Monday, March 07, 2011

Once again, 60 Minutes holds up a Mirror to the Nation

by Cody Lyon

On March 6, 2011, CBS News’ 60 Minutes demonstrated yet again why it’s often viewed as the gold standard of broadcast journalism. This time, reporter Scott Pelley along with producers Robert G. Anderson, Nicole Young and Daniel Rutenick took viewers to Seminole County Florida, an area right near Disney World, to show us how this Great Recession is so much more than a river of mind numbing numbers and policy speeches. Instead, the economic events of the past few years have led to a tsunami of chaos and upheaval for millions of lives, wreaking hardship and havoc on some of the most vulnerable, in this report, children. 60 Minutes noted that the government considers a family of four to be impoverished if it brings home less than $22,000 a year. And as Pelley reports, with unemployment numbers expected to remain largely stagnant in the coming years, a staggering 25%, or one out four kids will soon reach the poverty level.
Link to 60 Minutes story:

Perhaps the most moving moments in the report came from interviews with the children themselves, victims of economy who played no role in this meltdown or any other circumstances that may have led to their current misfortune. Pelley gently asks questions that produce details of unimaginable upheaval and now chronic insecurity. Some of the kids in the piece are now classified as homeless with many now staying in rundown motels. One brother and sister talk about the days following both parent’s job layoffs and the resulting loss of their home to foreclosure. For a short while, the family slept in a van parked at a Wal Mart parking lot, where morning routines included what they described as embarrassing trips into the store’s restroom to wash off before school.

No doubt, Americans recognize this recession as more than a wonkish word. In fact, the economic collapse that officially began in 2008 has meant, and is probably going to lead to even more dramatic economic readjustment in the coming years. But, far to often, the news we watch or read detailing what some call an economic remap of society, gets left just at that, official terms and numbers. In fact, far to often those numbers or 'indicators' get simplified and sometimes, they get picked up as political armor to further unrelated agendas and reactionary policy. But, perhaps most dangerous, simply citing numbers or arguing about them in partisan TV chat fests doesn't respect the public's intelligence, and in some cases, drives many citizens to simply tune out. But, when a major news organization like 60 Minutes, takes the time to translate the figures into a measured, non partisan real life piece of journalism, a mirror is held up to the place and people we as a nation have become. And, often times, that leads to some collective pause, discussion and hopefully more informed decisions about the direction our nation heads into. That’s one of the beauties of quality journalism in a free society during times of serious challenge.

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