Best practices for avoiding tropes while reporting on poverty

September 20, 2018

Heather Bryant and Denise-Marie Ordway, two working journalists who say they grew up poor and still have close ties to the working class, have put together a tip sheet for journalists covering poverty.


The tip sheet gives journalists a chance to think more in-depth about how to pick and cover stories.


From the sheet:

WHAT TO AVOID: Representing people experiencing poverty as one of three character types: the victim, the criminal or the exception.

Generally speaking, news coverage tends to exclude people experiencing economic hardship as though they don’t participate in the same societal, political and economic systems as everyone else, Bryant says. “They are, instead, most often depicted as the victims of some force or policy; the criminal element that the rest of society has to fear and punish; or the ‘exceptional poor person’ who walks miles to work or school, has multiple jobs or good grades or has managed to do something to be worthy of help or an escape from their economic situation,” she says. “The first character makes it difficult to report on poverty as a circumstance that can be changed by policy or practice. The second character enforces stereotypes that inhibits the good will and effort to develop those policies and practices. The third is a moral measuring stick used to set aside policy and practice and attribute economic hardship to personal attributes and effort rather than the complex circumstances that result at the convergence of cultural, economic and political priorities.”


For the rest of their tips and further background, go here.