One of the reasons I gave up watching U.S. television years ago was the practically unshakable upper-middle class and affluent background of television drama. A few lower class stereotypes were allowed in the comedy are (e.g. The Dukes Of Hazzard – essentially an updated Beverly Hillbillies), but when it came to shows supposedly about real people, wealth was the watchword.
So I turned to the print media for my information, and as soon as the internet became established as a news outlet, to that. For some reason, I deluded myself that the same focus on wealth and class would not be evident there.
Thinking about it today, I realise I was half right …
Half right solely because the internet, through personal web pages and easy-to-use blogs, has allowed a far greater range of people to put themselves out in an arena where others notice, appreciate and enjoy their contributions.
But the mainstream print media – no. It's just as bad as the broadcast media. Putting aside the obvious cult of celebrity that drives a significant component of the news, even serious articles tend to focus on the privileged. In today's New York Times magazine there is a lengthy article about the Ivy League college elites making their own porn magazines. In the Washington Post an investigation of marriage that tellingly juxtaposes a smiling married couple with an income of $300,000 a year or so with a grimmer portrait of a far younger and enormously poorer ummarried couple.
You can counter-argue that the readership of these flagship newspapers is restricted primarily to these affluent types, and you may be right. Certainly, the advertising, chock-a-block with investment companies, cell phone ads and upscale travel destinations, makes that case. So why I am even reading them?
I read them because they are literate and contain kernels of information that are more significant than the fluff referenced above. But I've come to realise than any viewpoint outside that of the educated upper-middle classes is not going to get much exposure.
Perhaps the most telling example of this is the now extensive coverage of the collapsing subprime mortgage financial service industry. Articles such as this and this on the collapsing New Century Finacial Corporation are aimed essentially at the investor, alarmed already and likely to face further carnage on Wall Street this upcoming week. Notably absent from these, and dozens of other similar articles, is any reference, focus or study of those most deeply affected by this crisis – those low paid people with poor credit who are losing their homes and mostly likely whatever meagre savings they may have.
That is where the true tragedy of this crisis is playing out, but it is practically invisible to the cushioned and affluent – at least as represented in the mainstream press.
This bugs me a lot.