The Edmond Sun

Opinion

November 4, 2013

Welfare benefits and the forgotten source

EDMOND — Commenting on what he perceives as the liberal bias of the Associated Press, former University of Texas journalism professor Marvin Olasky suggested that we “think of it algebraically, with AP standing for coverage of person A, who has a problem, and person P, the politician who purports to have a solution. The Associated Press typically did not bother to cover person F, the one paying taxes so that person P can gain glory for sending aid to person A. In the 19th century, Yale professor William Graham Sumner had offered a similar equation and called person F ‘the forgotten man.’ In the 21st century, AP regularly broke its pledge to be evenhanded by highlighting person A and forgetting Mr. F.”

Unfortunately, it’s not just the AP. Each new day brings examples from media outlets nationwide of news stories from which person F is conspicuously absent. For example, in a recent Tulsa World story (“Impasse may endanger aid funds”), we learned that “half of the infants in Oklahoma could be at risk of losing a vital supplemental nutrition program if the federal government shutdown continues beyond this month, state officials said Friday. That’s when the state’s allotment of federal funding for the Women Infants and Children nutrition program (WIC) could run out, said officials with the Oklahoma Department of Health, which administers the program. …

“For Brittany Wilkerson, who attends school at the Margaret Hudson Program Tulsa campus, she said it would be ‘just horrible,’ if funding ran out for the program, which she utilizes to feed her two children. Wilkerson, 18, said she uses the program to purchase baby formula for her newborn and juice and other foods for her 1-year-old. The cost of the formula alone is about $120 a month, Wilkerson said. ‘I could not afford to buy it if they took it away,’ she said referring to the program.”

In the 663-word story the reporter quoted person A and several proxies for person P, but person F was nowhere to be found. Person F was the forgotten source. Had he been included, the story would have been more evenhanded, more informative, and — most important of all — more interesting for the newspaper’s actual customers. In a metropolitan area where (according to the Tulsa World’s own pollster) conservatives outnumber liberals 7 to 1, one can imagine Person F’s contribution to the story:

“‘I don’t mind helping people who are down on their luck,’ said John Q. Taxpayer, a Tulsa welder. ‘In fact, I pay my taxes and still give to folks in need whenever I can. But shouldn’t the babies’ father help buy some groceries for these children that he helped bring into the world? Or heck, couldn’t the grandparents or other family members pitch in? I mean, I don’t see why it’s up to complete strangers to come up with $120 a month. I’ve got my own bills to pay. My wife’s got past-due medical bills and my kids need school clothes.

“Mr. Taxpayer also expressed concern with the nation’s $17 trillion debt. ‘I’m all for helping to feed babies,’ he said, ‘but I don’t want to put it on the credit card of my own babies and grandbabies. We just can’t afford to keep doing all this welfare.’”

I don’t believe media bias is always nefarious, or even intentional. Just as a fish doesn’t swim around all day wondering how he can manage to stay wet, reporters don’t wake up every morning asking themselves how they can construct narrative frameworks that ignore the taxpayer. A fish doesn’t realize he’s wet, and many journalists don’t realize that their J-school training and subsequent existence in a center-left newsroom bubble have conditioned them to ignore person F.

But he’s out there. Yes, the forgotten man is “the real subject which deserves our attention,” as Yale’s professor Sumner said. “He works, he votes, generally he prays — but he always pays — yes, above all, he pays.”

Reporters should talk to him.

BRANDON DUTCHER, an Edmond resident, is senior vice president at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a free-market think tank.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Film critic Turan produces book

    Kenneth Turan, who is the film critic for National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” has written a book “Not to be Missed, Fifty-Four Favorites from a Life Time of Film.” His list of movies span the gamut from the beginnings of filmmaking through the present day.
    There are some surprising omissions on his list. While he includes two films, “A Touch of Evil” and Chimes at Midnight” made by Orson Welles, and one, “The Third Man,” that Welles starred in but did not direct. He did not however, include “Citizen Kane,” that was the first movie Welles made, that is  often cited by both film critics and historians as a favorite film.

    July 28, 2014

  • Logan County’s disputed zone

    Watchers of “Star Trek” may recall the episode from the original series entitled, “Day of the Dove.” In this episode, Captain Kirk and his crew are forced by a series of circumstances into a confrontation with the Klingons. The conflict eventually resolves after Kirk realizes that the circumstances have been intentionally designed by an alien force which feeds off negative emotions, especially fear and anger. Kirk and his crew communicate this fact to the Klingons and the conflict subsides. No longer feeding upon confrontation, the alien force is weakened and successfully driven away.

    July 28, 2014

  • Russell leads in Sun poll

    Polling results of an unscientific poll at www.edmondsun.com show that Steve Russell, GOP candidate for the 5th District congressional seat, is in the lead with 57 percent of the vote ahead of the Aug. 26 runoff election. Thirty readers participated in the online poll.

    July 28, 2014

  • Healthier and Wealthier? Not in Oklahoma

    Increased copays, decreased coverage, diminished health care access, reduced provider budgets and increased frustration are all the outcomes of the Legislature’s 2014 health care funding decisions. Unlike some years in the past when a languishing state economy forced legislators into making cuts, the undesirable outcomes this year could easily have been avoided.

    July 26, 2014

  • Medicaid reform a necessity

    Historically, education spending by the state of Oklahoma has been the largest budget item. This is no longer the case. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma spends more on Medicaid (operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority) than common education and higher education combined, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

    July 25, 2014

  • Remembering lessons from 1974

    This week marks the 40th anniversary of an important milestone in America’s constitutional history. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to order the Nixon White House to turn over audiotapes that would prove the president and his close aides were guilty of criminal violations. This ruling established with crystal clarity that the executive branch could not hide behind the shield of executive privilege to protect itself from the consequences of illegal behavior. It was a triumph for the continued vitality of our constitutional form of government.

    July 25, 2014

  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

    Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised hours in a park.
    Is it a crime to parent “free-range” kids? Does Harrell deserve her problems? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

    July 24, 2014

  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

    To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
    I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.

    July 23, 2014

  • New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”

    On July12, the streets of the Warehouse District of New Orleans were filled with thousands of young men who were seeking to avoid being hit with plastic bats wielded by women on roller skates as part of the annual “Running of the Bulls” that takes place in New Orleans.
    The event is based on the “Running of the Bulls” that occurs in Pamplona, Spain, that is  part of an annual occurrence in which a group of bulls rampage through the streets of Pamplona while men run from them to avoid being gored by their sharp horns. That event was introduced to the English-speaking world by Ernest Hemingway, who included scenes from it in his critically acclaimed 1926 novel “The Sun also Rises.”

    July 22, 2014

  • OTHER VIEW: Newsday: Lapses on deadly diseases demand explanation

    When we heard that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had created a potentially lethal safety risk by improperly sending deadly pathogens — like anthrax — to other laboratories around the country, our first reaction was disbelief.

    July 22, 2014

Poll

If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

Patrice Douglas
Steve Russell
Undecided
     View Results