For decades, receiving unemployment benefits required the applicant to go to an office of their state unemployment office to fill out paperwork, and sometimes it required them to return each week to request a payment. This process has shifted online, so that now most unemployed people never go to a government office, which means they also don’t congregate with other unemployed workers in an easily identified location.
The same thing has happened to most job seekers. The few times over recent years that I recall hearing someone ask over the counter of a store or restaurant if the business was hiring or accepting applications, the person was told to go online to fill out an application.
Growing up in Michigan in the seventies and eighties, I saw lots of TV reports about people struggling to get by on unemployment or hoping to be one of the dozens of people to get a job for which hundreds or more were lined up outside the employer’s door. For journalists and assignment editors, it was an easy way to get “man/woman-on-the-street” interviews with the unemployed.
The days of people getting their news from three networks, a local news radio station and two hometown dailies are long gone. But the visual component of delivering news is still important, and without good visuals TV producers are less likely to report a story, and the story is less likely to stick in the minds of viewers. Filing online for a job or for unemployment benefits has probably made it easier for anyone who has a computer and internet access, and for the rest, who can go to libraries or borrow someone else’s computer, it’s probably no harder than the old process. But it means the unemployed are less likely to congregate in one place, with one result being that it’s harder for television reporters to find them and less likely that television viewers will see them and hear their stories.