There are those who believe all journalism should be objective, but an important task of journalism is to give voice to the voiceless and to reveal things that we may not want to see. Journalists should not pretend that the world is like a debate that always has two equal sides. There were never really two sides to the issue of slavery and there aren’t two sides to the issue of poverty in America. Melissa Harris Perry was doing an interview on “Why Americans hate welfare.” When her guest spoke about the risks involved in being “upwardly mobile” in the financial market, the journalist exploded:
“What in the world is riskier than being a poor person in America? I live in a neighborhood where people are shot on my street corner. I live in a neighborhood where people have to figure out how to get their kid into school because maybe it will be a good school and maybe it won’t. I’m sick of the idea that being wealthy is risky. No, there’s a huge safety net, that whenever you fail, we’ll catch you, and catch you, and catch you. Being poor is what is risky. We have to create a safety net for poor people and when we won’t because they happen to look different from us, it is the pervasive ugliness. We cannot do that.”
Perhaps that is the difference between a reporter and a journalist. The reporter tries to give both sides of an issue within the dominant paradigm of the popular culture. The journalist tries also to give voice to those who live their lives outside that paradigm.