Saturday, December 22, 2007
Admission of the Day
Class, either by income or social status, is real but undefined in our society, yet those conditions underlie so much of the economic, social and political conversation in the newspaper. —Timothy J. McNulty, Public Editor (ombudsman) for the Chicago Tribune, writing in "Class definitions always will be a moving target for journalists"
McNulty is worried about the 163 times that writers for the Tribune used the phrase "middle class" this year. Surveying the stories he found that the notion was applied to people making from $120,000 and $180,000 in one story but down to $63,500 in another.
I recall a study from some years ago finding that most Americans tend to identify themselves as "middle class" no matter where they cling on the socioeconomic ladder. Perhaps in reference to that fact McNulty writes—
There is a reason that politicians of both parties and commentators, such as Lou Dobbs, send out angry broadsides about the "war on the middle class." Listeners -- no matter how much or how little they make -- can choose to believe these commentators are talking about them.
How can you have a class war if there are no classes? It's good to know that the press continue to assist in the public's conceit and the official deceit, though I doubt the mavens of the media have given it much thought. They are, after all, middle class—just like the rest of us.