Since its launch in 2007, Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, which is managed by a team that includes The Hatcher Group, has served as a one-stop hub for bipartisan news, research, data, and opinion on the issues facing low-income Americans. But as Spotlight marks its 10th anniversary, new research from the initiative finds that the state of journalism on poverty in the U.S. is increasingly bleak.
At an event at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. on Oct. 23, 2017 – “Journalism & Poverty: Media Coverage of Low-Income Americans in a New Political Era” – Spotlight leaders reflected on the growth and impact of the initiative, which now features a new poverty journalism project, more than 22,000 Twitter followers and nearly 10,000 weekly newsletter subscribers. But they also noted that the poverty journalism landscape is growing sparser each year.
“We looked at the newsrooms of the media organizations in the 10 states with the nation’s highest poverty rates – none of them have a dedicated reporter to cover poverty,” said Bill Nichols, director of Spotlight’s original journalism project and former managing editor of Politico. “It’s also troubling that even at publications where we’ve seen increases [in the past decade] in coverage of poverty issues, it’s still a tiny, tiny fraction of their overall coverage.”
The event also featured a panel of journalists and nonprofit leaders discussing how the media can increase and improve coverage of low-income Americans. Panelists included Sam Baker, deputy healthcare editor at Axios; Marisol Bello, director of content strategy and development for the Center for Community Change and former reporter at USA Today; Jesse Holland, race and ethnicity reporter for the Associated Press; Tamar Jacoby, president and CEO of Opportunity America and former reporter at The New York Times; Laura McGann, editorial director at Vox; and moderator Clarence Page, syndicated columnist at the Chicago Tribune.
All agreed that effective poverty coverage requires reporters with a good grasp of the local context – and newsrooms that are willing to pursue such stories.
“A lot of the time we in the media hold [poor] people up for ridicule or sympathy, and they don’t want either. They want to be understood,” said Holland.
The Spotlight team, including The Hatcher Group and Freedman Consulting, provided full logistical and planning support for the event, including coordinating with the event speakers and the venue, managing invitations and RSVPs, designing and printing new logos and branding material, and preparing presentations for speakers.