Members Only: "Poverty in America: Reporting the Story"

January 09, 2014
Location: Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater

Guests: Brian Williams and Rep. Paul Ryan

Poverty the Top Story at Newseum Program

By Sharon Shahid, online managing editor

WASHINGTON — Fifty years after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared War on Poverty, America's progress has "failed," Rep. Paul Ryan said during a one-on-one interview Jan. 9 at the Newseum with "NBC Nightly News" anchor and managing editor Brian Williams.

"We should have done better than this," Ryan said. I would give us a failing grade."

The Members Only program also marked the one-year anniversary of NBC News's "In Plain Sight" project, a special initiative on poverty in America that was supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation. Throughout 2013, NBC News reporters covered hunger and poverty across the network's multimedia platforms.

Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Gov. Mitt Romney's running mate during the 2012 presidential election, said the government has a role in fighting a "poverty trap" where the more people succeed, the more they lose. But, he added, "Government can't do it all."

"We've got to get our communities engaged," he said.

Ryan recommended a "multifaceted, all-hands-on-deck approach" to ending poverty, which includes "integrating the poor into our communities." The Wisconsin congressman also suggested income support that encourages upward mobility; a streamlined government; job training; and school and housing vouchers.

Williams also moderated a panel of four journalists whose reporting has focused on the poor. They included:

  • Krissy Clark, an award-winning senior reporter for Marketplace's Wealth & Poverty Desk
  • Brian Charles, a full-time reporter on the poverty beat for the New Haven (Conn.) Register
  • John Sharify, an Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist and documentarian in Seattle
  • David Stoeffler, executive editor of the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader, whose "Every Child" newspaper series highlighted the problems of poverty
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