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Reporting Garbage Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Michael Newton-McLaughlin, United States Dec 15, 2002
Citizen Journalism   Opinions
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Pretentious, unscrupulous, elitist, snide, cantankerous – just a few adjectives in which to describe the corporate media of today. Recently, my position on the student government allowed me the unique opportunity of deal with the local Sacramento press. The experience was less than appealing, as the journalists, if one could call them that, were indeed pretentious and snooty who seemed to treat the matter at hand as beneath them. Then there is another story to tell, one about homeless – another unique opportunity that I had to spend some time with our local impoverished. Yet the two stories I will convey have an overall significance, that of the media exploiting the poor and impoverished for their own corporate interests, yet doing nothing to really address the reasons or true problems with poverty.

The press. That word has many meanings: freedom, information, first amendment, muckraking…corporate sellouts. I have had the experience of working with many press organizations over a range of different circumstances and events. Recently I again met up with the frenzy of journalists over the recent ‘Land Park Parking’ ordeal here on campus. As the Commissioner of Public Relations, I was responsible for a melange of various tasks: press releases, official speaker on behalf of the Student Government, responsible for notifying the public of ASG events and of course dealing with the press. Normally I simply have to work with The Express, which is usually an interesting if joyful experience. Yet when the students here were faced with loosing William Land Park for the community and students, we knew that the mainstream press would have to be involved. All of the local News channels were contacted, as well as the Sacramento Bee and the News and Review. Rally day came for the students to speak out against the parking clause, and the press did show up. I was in front of the camera several times that day, the off camera elitists didn’t seem to have the time of day for me. “Give me your sound bite, little man, and leave me alone.” It is indeed sad when a journalist takes this attitude- and makes me wonder if it is the system we live in that now has regulated and blanched the news into an appendage of fear and commercialized news… or if journalists simply do not care any more. Perhaps it is a mixture of both. The representatives from the stations really left me with a bad taste in my mouth- the kind of taste that one gets after eating baking powder and lemons. At this time, I was reading “The Mississippi Delta,” a grassroots biography from a young girl growing up in the heart of racism, and I realized that poverty is not only the true segregation de facto, it is the trump card for the press.
After finishing the book while on light rail, I got off and was letting this true, potent realization seep in. As I meandered on my way, I heard someone say: “hey, got any spare change?” I looked black and say a black man with wired, starving eyes. He was unshaven, un-kept and reeked of alcohol and waste. He and his friends changed my life. I reached into my pocket and tossed him some quarters and went on about my business for all of two paces. An epiphany- the world has so much poverty and that include Sacramento, a few steps away from my home- and yet I essentially was ignoring it, focusing on a more global perspective. I turned back then and asked the man how he was doing, realizing that there were two others sitting with him- of seemingly the same ethnicity and social status- and included them as well. All three were responsive and seemed rather surprised. Ensued was a four hour conversation, an awakening of sorts for my own ignorance. I would have probably stayed there all night if a police would not have been stalking these three disheveled gentlemen- guilty of nothing but being raped by the system, disenfranchised is a synonymous term for which these three were suffering from. It is interesting to look at the very word for which society coins for them: homeless. It is peculiar, as if every person should be required to have a home. After all, it is a crime to be idle- a misdemeanor of ‘loitering.’ The word homeless seems sociologically deviant- as if this is the only label that can be given to these victims of poverty. Yet the contrapositive is not reapplied. We do not call the rest of society “home-keepers.” The ironic nature of the nomenclature seems almost deceptive. To be homeless, or to be without shelter, is rather tepid compared to the realities of what a person must go through. Perhaps I should be critiquing linguistics for its lack of proper conveyance, instead of society that created the word. Indeed though, unlike the word “nuclear war,” in which we have quite a clear understanding of the implications, the word “homeless” truly does not give us such a sense of doom or understanding of what it means to be impoverished. This is something I thought about as I sat with these three men and indeed for a time after. I wondered why the poor problem was not being addressed, why in such a booming area as Sacramento and in a nation with such wealth really could allow poverty to be such a problem. I thought of the media instantly. My answer was simple: the media ignores and or exploits the poor in America, and indeed all over the world.Poverty is increasing all over the world, but especially in the United States. Last years’ census information reports that: poverty rates in 2001 were up to 11.7 percent- a four percent increase since last year. California’s rates have increased slightly- up a half a percent from 2000 (Census, WWW). The rates seemingly have been decreasing on a marginal level, or this is what the media tells us. Yet the facts simply do not support this. Furthermore, the media condones the misinformation. In a late 2000 article, shortly before he left office, President Bill Clinton reported that the status of those in poverty was “near a one percent drop,” obviously not the case (CNN, Sept. 2000). Not only do the poverty rates not reflect the proper inflation level, the rate at which poverty is determined is skewed. The Census Bureau defines its annual poverty threshold to be $17,029 for a family of four people (Census, WWW). When the per-capita income parity is observed, Americans have a thirty-six thousand dollar per-family income on average. Yet with an estimated thirty-three million people in this range of poverty- it is obvious that one tenth of our nation certainly does not fall within this median and is not being accounted for.

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Michael Newton-McLaughlin

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Perceptions of waste
Scott Zoltok | Jul 31st, 2013
Here's an interesting story on changing perceptions of waste in society: http://tigurl.org/jfbnn7-of-sustainability-sweden-runs-out-of-garbage

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