In a July 13 story on CNNMoney.com, reporter Hibah Yousuf profiled two individuals who’ve been unemployed for over 99 weeks, the maximum number of weeks a person is eligible for unemployment benefits. Yousuf how they’re turning to more government agencies for assistance:
“Many have already started falling through the safety net,” she reported. “These people are coping any way they can, often reaching out for other aid from agencies and charities.”
Yousuf devoted one paragraph to explaining how the first individual, Kevin Huffer, took matters into his own hands by doing handyman work in exchange for rent and went fishing for meals. But she devoted another three paragraphs to the various agencies and organizations, such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Community Action Partnership, helping out-of-work Americans find federal assistance beyond the nearly two years of unemployment benefits.
“Others who have maxed out their benefits have managed to keep their housing stable but need other kinds of government assistance to survive,” Yousuf wrote.
The second individual Yousuf profiled, Rebecca Miranda, applied for food stamps through the government-run Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) but dropped her food stamps because her recently launched candy company, Sherry’s Jubilee Desserts, began attracting more attention and earned her over $400. However, rather than promote Miranda’s entrepreneurship, Yousuf continued plugging SNAP:
“SNAP is the government's most universal program for low-income households since singles, couples and families can qualify as long as they meet the income limits. And there are also a handful of other government initiatives that the long-term unemployed can turn to for extra cash.”
In the 22-paragraph story, Yousuf devoted only three paragraph’s to Huffer’s and Miranda’s individualism while she championed government programs in twice as many paragraphs. This isn’t the first time the media downplayed Americans’ entrepreneurial spirits and provided a soapbox for government assistance, and it certainly isn’t the first time the media played the victim card.