Category Archives: NPR: Local/National Collaboration

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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.

Six words across America

Jobs, health care, finances, credit, mortgages, recession. These are just six of the many topics EconomyStory has covered on the economic crisis. As our project is coming to an end soon, we’ve been asking for your six-word memoirs about how to cope in the current climate.

This week, Smith Magazine, the originators of the six-word memoir, is working with us to share even more of your stories.

Recently, we asked what happened to your career in the crisis and asked respondents to submit their stories in six words. Minnesota Public Radio got some great responses:

Mike Rose: Got work but wants more. Unlikely.
J. Wagner: On food stamps, Americorps, Future M.D. :-D
Jay: Career long in tooth, got yanked.
And a hopeful one from Steph: In three words: I found happiness.

A few more were posted on the EconomyStory Facebook page.

Lost two jobs gained an LLC

Take work when you’re offered it.

Adjust to reality, give up dreams.

In an earlier post, we asked about your experience with health care. MPR mapped the responses to show where listeners were live. They received stories from across throughout their listening area, all the way to the Canadian border.

Here’s one of my favorite health care responses:
Bill Kelso: Eyes popped out. Both of them.

What is your six-word memoir on the financial crisis? Share yours here and at Smith Magazine!

Cut it out

Coupons/ Credit: Flickr user sgrace

Coupons/ Credit: Flickr user sgrace

It’s always taken a bit of persistence and planning to save money on the things you buy, whether it’s religiously cutting coupons from the newspaper or saving up frequent flier miles. Last year, NPR reported on avid e-coupon collector April Englebert, who told Weekend Edition that she saves up to 80% using online coupons. But over a year later, it’s now easier and easier to save money online – thanks to sites like and GroupOn, as well as social networking sites like FourSquare and Yelp.

There are various models for online coupons. GroupOn provides limited-time deals that visitors sign up for using their local zip code for services like yoga studios, spas, and restaurants. aggregates deals from national chains and online retailers. FourSquare and Yelp provide money-saving incentives for sharing information about places you’ve visited.

I spoke recently with’s community manager Sara Dunham. She talked about the kinds of deals that people tend to search for online.

“I’m always surprised to see what people will buy,” she said. “Merchants are also trying to make it easier to buy online … Free shipping is one of the most searched terms for coupons.”

Dunham said that employees at are even required to use the available coupons to book their work travel.

Beyond coupons, social network FourSquare hooks users up with deals at the businesses they frequent most. WLRN and Miami Herald’s Niala Boodhoo wrote about “FourSquare Day” last week:

There’s been lots written about Foursquare being dangerous for privacy reasons (it’s easy to stalk or rob you when you’re always saying where you are…
But Foursquare promotes it as a way to discover new places to eat, shop, etc. based on what your friends say they are doing.
Here’s where the Foursquare Day part comes in. Some businesses are getting in on the game by saying if you “check in” on Foursquare today at their establishment during a certain time, you can get a deal.

The privacy concerns about online coupons go beyond the information you may provide for the FourSquare and other social social network deals. The New York Times reported on the information stored in the barcodes of online coupons and when consumers may want to be wary.

Using coupons to link Internet behavior with in-store shopping lets retailers figure out which ad slogans or online product promotions work best, how long someone waits between searching and shopping, even what offers a shopper will respond to or ignore.

Have you used online coupons to save on goods or services? What kind of deals have you received?

What did they know?

Finger-pointing about the economic crisis won’t get us out of it, but Congressional hearings aim to provide some clarity around the latest analysis of the Lehman Brothers collapse and the SEC fraud charges against Goldman Sachs.

The NewsHour’s Rundown blog polled leading economists on what they would ask Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke ahead of the hearings.

Some of their responses:

Mark Calabria – director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute
Chairman Bernanke: If Lehman had been rescued what would be different today? Would employment be any higher or credit more widely available?
Russ Roberts – J. Fish and Lillian F. Smith Professor of Economics Chair, Mercatus Center, George Mason University
I would ask Ben Bernanke: What would have happened had you let Bear Stearns go bankrupt? How would that have changed Lehman’s behavior between March and September of 2008? What evidence is there that the bankruptcy of Bear Stearns would have had systemic effects?

WNYC’s The Takeaway had New York Times reporter Louise Story explain the Goldman Sachs fraud suit.

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In December, Story reported on how Goldman and other banks bet against collateralized debt organizations (CDOs), which may have worsened the housing crisis.

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What questions would you ask the Geithner and Bernanke about the financial crisis and bank regulation?

More taxing times

Tax Day is next Thursday, so in honor of all the last-minute procrastinators out there (and the accountants who help them!), here are few final tips and stories about tax season from around the country.

In Maryland, volunteers who just couldn’t get enough fun doing their own taxes are opening their slates to help low-income families get their taxes done — an important task, because many low-income filers are missing out on a big credit.

Georgia Samios of WYPR in Baltimore reports:

Here at Ray of Hope Baptist Church in Northeast Baltimore, volunteers are helping low income people fill out tax returns. They want to make sure that those who qualify get the earned income tax credit, which can literally put money in people’s pockets. .. That means more people are covered, says the Internal Revenue Service’s Peggy Riley.
“It’s a big expansion over other years, and with the amount of unemployment we’re figuring many more people will probably qualify for the earned income tax credit this year,” she says.

A similar volunteer program is underway in Seattle, where the public library is home base to help people get their taxes done. This year, there’s more confusion as many of those seeking help are underemployed or unemployed.

NPR’s Wendy Kaufman reports:

The pain is evident at the Seattle Public Library. Part of the library’s fifth floor has been turned into tax central for the past several weekends. Low-income people are getting free help in filing their tax returns.
Courtney Noble of the United Way is in charge of the program.
“We see more people every year — and this year, we see a lot of our same customers from last year,” Noble said.

In California, tax credits passed down to homeowners from a bill passed in the 1970s are causing intense debate as the state faces a budget crunch.

In San Diego, where the housing crisis hit particularly hard last year, residents are facing off with legislators as tax time approaches and the county stands to bring in less money in property taxes. California Proposition 13 passed more than 30 years ago and gave huge tax breaks to homeowners, aiming at helping them stay in their homes and not be “taxed out” over time. But now the state is questioning the law’s relevance. KPBS produced a recent special The Legacy of Prop. 13 analyzing the bill’s influence.

Joanne Faryon reports on Prop. 13′s impact:

Prop 13 locked in property assessments at 1 percent of the purchase price, and limited yearly increases to 2 percent. The result: California has among the lowest property tax rates in the country. In fact, more then half of all the homes in San Diego County are assessed below market value.

For last minute tips, Nightly Business Report continues it series with Kiplinger’s Kevin McCormally. Recent tips include help Supercharging You Standard Deduction and changes in Demutualized Stock Sales.