Category Archives: KQED

Parting thoughts

Signs of the times

Signs of the times

Over the past 10 months, has featured some of the most poignant, informative and visual stories about communities coping in the ongoing crisis.

These stories are what make public media stand out – the voices featured from around the country and the innovative ideas that have inspired news stories.

It’s been so exciting to learn how the economy has changed over the past year – at times the stories have been hopeful and uplifting, often they’ve been upsetting and grim, but never boring.

Here’s a quick review of a few stories that continue to be relevant:

Book Club (4/12/2010) and Book Keeping (3/11/2010) Funny names of old financial texts, and a Paul Solman list of the best books on the financial crisis.

One Sixth of What? (9/22/2009) Back in September, before the health care reform legislation was passed, we examined what makes up the health care costs.

Trading Up (2/24/2010) looked at bartering’s comeback – from help with school projects to borrowing a rake from your next door neighbor.

Shifting Gears (4/2010): Tens of thousands of people work building vehicles in the U.S. And while Ford and GM are reporting that their books look better, many people are still riding the waves of the the hard transition in this industrial sector. That’s why Shifting Gears, a public radio special, will have relevance for some time to come. The latest EconomyBeat podcast features highlights from the program.

Pictures of Transition: One of the most popular aspects of the blog this past year was the weekly collection of user-generated images about the state of the economy. These powerful, witty and painful pictures illustrate the compelling drama of the recession that communities and individuals continue to navigate.

I can’t write about EconomyStory without including stories that came directly from readers, listeners and viewers in the form of comments, six-word memoirs and responses on Facebook and Twitter.

A comment from reader Carlos Tobin about bank size, one of many active discussions on Facebook:

Limiting the size of banks could hurt a innovative start up bank that wants to form and take out the banks that caused the problem. Legislation will just entrench the existing players, and stifle innovation.

And the Six-Word Memoir Project with SMITH Magazine, which collected creative tales of economic hardship. The most recent ones, posted on the SMITH site include:

Whitney Cole: Goodbye, economy. Hello, credit card debt.
Charles: Exchanged credit cards for library card
Kali: Buying a camper, not a house!

EconomyStory will continue to serve as a jumping off point for exploring all that public media has to offer. Projects like Patchwork Nation and Youth Radio aren’t going away, so the links on this site will still take you to the best coverage of the economy. However, as the EconomyStory collaboration comes to an end, this blog will no longer be updated. You can still follow the great work that the Public Radio Exchange (PRX) does at and you can follow my work on Twitter @laurahertzfeld. Thank you for all your support and input! And a big thank you to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) for making this possible.

Follow the (tax) money

Now that you’ve paid your taxes, where is all that money going?

KQED’s YouDecide tool lets you answer a poll about whether your money is being well spent, and shares data about where the money really goes.

It turns out that in three major categories – defense, health care and education – we direct more of our budget than the average member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

So far, 55% of respondents have said that tax dollars aren’t being spent well by the federal government. Add your voice at YouDecide.

YouthRadio’s Making Cents series tackles taxes and gets young people sharing what comes to mind when they hear those letters: I.R.S.

And to lighten up Tax Day a bit, Nightly Business Report has a piece on the pressures of filing taxes. Watch tax experts go head-to-balance sheet in: Iron Accountant.

Health care reform around the country

It was hard to miss: The White House confab this week with the warring sides in Congress meeting over the heated issue of health care reform. National shows and local stations each weighed creative approaches to coverage:

KQED in San Francisco (home city of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who has been a leading advocate of health care reform), put together a page for comments and a live blog of the event. The Sunlight Foundation provided a tool to track donations to members of congress Congressional representatives as they spoke during the summit.

Tennesee had three representatives in their delegation: – two republicans and one democrat, some open to compromise on the health care bill, and one, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who made the case as other Republicans did to “start from scratch,” as WPLN in Nashville, with Capitol News Connection reported .

Nashville is a hub for the health care industry, which doesn’t seem to be hurting as the health care reform debate continues. WPLN reported that four major health are providers in Nashville, including HealthStream, posted positive year-end financial results.

