Influential news outlets generally ignore the needs of struggling families.
In an editorial meeting during this last recession's crest I pitched a story about double coupons and their popularity among single moms battling to stay economically afloat.
A blank stare on the faces of everyone in the room greeted me.
"Oh, that is so interesting," one of the reporters seated around the circular table said. Then she paused. "What are those?"
I called my godmother immediately to tell her my story.
"Wow," she said, "they never heard of double coupons? They're really out of touch, huh? That's kind of scary."
Most of America's most influential voices have little familiarity with lower-class lives. The idea of pulling out your coupon caddy to get 80 cents off a jug of Tide is as familiar to them as a lunar landing. The Marshall's layaway line might as well be on Mars. As MSNBC's Ned Resnikoff noted recently, "The news media's current economic climate doesn't just shrink newsrooms and kill magazines: it also reifies professional class barriers." Or as one particularly salty cameraman once said to me while I was at ABC News, "I thought they only hired from the Ivys here." (I assured him I had not hidden my public-school education or my Prince George's County, Maryland roots.)
I thought of this class mismatch recently as I've followed the discussion surrounding Sheryl Sandberg's upcoming book, Lean In. Suddenly, and for the first time in a while, a bunch of major news outlets are talking about working-class women. All of a sudden a media that has rarely written or cared about the issues facing the women I grew up with—single moms, working days and nights and odd jobs, often at hourly wages and with no paid maternity leave—invokes their example as a reason to challenge Sandberg's argument about women and ambition.