Media Reality vs. Actual Reality


By Matt Thompson

What's the poorest city in the U.S.? asked Bob Herbert.

"Detroit!" some participants shouted out. "Baltimore!"

One guy got it right ... Miami.

Miami? Like, "Golden Girls" Miami? South Beach Miami?

That's the media picture we get of the city, reinforced by news headlines screaming football and glamor, strangely different from the actual picture. Much like the recent news about the dip in unemployment. "If you look at the headlines in the past couple months," said Herbert, "you would think we were approaching some sort of economic nirvana." Unemployment plunges to 5.9 percent! crow the headlines. Best numbers in nine months, say economists!

Too many of us journalists, Herbert said, forget that nine months ago, everyone was decrying the post-apocalyptic state of the economy.

But ordinary people -- those searching for jobs in this supposedly sizzling economic upturn, social workers who say it hasn't been this dire in years -- they remember. They'll give you some reality, said Herbert.

Get out of the newsroom; that's Herbert's idea. Get off the phone with the economist, and talk to that guy on the street. What has the economic upturn done for him lately?

Matt Thompson is a reporter for Poynter Online.

Posted in business, economics, & work, cross-cultural reporting, mistakes in reporting, sessions.Real Lives and Tough Times of Ordinary Americans, speakers.Bob Herbert on December 12, 2003 at 05:14 PM | Permalink