OLD Media Moves

A depleted labor beat at a time of massive unemployment

June 1, 2020

Posted by Chris Roush

Luke Ottenhof of Columbia Journalism Review writes about the depleted ranks within the labor beat at a time of record job less and high unemployment.

Ottenhof writes, “Several labor journalists expressed their concerns to CJR that the current lack of labor reporters—and a corresponding deficit of watchdog coverage—poses an exceptional threat to workers’ rights. Paired with a halted legal system and lax accountability standards, this deficit means that new injustices might go unnoticed, while previous ones could reappear.

“‘It’s not as if covid has dismissed all the other issues that were already occurring in the worker safety world,’ Fatima Hussein, a Bloomberg Law reporter, says. ‘So long as no one is watching or covering a certain issue or agency, there’s always opportunities for accountability to slip.’

“LABOR REPORTING—’business reporting from the perspective of human beings,’ as Nolan puts it— has traditionally been a critical check on power and exploitation. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, labor journalists such as Mary Heaton Vorse and Eva McDonald Valesh reported on poor working conditions in factories and participated in historic strikes both as journalists documenting the action and as allies standing with workers.

“That tradition continues today, though in a diminished form. ‘Many newspapers have cut back on, or entirely eliminated, the labor beat—the one beat that talked about the life of the working class,’ Christopher Martin, author of No Longer Newsworthypreviously told CJR. Sarah Jaffe, a freelance labor reporter and cohost of the Belabored podcast, says the very nature of labor reporting is at odds with journalism’s faltering business model, which for a time seemed to thrive on advertising—and which the current pandemic has once more pushed into the spotlight.”

Read more here.

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