One in two Americans will experience poverty or near poverty during their working years. But you wouldn’t know that from watching the news.
Nightly news broadcasts on the three major television networks barely mentioned the 47 million Americans living in poverty in the first quarter of 2016. According to a new report from Media Matters for America, NBC Nightly News ran just two segments on the topic in the first three months of this year. What’s worse, ABC and CBS failed to cover the issue entirely.
Even when it comes to income inequality—a trend gaining increasing media attention—the networks fell down on the job. NBC aired just 5 segments on the topic (out of hundreds), compared to just one from CBS Evening News and zero on ABC’s World News Tonight.
Cable outlets and Sunday shows performed marginally better, as Fox News and MSNBC each aired 32 segments on inequality and CNN ran 17. But less than half of those—48 segments across all three cable networks—focused on those most acutely affected by income inequality: Americans living in poverty. And, it should be noted, cable news outlets have 24 hours of airtime to fill—a total of 48 segments among thousands of hours of coverage hardly amounts to significant media attention.
A separate survey of nightly newscasts in 2015 found that economic stories received less coverage than in any year since 1988. Of the economic stories that were covered, very few focused on poverty. The top economic story of the last year? The stock market.