Journalist talks poverty in America

They tell the stories of those who dwell in self-built shacks made of old billboard placards, who sleep in doorways, or sell their shirts to buy food. Journalist Dale Maharidge, Pulitzer Prize winner and associate professor at the Columbia School of Journalism, collaborated with photographer Micheal Williamson on the book "Someplace Like America," detailing the lives of impoverished Americans.

They have been on the road since 1982 to capture the stories of destitute families, jobless workers and the needy homeless.

Their book gave Bruce Springsteen the inspiration for his songs "Youngstown" and "The New Timer."

On April 30, the Santa Monica College Associates and the University of California Press invited Maharidge to speak to SMC students about his book and give an insight into the struggles of Americans who live in poverty.

Maharidge grew up in a blue collar family. His father was a steel worker, and all of his relatives were factory workers.

His background was his motive to pursue a career in journalism and to write about the issues of the working class.

"When I write articles, I think of my family. These workers I am writing about are my people. I like those kind of people," Maharidge said during his lecture. "But they don’t have any power. They can't fight the system."

"But as a journalist, I can give them voice," he said. "That passion is very internal. It’s a way to give a voice to the voiceless, but too, from a very personal perspective."

Maharidge said that America has forgotten about those people. The focus is now on Wall Street and the people who do not care whether they sell and produce in America or India.

With the deindustrialization, good jobs have died, he said. Former mill and factory workers now have to work for minimum wage at Walmart, if they are lucky enough.

Maharidge said he hopes his work is educating people about the problems of America's declining working class and growing poverty.

"[Poverty] is going to get worse before it gets better. It's going to be a 300 years process. We are not going to have poverty declining any time soon," he said.

But Maharidge said he had witnessed the sense of community among these people, which he believes to be a "part of the 300 years process."

"I see community forming [and] that's where the hope is going to lie," he said. "Working together to create something new. That's the message of 'Someplace Like America.' It's not overruined."

Maharidge said that the current generation will make the difference.

"Have hope because every fifth or sixth generation is a great generation. They face the biggest challenges," he said. "It's been five generations since the Great Depression. I think this generation is different. They know what's going on. It's your generation. So you guys, save us from our generation. We blew it, you have to fix it."

Jasmin HuynhComment