Friday, August 07, 2015

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Christos Tsiolkas talks to Yanis Varoufakis about the Troika's appalling contempt for Greek democracy. And Barbara Ehrenreich laments the fact that only well-off people are given any meaningful opportunity to speak about poverty and deprivation - though that should highlight the need for workers to organize to ensure their voices are heard:
There are many thousands of people like these – gifted journalists who want to address serious social issues but cannot afford to do so in a media environment that thrives by refusing to pay, or anywhere near adequately pay, its “content providers.” Some were born into poverty and have stories to tell about coping with low-wage jobs, evictions or life as a foster child. Others inhabit the once-proud urban “creative class,” which now finds itself priced out of its traditional neighborhoods, like Park Slope or LA’s Echo Park, scrambling for health insurance and childcare, sleeping on other people’s couches. They want to write – or do photography or documentaries. They have a lot to say, but it’s beginning to make more sense to apply for work as a cashier or a fry-cook.
This is the real face of journalism today: not million dollar-a-year anchorpersons, but low-wage workers and downwardly spiraling professionals who can’t muster up expenses to even start on the articles, photo-essays and videos they want to do, much less find an outlet to cover the costs of doing them. You can’t, say, hop on a plane to cover a police shooting in your hometown if you don’t have a credit card.

This impoverishment of journalists impoverishes journalism. We come to find less and less in the media about the working poor, as if about 15% of the population quietly emigrated while we weren’t looking. Media outlets traditionally neglected stories about the downtrodden because they don’t sit well on the same page with advertisements for diamonds and luxury homes. And now there are fewer journalists on hand at major publications to arouse the conscience of editors and other gatekeepers. Coverage of poverty accounts for less than 1% of American news, or, as former Times columnist Bob Herbert has put it: “We don’t have coverage of poverty in this country. If there is a story about poor people in the New York Times or in the Washington Post, that’s the exception that proves the rule. We do not cover poverty. We do not cover the poor.”

As for commentary about poverty – a disproportionate share of which issues from very well paid, established, columnists like David Brooks of the New York Times and George Will of the Washington Post – all too often, it tends to reflect the historical biases of economic elites, that the poor are different than “we” are, less educated, intelligent, self-disciplined and more inclined to make “bad lifestyle choices.” If the pundits sometimes sound like the current Republican presidential candidates, this is not because there is a political conspiracy afoot. It’s just what happens when the people who get to opine about inequality are drawn almost entirely from the top of the income distribution. And there have been few efforts focused on journalism about poverty and inequality, or aimed at supporting journalists who are themselves poor.
- Pam Frache explains why a fair minimum wage should be seen as a necessary step in boosting the lot of vulnerable workers - if far from the only change that should be made toward that end. And Scott Piatkowski points out the Libs' utter incoherence in addressing the NDP's promise of a $15 federal minimum wage, while Andrew Langille sets the record straight and concludes that 135,000 workers would benefit directly (to say nothing of the many more who would see indirect benefits from bottom-up wage growth).

- Meanwhile, Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on the massive amounts of wages stolen by Ontario restaurants, along with the lack of effective mechanisms to ensure their collection.

- Finally, Travis Lupick reports on the surveillance and disruption of peaceful environmental activists in Canada - along with the atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust it's designed to foment among people who want to work for the good of their communities.

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