With all that is going on with the government lately, people on all sides of the political spectrum seem to be on edge. Nothing will make people emotional faster than cuts and government actions they can feel immediately.
The 24-hour news media are doing an exceptional job of milking our emotions for every ounce of fear, empathy, sadness and rage they can find. When they sensationalize the news, we will keep watching and reading their websites. But often, we aren't even getting real news many of us need.
A great example is the recent computer glitch that caused EBT service to go down in 17 states for almost a day. In a different time, this wouldn't have been such a big issue, but we aren't in normal times. We are in the middle of an economic downturn complicated by a government shutdown. Poor and working-class people had been hearing for weeks of very real reports of services like WIC and Head Start being cut off or that cuts to them were pending. Rumors of SNAP being cut off any day had been going around my neighborhood for weeks.
So naturally the moment that hundreds of thousands of people couldn't use their benefits and feed their families, they knew it wasn't just at their store due to social media. Panic started breaking out.
Where was the 24-hour media then? I guess news involving 17 states and affecting the lives and ability of children to eat wasn't enough to report on, even though it may be a bigger story about routine glitches with Xerox systems.
Had they and local networks taken a bit of time and care to get the message out that, yes, this was a big thing, then perhaps people would not have panicked the way some did. Store owners, especially mom-and-pops, could have looked online and seen what was going on and then spread the word. Instead, information was hard to find.
Make no mistake: I am not excusing the bad behavior of people who chose to steal from stores rather than wait to see if the systems came back online. I do, however, understand that you may think that is a legitimate choice when you have children to feed and you think that you are facing a lose/lose situation.
Those who call themselves journalists have a duty to inform the public for the sake of the public good—not just for the sake of what drives ratings and page views. Whether it's telling people what's really in the ACA, covering local politics in-depth instead of reporting on accidents five states over, or informing people in 17 states who receive SNAP that they can't access their funds, it is all news worthy of being told.