The Major Networks' Evening News Programs Barely Mention Poverty


Poverty continues to be a pressing social problem, but it's hardly mentioned on the network newscasts, according to a new study by the media watch group FAIR.

The study looked at ABC World News, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News for a 14-month period (1/1/13-2/28/14) in the wake of the 2012 elections. FAIR examined stories in the Nexis news database that included and discussed the terms "poverty," "low income," "food stamps," "welfare" or "homeless."

According to the study:

  • An average of just 2.7 seconds per 22-minute nightly news program was devoted to segments where poverty was mentioned.
  • Only 23 segments discussing poverty appeared over the 14-month study period.
  • Less than half of the 54 segment sources (22) were people personally affected by poverty. That means, on average, someone affected by poverty appeared on any nightly news show only once every 20 days.
  • Over the same period, the network news shows aired almost four times as many stories, 82, that included the term "billionaire."
  • ABC discussed poverty in just three stories in the 14-month period.

"There is no legitimate justification for ignoring a story affecting tens of millions of our most vulnerable, under any circumstances," said FAIR's Steve Rendall. "But now, with GOP poverty proposals under discussion, the rationalization that journalists cannot cover the issue unless it's first raised by politicians has been demolished. TV news is all out of excuses for ignoring poverty."

The study, which appears in the June issue of FAIR's magazine Extra!,can be read here.

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