Getting by with a minimum-wage job

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The NewsHour, an hour-long public affairs program on PBS, devoted several segments this week to the struggles of Americans to support their families in low-wage jobs. Hari Sreenivasan reported Monday about the challenges faced a woman in New York who works at a fast-food job for $8 an hour. His report begins with Shenita Simon’s $270 weekly take-home pay, then follows her, showing where the money goes. He also details the various public-assistance programs that Simon and her family participate in. It’s a well-told story that puts a human face on poverty.

The PBS website also includes a useful interactive guide that contrasts the minimum wage with a living wage. How could any of these techniques be applied to a poverty story in Latah County?


Will tech money, ideas save journalism?

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David Carr (NY Times photo)

David Carr (NY Times photo)

David Carr writes a column for the New York Times called “The Media Equation.” Two weeks ago, he offered a surprisingly optimistic view of the future of the news business, titled “Tech Wealth and Ideas Are Heading Into News.”

In it, Carr points to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ purchase of The Washington Post for $250 million and eBay founder Pierre M. Omidyar’s decision to commit the same amount to create a news site led by Glenn Greenwald, formerly of The Guardian. Carr writes:

A profound reset is under way. In more than a decade of covering the news end of the media business, I cannot think of a time of greater optimism or potential.

Not only are investors such as Bezos and Omidyar committed to journalism as a democratic institution, they also believe it can be financially successful over the long term. Carr notes that digital platforms are easier to start than legacy media, such as printed newspapers, which required huge capital investments. He also says Bezos, Greenwald and other entrepreneurs can bring business models from e-commerce to media organizations:

It does not take an M.B.A. to understand that the ability to capture consumers’ attention and move them around a platform, all the while extracting value, might come in handy in the media business.

These two ventures by multimillionaires may not be the remedy to all woes facing the news business, but they directly challenge the doomsday predictions that good journalism is dead because no one will pay for it.