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In The Know: Media Underrepresents unemployment

By Itak Moradi

Oct. 21, 2011 12:31 a.m.

One of the growing concerns in America is accessibility of, and participation in, political knowledge.

Of course, the media plays an enormous role in mediating that relationship, but it was only earlier this year that talk was stirring of the growing partiality and exclusivity in news coverage.

With the recent protests across the country, however, there is hope that this trend toward favoring conservative discussion in our media outlets will be stopped.

Back in May, The National Journal released analysis showing that across the five largest U.S. newspapers, discussion of unemployment and unemployment policy began to dissipate while focus overwhelmingly shifted to the national deficit. Another study showed that over the course of a week, media networks like CNN and Fox mentioned the word “deficit” over 7,000 times, while “unemployed” came in at a staggering 75.

What is concerning about this is the fact that polls show unemployment as America’s main concern ““ which comes as no surprise considering unemployment rates are counted at anywhere from 9 percent to 16 percent.

As a country for the people, by the people, shouldn’t unemployment be discussed more than about twice weekly in our newspapers?

What is perhaps more concerning is that the politicians who speak most vehemently about the need to fix our national debt are often the same ones who support its two main causes ““ Bush-era tax cuts and our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The failure of Obama’s jobs bill, which was estimated to be able to create more than a million jobs, is still fresh on our shocked minds. There is certainly a disconnect between American citizens’ needs, legislation and the resulting portrayal of such issues in our media.

But astonishingly, the latter study was conducted once more between Oct. 10 and 16 with much different results. The winner and runner-ups for buzz words in the media are jobs, Wall Street, Occupy and unemployment.

I understand that in order for change to occur, there needs to be more than a celebration of TV references to our nation’s problems.

But if the coverage is shifting to better reflect the average American’s concerns, if coverage is beginning to emphasize the importance of fiscal stimulus over fiscal austerity, then there is a move in the right direction.

And I find that direction to be happening simply because of Occupy Wall Street. Whether positively or negatively spun, what protestors are talking about is obviously being covered. This not only finally gives a media eye to the average American on the street, but it also helps to re-frame the media atmosphere that is so integral to knowledge dissemination in this country.

A change in national discussion, which is budding with this movement, is imperative to our economic vitality.

Email Itak at [email protected] Send general comments to [email protected]

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Itak Moradi
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