ABC News is airing a special Friday on struggling families in Camden, N.J., because many Americans see more images of what poverty looks like overseas than in their own country, Diane Sawyer said on Thursday.
The anchorwoman's 10 p.m. EST report, "Waiting on the World to Change," contrasts the lives of children in a small city considered among the nation's most dangerous with those in the nearby prosperous suburb Moorestown.
"It's been a long time since we've seen what poverty looks like in our own country," said Sawyer, who spent a night with two of the three Camden families profiled in the show, which was a year and a half in the making.
The featured youngsters are Ivan, a kindergartner who, with his mother and younger brother, are frequently homeless and spent months sleeping together on a single chair; Moochie, a 6-year-old girl who's a bright student weighed down by her father's alcoholism and parents' incessant arguing; and Billy Joe, a high school senior living with his father and five siblings in a home that frequently has no power.
Tiny moments reveal how their lives are different from most Americans, like when Ivan couldn't identify breakfast, lunch and dinner as the day's three meals because of how sporadic eating was for him.
Sawyer said she was struck by their spirits, how they have the same dreams of wealthy youngsters. Billy Joe rides a bus to a neighboring town to earn $35 a night at a fast-food restaurant, passing by the temptation of the illegal drug trafficking that promises far more money in Camden.
"These kids are not asking for money, they're not asking for entirely new government programs," Sawyer said. "They're just asking for someone to know how much they want to succeed."
As Sawyer describes their stories, however, one thought may be inescapable to viewers. She's one of the richest TV news personalities, with a salary Forbes magazine reported in 2005 at more than $12 million annually, and can undoubtedly transform these families' lives with a donation of one or two days' pay.
"We can imagine what everyone is thinking that the resources of ABC News alone can change these lives but our job is to show you the truth of these lives," she said.
Changing those lives with money is not ABC's role and would be deceptive to viewers, she said. At the same time, she said, "the job of a journalist is also to be a human being."
The special shows a volunteer from Moorestown bringing boxes of food to Ivan's family, drawing tears from his grateful mother.
ABC's Web site will list organizations that viewers can contact to help the people in Camden, or in any poor city near where they live, she said.
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