A storm, a journalist, and the working poor

<p>(AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)</p>
<p>Passengers board a bus outside the MBTA subway stop in Davis Square in Somerville, Mass., Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015.</p>
Photo: Bus in snowy Massachusetts (AP Photo)
Passengers board a bus outside the MBTA subway stop in Davis Square in Somerville, Mass., Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015.

our reporting on kids growing up poor in Colorado, we've also found ourselves talking about the struggles of the working poor. And, just as in most newsrooms around the country, we also are challenged by an ethical dilemma from time to time: when to stop observing a tough story and start being a compassionate human. Those two narratives came together in an interesting way recently for public radio station WBUR in Boston as the city endures some fairly epic winter storms.

Here's WBUR staffer Barbara Howard, writing on the station's website:

I worked late preparing Morning Edition for WBUR and was driving home, when I spotted a woman sitting in a bus shelter holding a sleeping child across her lap. I put my car into reverse, backed up, and lowered my passenger side window. I shouted to her: “Are you heading toward Oak Square? Because I’m going that way, and the buses are really slow because of the snow.” She said she was, and I offered her a ride.

Howard struck up a conversation with the woman as they rode together, and had her eyes opened along the way.

As we drove, the young mom told me that she had taken several buses that day. She said she works in food services at MIT, had bused to her mother’s Dorchester home after work to pick up her daughter, and had been on buses for two more hours. She said she was waiting for the number 57 bus for the final leg home.

"White collar bosses like mine tend to understand if a skilled employee is late," Howard says. And in the storm, WBUR covered the cost of her cab ride to work, and put employees up in a nearby hotel. But life was different for the woman in Howard's passenger seat, who was among "those who have no choice but to depend on a broken transit system, and who live in fear of being easily replaced."