The conference at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., was called "The New American Poverty: Reporting the Recession's Impact," but it included a lots of basics and history on the subject -- and some useful comments at the start, from poverty researchers and some folks who run programs for the poor and disadvantaged in Lexington and Rockbridge County.
Jeri Schaff, services director for the Valley Program for Aging Services, said she couldn't recall ever seeing a news story addressing the daily struggle faced by many old people (hers don't like the "seniors" label, she said), especially in rural areas. The coverage of poverty tends to focus on cities, she said.
"Rural poverty is very different than urban poverty," said Suzanne Sheridan, director of the Rockbridge Area Free Clinic. The big difference, she said in an interview, is lack of resources: supermarkets, public transportation, health care, even a reliable water supply.
Paul Overberg of USA Today gave an excellent presentation on using Census Bureau data to cover poverty. For his handout on using the bureau's American Community Survey data, click here. For other help in covering rural poverty, go to www.onpoverty.org, a recently revised Washington and Lee site for journalists; www.CoveringPovery.org, with tutorials from the University of Georgia; and www.EconomicHardship.org, whose owners include author Barbara Ehrenreich, who has written best-selling books about the poor and near-poor. For more details on the conference, click here.