Media Watch

Journalists Seen to Be Out of Touch With Mainstr eam

THE WASHINGTON TIMES , March 29 — The nation's media are out of touch with the average American, confessed a newspaper reporter who assembled a survey on the topic from the home addresses of 3,400 journalists.

“It's a very clear picture of people who live lives differently than their customers,” said Peter Brown, editor of the Sunday Insight section of the Orlando Sentinel.

“It doesn't make a difference if the guy who repairs your air conditioner lives the life you do. But journalists' view of the world determines not just how they cover a story, but what stories they cover,” Brown said.

Brown said he first became aware of the distance between journalists and their subjects a decade ago when he was interviewing suburbanites in the Detroit area. Not only did the mass media not understand the people, the antipathy was mutual, he said.

“What struck me was how much people disliked the news media and felt it condescended to their views and lifestyles,” Brown said. He cited the following case to illustrate his point.

When the Dayton Daily News brought in a consultant to rebuild its circulation, she realized that, in Dayton, many blue-collar workers carried lunch buckets and ate food seasoned with Hamburger Helper. But the paper's food editor insisted on articles on salmon, artichokes and asparagus.

“There is a gap,” the consultant later said, “between what one could refer to as normal people and journalists.”

The results of Brown's survey revealed details about the nature of the people who gather and interpret the news for the country's 1,489 daily newspapers and thus exert considerable influence on American perceptions of reality.

In terms of salaries, only 18% of the public earned $50,000 or more, whereas 42% of the journalists in these medium-sized cities did. Thirty percent of the journalists said they had to make $40,000 just to make ends meet, compared to 12% of the public who said so.