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Taken to Task: A Poverty of News, an Embarrassment of Media

Aaron Task
Editor in Chief
Daily Ticker

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More than 49 million Americans, or 16% of the population, were living in poverty in 2010, the government reported this week.

Rising poverty is a national tragedy and a brewing humanitarian crisis in America...

Which brings us to another edition of Taken to Task.

The poverty figures released this week came after the U.S. Census Bureau adjusted the way in which it calculates poverty using the new Supplemental Poverty Measure. Instead of just tripling a family's minimum annual food budget, as previously, this new measure looks at how much families spend on food, shelter, clothing and utilities. You know, life's basic necessities.

Most groups saw their poverty rates increase using the new calculations, including married couples, whites, Asians, immigrants, homeowners with mortgages, those with private health insurance and the elderly. Poverty rates among those over 65 rose to 15.9% from the previously reported 9%. Poverty rates did, however, drop for Americans under the age of 18, African Americans, renters and people living in rural areas.

I didn't hear one word about this during the Republican Debate on Wednesday and you probably didn't hear much about it either, unless you happened to catch former President Bill Clinton make a brief mention of it on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, who turned it into a joke about the sexual harassment charges being levied at Herman Cain.

It's Jon Stewart's job to make light of serious issues, but I'd like to take the rest of the so-called serious media to task for burying this story.

I get that poverty is a depressing topic and a change to how it's measured is a complicated story to tell. But I've never had a viewer tell me they want LESS depth or more 'infotainment.'

More than ever Americans want news organizations to focus on the hard stuff...instead of the salacious (Victoria Secret's runway show), the sensational (Sharon Bialek's press conference), the sophomoric (Rick Perry's 'oops' gaffe) and the ridiculous (anything about the Kardashians) developments that pass as "news" in our society.

Bashing the press is great fun. But the fault, dear Brutus, is not entirely in our media stars or their corporate overlords.

In his brilliant show "The Agony & The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," Mike Daisey talks about how working conditions remain brutal at Apple's Foxconn plant, but we don't hear about them anymore because of Chinese censorship. If the 'media echo chamber' pings for news and doesn't hear a response, it moves on to the next story, he observers. (See: The Darker Side of Apple: The Human Cost of Your iProducts)

In these difficult times, and especially on Veterans Day, it's important for all of us to be aware of the messages we're sending to the media in the stories we watch, share, favorite and Tweet about.

Those among us -- journalists and civilians alike -- who ignore the hard realities of American life and get lost in what should be the minor distractions. You've been taken to task.

See also:

Taken to Task: Occupy Wall Street's Nattering Nabobs of Negativity

Taken to Task: The Cult of Warren Buffett

Taken to Task: Jamie Dimon's House of Ill Repute

Taken to Task: 'Free Market' Champions Go Begging for Bailouts (Reprise)

Taken to Task: President Obama Needs to Back Elizabeth Warren

Aaron Task is the host of The Daily Ticker. You can follow him on Twitter at @aarontask or email him at altask@yahoo.com