But the urgency of health care reform certainly hasn’t gone away with a few hours of debate at the White House. As WAMC in Albany, NY found, thousands of people in New York alone are at risk without some serious changes:

The failure to enact health care reform this year will lead in the next decade to approximately 13,900 premature deaths of people between 25 and 64 years old in New York according to a report released today by the consumer health group Families USA.

Similar stories are cropping up around the country. For a full video roundup of health care coverage, PBS has a collection of clips from Frontline, NewsHour and more.

To buy or not to buy

Condo for sale signs/ Credit: Flickr user Sean Drielinger

Condo for sale signs/ Credit: Flickr user Sean Drielinger

Is the housing crisis over? While it may appear that prices have hit bottom, for those caught in the mortgage crisis, the nightmare seems far from over and others are holding back while the economy remains unsteady.

Financial journalist Terri Cullen writes at Nightly Business Report that a second “double dip” in the housing crisis is all but certain:

The last time the housing industry faced the dreaded double dip was in the early 1980s, when the economy struggled through two back-to-back recessions. Today, the economy appears to have emerged from the worst recession since the Great Depression, and the housing market is being supported by a number of government policies, including a housing tax credit, increased lending by the Federal Housing Administration and historically low mortgage rates.

So it seems unlikely that another downturn in home prices would be as severe as what we’ve seen in the last two years — but I wouldn’t bet on it. All that government support is expected to wind down later this year and mortgage rates are already starting to tick higher. Meanwhile, near-record unemployment is keeping many from buying (and keeping) homes. All of these factors will put another crimp in demand.

ProPublica is trying to find those homeowners who’ve been stuck in the mortgage crisis cycle the longest. Do you know someone who’s been paying into bad loan for the better part of a year or more?

But those who are still paying mortgages, even bad ones, are far from the worst off. In New York City, families in between homeless shelters and subsidized housing are being left in limbo – there are no more federal housing vouchers to give out, as WNYC reports.

The city is trying to make changes so people can get housing, but there is a shortage:

According to the Department of Homeless Services it costs the city about $35,000 a year to house a family in a shelter, and about $13,000 a year to provide them with a housing subsidy. While extending the voucher is one fix, advocates for the poor, and elected officials want the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to also provide relief by giving families vacant public housing apartments.

So with all this uncertainty, should you invest? Take the YouDecide quiz and find out for yourself. Leave your results below and tell us what you think about the housing market.

Dead air

Last week, liberal talk radio network Air America announced it would go off the air. Was it just another victim of the struggling economy, or were there other factors at play?

At its core, Air America was an experiment in how the left could counter the right’s hold on talk radio, and as Marketplace’s Amy Scott reports, trial and error attempts to craft that programming may have been at the core of the network’s problems, even more than its financial woes.

Founding Air America host Al Franken has been off the air for three years. Thom Hartmann replaced him, before taking his show elsewhere. Hartmann says that was part of Air America’s problem: constantly changing line-up.

But the financial burden of the network was too much to keep big name hosts like Rachel Maddow and Al Franken afloat, as David Folkenflick noted on NPR today.

Back in March 2009, Vanity Fair’s Matt Pressman all but predicted the network’s downfall.

As Air America’s fifth birthday approached, it seems fair to ask: is the concept of a liberal talk-radio network dead? And why didn’t it take off as its supporters had hoped?

Air America was far from alone in its business struggles. Scott Rosenberg writes on MediaShift that traditional newsrooms grew based on revenue and so should new ones:

The newsrooms of today acquired their size and shape and structure thanks to the business model that supported institutions of their size. The world has changed; that model is vanishing. We shouldn’t be asking “What sort of business can support a newsroom online?” The question is, “What’s the best kind of newsroom that the online business can support?

In their new book, “The Death and Life of American Journalism” Robert McChesney and John Nichols examine how we got to a crisis point in the media, and government policy’s role in the media. The authors spoke with KQED’s Forum program this week about the Air America collapse and other recent issues in the media.