Alissa Quart: Reimagining reporting on a recession

May 12, 2023
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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News of stubborn inflation, increasing unemployment, and the housing crisis dominate headlines of late. Alissa Quart is trying to improve that reportage, in content and form. 

Quart is the executive director of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, which challenges traditional narratives of economic class and issues through funding original reporting, done by independent journalists from diverse economic backgrounds. On The Kicker, Quart explains to Kyle Pope, the Columbia Journalism Review’s editor and publisher, how this helps dismantle the “American myth” of self-reliance—the subject of her latest book, Bootstrapped: Liberating Ourselves from the American Dream

Journalists from privileged backgrounds are “less likely to see the myth as starkly” than reporters who’ve experienced economic hardship firsthand, Quart says. She points to a report, published by the Journal of Expertise, that shows nearly half of New York Times and Wall Street Journal staffers attended elite universities. These journalists and editors could be more likely to perpetuate the traditional framework of individualistic success and assign work to people within their social network, Quart believes.

In the interview, Quart and Pope discuss how the media’s reliance on this myth affects electoral politics and what solutions exist. Quart suggests changing language standards, expanding recruiting criteria for newsrooms, and even reimagining news sections. For example, Quart says, the real estate section should include reporting on housing. To Quart, the current bifurcation of the two topics “seems like clear class segregation.”

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Against ‘poor’ reporting, Alissa Quart, Columbia Journalism Review

Hell in the SRO: A Veteran’s True Story, Alex Miller, Esquire

Let’s make journalism work for those not born into an elite class, Alissa Quart, Columbia Journalism Review

The journalism emergency, and how to pay for it, Alissa Quart, Columbia Journalism Review



Emily Russell is a CJR fellow.