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    Friday, 12 September 2008

    Unwitting exclusions: Rowntree study on poverty reporting in the media

    The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published a study into the reporting of 'poverty' across media in the UK. Its an interesting read, and makes points that will be familiar to those of a 'Chomskyite' perspective (ie that the mainstream media systematically under-reports some matters of importance to society) - see medialens for elaboration on this viewpoint.

    The relatively unsurprising key findings of the study include:
    - Coverage of poverty is peripheral in mainstream UK media. The causes of poverty and the consequences of poverty were rarely explored.
    - Non-news broadcasts rarely mentioned poverty, although they often featured those experiencing deprivation. Coverage tended to focus on extreme cases, highlighting the inherent ‘failings’ of undeserving people. Some documentaries explored the inequities of poverty and complex circumstances of those experiencing it, but reached limited audiences.
    - In news media, poverty in the developing world received as much coverage as poverty in the UK, but was reported differently. Depictions of extreme poverty outside the UK correspond with and may influence how the public perceive and define poverty.
    - The campaigning sector contributes to keeping UK poverty in the news and is valued by media professionals as a source of comment and a means to access people experiencing poverty. Campaigners recognise that they could be more proactive in generating and promoting coverage of under-reported aspects of poverty.
    - Audiences tend to interpret representations of poverty and its causes in accordance with their beliefs and understandings. A key limitation of media coverage is the tendency to marginalise accounts which confront negative public attitudes.
    - The researchers conclude that if media coverage could challenge misperceptions of poverty in the UK, it could prove an effective means of generating public support for anti-poverty initiatives.

    There are also a couple of lovely quotes from focus group participants and others - for example:

    "Journalists don’t slam the door in the face of the poor. They just don’t go knocking. It's not just the journalistic process: poor people don’t make their voices heard so their stories don’t get reported." (Editor, regional newspaper)

    "I read the News of the World but I don’t believe a single word that is in it. Not even the times of the TV programmes." (White female, urban Scotland).

    1 comment:

    Andrew Scott said...

    For further comment and incite, see Peter Wilby in the Guardian