News Hunger [By Norman Solomon] FWD

Tom Boland (
Thu, 24 Sep 1998 15:51:08 -0400

FWD  CC Replies to Norman Solomon <>

     By Norman Solomon  /  Creators Syndicate

     Two days after many TV networks aired every moment of Bill
Clinton's grand-jury testimony, several members of Congress
teamed up with researchers and activists for a dramatic forum
about "economic human rights." The independent hearing focused on
matters of profound importance -- and the big news media ignored

     The gathering took place on Capitol Hill, right under the
noses of the Washington press corps. And the media establishment
stayed away in droves. Not a single TV camera was there. In fact,
hardly any journalists showed up.

     "Thirty million Americans are hungry," notes the Institute
for Food and Development Policy, also known as Food First, which
helped to organize last Wednesday's forum. Somewhere between 5
million and 7 million are homeless. "More than 40 million
Americans have no health insurance. And the country has the
highest rate of child poverty among the industrialized

     The institute emphasizes that "hunger is not an accident, in
the U.S. or anywhere else. There is no scarcity of food in the
world. Certainly there's no shortage here in America." Yet, "the
number of hungry people in America has increased by half since

     While we keep being told that the nation's economy is
robust, inequities continue to widen. "Sure, there are more
millionaires than ever in the U.S.," says Food First. "But for
every new millionaire, there are countless new hungry people for
whom $100 or $200 a month in food stamps is the only safeguard
against malnutrition, even starvation."

     So, why don't we hear more about hunger in the United
States? A key factor is the media industry's fixation on
demographics. "Because the mass media is aimed at the people with
the highest disposable income, we see pictures of hunger
overseas, but not our own," Food First observes. "Perhaps that's
a reason why the growth of the Hunger Class has been ignored

     The forum on economic human rights included testimony from
scholars. But there were also firsthand accounts of being hungry
in America. "It isn't that I never worked," said a grandmother
named Katherine Engles. "I worked since I was 14 years old. The
jobs that are out there -- you are not making enough in order to
live. Mothers go hungry at night so their children can eat."

     In the glazed-over eyes of editors in Washington, her words
were not significant. But they remain: "When you are hungry, it's
really hard. Sometimes, I would psyche myself to a cup of tea and
try to make myself feel as though I just ate a full-course meal
even though I didn't. Sometimes, I would roll bread up into
little dough balls to try to fill myself up. It gets to a point
where you kind of get used to it. Till today, I can't eat no more
than one meal a day. It's what I am used to, and even today it's
about all we can afford anyway."

     And, she added: "I keep looking at the bigger issue. What's
ahead for our children, our grandchildren? What is ahead for

     Engles was one of 200 people, many of them poor, who filled
the room in the Rayburn House Office Building to support a
"Fairness Agenda for America." The media odds were stacked
against them -- and not only because of the frenzy over President
Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

     Major media outlets have usually stayed away from efforts to
challenge economic disparities. Traditional news judgment
dictates that journalists tread lightly on the subject of who
really wields the economic power -- and at whose expense -- in
the United States.

     (Although media gatekeepers blocked the recent forum in
Washington, plenty of information is available -- at and -- on the Web.)

     People fighting for economic human rights have always had an
uphill battle for space in the mass media. Now, the media terrain
is tilted against them more than ever.

     Can you imagine what would have happened this year, if the
news media concentrated on hunger in America with the same fierce
determination that has pervaded coverage of sex near the Oval
Office? By now, life would be much better for a lot of children
who will go to bed hungry tonight.

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