Contact Us: On the prowl for “The New Poverty”
Dennis Chamberlin and I will report to the Register newsroom Monday morning, getting temporary press passes, parking sticker and a work station. Then we will hit the streets, combing the city for “The New Poverty,” in search for Iowans hard-hit by the recession who might never imagined their unemployment or current job situation.
If you live in the Ames-Des Moines area, and have a story to tell, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will be looking for white-collar employees in blue-collar jobs, and the jobless blue-collar workers displaced by them in a zero-sum economy.
We will search them out at fast-food franchises, malls, networking breakfasts, Gray’s Lake Park, shopping malls and all the lonely places from shelters to soup kitchens.
We will investigate the return of Depression-era crimes in counterfeit bills and fake gold coins and document the desperation at “cash for gold” pawn shops and money stores.
We will end up at places we never imagined talking to people we never foresaw, led by the instinctual proboscis, or nose for news, rather than by Google maps.
Moreover, we’re mindful that Thanksgiving is a few weeks away; but Chamberlin and I see no silver lining in this recession, as Gov. Chet Culver has ordered a 10 percent across-the-board cut to state agencies on top of last year’s 15 percent cut, with hundreds of employees yet to be furloughed or fired.
So do not anticipate from us many “stories of hope” in an otherwise Dickinsonian time with the plague of H1N1 not only infecting residents before the dreaded Plains winter, but whose “swine flu” nickname has devasted the pork-producing industry on whose revenue the state also depends.
Rather, we will try to capture the unique irony of a city and state known for an unflailing work ethic when little work is to be found.
And if we find any silver lining, it just may be in how former white-collar Iowans have rediscovered their servant neighbors after years now of ignoring them while chatting on cells phones in the check-out lanes at Wal-mart, McDonald’s and Wells Fargo, realizing there is an underbelly of disenfranchised somehow overlooked in our pursuit of the upwardly T-mobile good life.
And maybe, just maybe, we’ll help people lose the shame of such plight (because there is none in events beyond our control) and re-embrace the pioneer tenets that made Iowa one of the friendliest, most resilient places in the nation: how much we care about each other.