The AIDS example illustrates the role of the news media in placing the AIDS epidemic in the public light and on the national political and legislative agendas. The news media can also function as a catalyst for action at the local or community level. The story of "motel families" living across the street from Disneyland in Orange County, California, demonstrates the power of the news media to highlight social issues and stimulate action by local government and community members.
Over a period of 6 months in 1998, Laura Saari, a writer for the Orange County Register, brought to light the sharp social and economic contrast that exists in one of California's more affluent counties, where one in five children lives in poverty. The article on motel children uses the voices of children to poignantly communicate the impact of poverty on their lives (see Box 7-1).
The story had a significant influence on the community; more that 1,100 people contacted the paper to offer $200,000 in donations, 50 tons of food, 8,000 toys, and thousands of volunteer hours. The media coverage also activated a response by the local government. The Orange County
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