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Barbara Ehrenreich: Why Are Working People Invisible in the Mainstream Media?

Ehrenreich talks to Amy Dean about the crisis of economic insecurity, the invisibility of working people in the mainstream media, and the current state of journalism.

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I asked how people could get connected with the project.

"They're going to read this interview and then they're going to come lining up at my door," Ehrenreich joked.

Continuing, she explained, "At first we had to sort of beat the bushes for writers. Now more people are coming to us, including some very good, experienced writers. We're looking for journalists who have ideas, who are interested in subjects we're interested in. And we really nurture them. Some are highly skilled and don't really need that much from us. But we typically help a writer develop a pitch, then we spend a lot of time with them discussing a research plan. When they have a draft we do a first edit before it goes out. With one of our writers, I was afraid we were driving her crazy with our demands for rewrites and new information. I kindly said, 'Look, you're getting a free journalism-school education from us. You're getting the kind of help you will never get again."

"I gave the commencement speech in 2009 at the Berkeley Journalism School. The dean told me, 'Don't be gloomy.' I thought about that challenge and I said to the students, 'I was told not to be gloomy. But I can say, you have great talents which no one is going to want to pay for. You have all this energy and talent, and you're going to get jerked around by employers. You're going to have a really rough time.' Then I said, 'Welcome to the American working class.'

"Basically, in the old times, journalism was a working class occupation. For a little period there, journalists were kind of elite. That's just been taken away from us. No more of those nice lunches in Manhattan with your editor, and things like that."

"I told the students, 'This is not a career. This is a fight.'"

Amy Dean is co-author, with David Reynolds, of "A New New Deal: How Regional Activism Will Reshape the American Labor Movement." She worked for nearly two decades in the labor movement and now works to develop new and innovative organizing strategies for social change organizations in progressive, labor and faith communities. You can follow Amy on Twitter at @amybdean, or she can be reached via her web site, www.amybdean.com

 
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