State media, Jerry Brown ignore CA’s worst-in-nation poverty rate

media blackout efxIf you were a resident in the state with the nation’s highest poverty rate, wouldn’t you think you’d be aware of that fact? That a higher percentage of your family, friends, neighbors and others in your community struggled to make ends meet than the same folks in any of the other 49 states?

Of course. But here in California, where the incompetence of the media can scarcely be exaggerated, almost nobody is aware that the Golden State is no. 1 in economic misery.

This malpractice is nothing new. On the debate over whether California should encourage hydraulic fracturing of its massive oil reserves, the state media never note that the Obama administration considers fracking safe. On the debate over education policy, the state media never note that Gov. Brown’s prescription for education reform — local control — is the same flawed, status-quo-reinforcing policy choice that led to the two big education reform moments of the past 30 years. On AB 32, the state’s landmark 2006 climate-change law, the Los Angeles Times waited until March 2012 to note that it was a risk to California’s economic competitiveness to force its energy costs to be higher than rival states and nations. On this front, the L.A. Times trailed the New York Times by years.

So on the economy, why would the fact that California has the highest effective poverty rate in the nation be mentioned? If key details are routinely ignored on other big stories, why change the template on poverty and human misery?

The governor thinks he’s the bomb. Why won’t media push back?

Which brings me to my Sunday U-T San Diego editorial.

“… what one would never guess from his press clippings is that Brown presides over the state with by far the nation’s highest poverty rate. According to a 2012 Census report, once the cost of living is factored in, nearly one in four state residents — 23.5 percent — live below the poverty line. And according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics measure that includes those who have given up looking for work, California has the second worst unemployment rate in the nation. More than one in six Californians who want to work full-time — 18.3 percent — can’t find such jobs.

“How anyone can look at this picture and conclude the Golden State has solved its economic miseries is baffling. Silicon Valley and the Bay Area are doing well. San Diego and Orange counties are much improved. But the Great Recession never ended in the Central Valley, Imperial County or the Inland Empire. Nor did it end for millions of Latino and African-American families in the minority neighborhoods that don’t reflect the tidy picture offered by the national media.

“Brown, alas, won’t acknowledge the depth of our economic woes. Such is his hubris that he’d rather enjoy the fawning than push back at the narrative of a booming, healthy California. Last month, he even gave a boastful interview to The Los Angeles Times that carried this headline: ‘Gov. Brown sees his ambitious agenda as a template for nation.'”

A normal newspaper would see a politician being this boastful and choose to point out the counter-narratives that undercut his claims. But not the L.A. Times’ reporting staff. Or its editorial page. Or its Sacramento columnist George Skelton.

What’s news vs. what’s not news: Aaauuugghh!

I have seen pack journalism my entire professional life. But I have never seen anything like the last few years out of Sacramento. I don’t think that the following four questions are only ones that would occur to a partisan individual. I think they’d occur to anyone who is reasonably well-informed.

Why isn’t it relevant that the Obama administration considers fracking safe?

Why aren’t Jerry Brown’s education policies placed in historical context?

Why did it take more than five years for a small part of the media to admit AB 32 was risky?

And on poverty, why isn’t the fact that California is worse off than Mississippi and West Virginia front-page news? Or back-page news? Or news at all?

I await sincere answers. But what do I expect, at least from Sacramento journalists? Snark.


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