Poverty and Responsible Media

I would like to see an anti-poverty team established in every news room in the United States. And I have a second proposal -- a proposal to cover the poverty beat through more than one means of communication. A radio station, a television station, and a newspaper could do a combined job in exposing the problem of poverty that none could do alone.
Sargent Shriver | New Orleans, LA | September 9, 1964

Our Quote of the Week reminds us that media can play a significant role in inspiring action towards tackling pressing social issues such as poverty.

In his early days as the head of the War on Poverty, Sargent Shriver addressed a group of journalists at the New Orleans Press Club Dinner. Shriver stressed, as he often did, the importance of journalism in raising public awareness of everything from important scientific ideas to government activity. Shriver’s words reveal his commitment to a strategic, comprehensive effort to tackle both the causes and effects of poverty:

“It’s going to take more than normal reporting to do this. It’s going to take more than a few human interest stories and one feature story on the war against poverty. Day by day, it’s going to take coverage of the unseen, unwritten about, and unreported one-fifth of our nation. It’s going to take a reporting system as sophisticated, as flexible, and as complex as the problem itself. No single piece, no single part of the story is enough. And no single part can be written without understanding the whole problem.”

Sargent Shriver had a close relationship with journalism throughout his life. While he studied at Yale, he was the editor of the Yale Daily News, one of the country’s most prestigious university newspapers. He also worked for Time magazine in the 1930s and later on joined Newsweek as an assistant editor.

Shriver continued his close relationship with journalists throughout his political career. He recognized, even when he was under intense scrutiny from the media, that the work of journalists is to maintain transparency. As a politician, he knew never to fear a reporter’s questions, but to instead collaborate with them in service of the public good. He invited journalists to shadow Peace Corps volunteers and to observe the work of War on Poverty programs. When asked about this practice, he stressed that journalists would be able to report on successes as well as problems in the field, ensuring transparency and allowing for more efficient problem solving.

The work of journalists has become arguably more complex and yet more important in our hyper-connected world. With information flowing at the speed of light from sources of varying quality, it is the role of journalists to cut through the noise and to share the important details of stories that matter. Among those important stories are those that illustrate the many devastating effects of poverty, as well as the efforts to ignite change that will eliminate its causes.

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Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us.
Sargent Shriver
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