it as plainly taking poor people’s property.” According to the study by Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, NBC did not follow up with City officials nor did it present a follow-up story regarding the accusation by Tolliver about developers grabbing private land.

The FAIR study also looked at bias by the major networks, and what is most likely to get on the nightly news with repeated coverage. Should there be any factor that guarantees repeated nightly news coverage? The FAIR study identified this type of coverage as “the deserving poor,” and identified stories on grandparents raising their grandchildren and hardships faced by Medicare recipients needing prescription drug coverage.  Repeated coverage was also given to veterans and their families and the hardships faced as a result of low pay and limited disability benefits.

Most readers would agree, the plight of these groups should be hammered home, with no amount of coverage enough. The problem FAIR found with the coverage was the overall tone of the pieces. “The U.S. should be ashamed, not that there is poverty in this country, but that these particular groups of people are living in poverty.” When the focus is on a limited number of a segment of the population living in poverty, it causes one to question who selects the groups in the “deserving poor.” This type of coverage implies that it is acceptable for there to be such a huge segment of America’s population living in poverty.

The “24-hour news cycle” drives the coverage of stories carried by the major networks – to always have the latest update on the breaking news. But is that drive to inform the public  on certain stories justifiable in the zeal for ratings?

Poverty epitomizes “not glamorous,” and by no means is it considered one of those “feel good” issues. Perhaps the reason for the manner in which the networks deal with poverty is based on this premise: From a practical standpoint, the sheer size of the American population living in poverty is so overwhelming that the networks seem to have no earthly idea how to get the message out to the public. Segment after segment is done ABOUT poverty – not “within and of” what living in poverty actually means.

NBC’s three-segment series in 2005-2006, “Making A Difference,” was about charity workers in Philadelphia and their efforts for the poor. Rather than profiling the Kensington Welfare Rights Union which is one of the nation’s oldest organizations made up of low-income residents and their experiences living in poverty, the series profiled a Philadelphia nun who fights homelessness. No slight is intended to the incredible work done by this person, but again, the piece was “about” poverty, not “within and of” poverty.

Former Senator John Edwards founded a poverty think tank in 2005 at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Edwards’ approach is a far cry from the major networks. In July of this year, Edwards toured dreadful living conditions in the Mississippi Delta country, a tour which received little or no national media coverage.

Edwards conducted the tour by actually going into areas such as where poultry workers at a chicken processing plant live in a single trailer in a trailer park beside the plant, with as many as 10 to 12 in a trailer with two beds. Edwards also stopped at West Helena, Arkansas, and spoke with health care workers who were hired by the state health department (of all agencies), to work no more than 20 hours per week so that health benefits did not have to be paid these workers. The hourly wage for those workers varied from $6.30 to $8.63 per hour – less than $175.00 per week!

Edwards, visibly angry, vowed to end the circumstances told of by a man in the audience who had been born with a serious cleft palate. Suffering such abuse as a child because he could not make himself understood, he had lived his 50 years as a near mute until he met volunteers from the Rural Area Medical Help who referred him to doctors who corrected the cleft palate. He was in Edwards’ audience to thank the volunteers for their help.

All of the above conditions exist right here in the United States of America, and do not represent even the tip of the iceberg. Yet, think back over the coverage by the major networks. Is it adequate? Are they performing their moral responsibility to inform the public? FAIR’s review of the network presentations on poverty for a 38-month period (September 11, 2003 through October 30, 2006) revealed “just 58 stories about poverty on the three network newscasts, including 191 quoted sources.” Typically for such a period, the three networks would use some 46,000 quoted sources.

John Edwards was questioned by the media about why he thought poverty is a winning political issue. His answer was simplistic and to the point: “I don’t know that it is. This is not a political strategy. It’s a huge moral issue facing America.

The reader's comments or questions are always welcome. E-mail me at