Category Archives: PRI: Podcasts

Weekly features related to the economy across a portfolio of co-produced and distributed programs.

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.

A struggle from serving to working

The unemployment numbers have leveled off at 9.7% — certainly a lukewarm sign at best for the country by any measure. Particularly for veterans, reentering the workforce is a challenge. Male veterans between ages 18 and 24 have a nearly 22 percent unemployment rate, according to the Labor Department.

PRI’s The World reports on a group of vets in Wisconsin who are having trouble finding work since returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

PRI’s Global Economy Podcast

The Wisconsin veterans aren’t alone, but new programs and opportunities are trying to make a difference for veterans around the country. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Program recently announced a $2 million grant competition to help vets get jobs in the growing field of renewable and sustainable energy.

The green jobs blog Intelligent Energy Portal reports:

[The] grants are intended to provide services to assist in reintegrating eligible veterans into meaningful employment within the labor force and to stimulate the development of effective service delivery systems that will address the complex employability problems facing eligible veterans.

In West Virginia, job fairs are introducing recently returned veterans to new kinds of careers. West Virginia Public Broadcasting reports:

Derek Brown is the vocational rehabilitation officer for the VA. He says it can be tough for veterans to figure out how to find a job.

“I think it’s a unique challenge, in the military it’s a lot different for employment you get assigned from one assignment to the next assignment it’s not like you really go out and interview for a job,” Brown said.

The PBS News Hour’s Patchwork Nation analyzes military communities around the country. In Hampton Roads, Va., the GI Bill has increased college enrollment in one local college and is working to put students on career tracks that have high employment rates:

Compared with other TCC [Tidewater Community College] students, those on the GI Bill are taking more career and technical programs such as in information systems technology. A higher percentage are on the transfer track, meaning they will move on to a four-year college.

Interview: Olympics economics

Olympic Torch / Credit: Flickr user kk+

Olympic Torch / Credit: Flickr user kk+

The opening ceremonies kick off the Winter Olympics in Vancouver tonight, but the lead up to the games has been fraught with concerns over cost and whether the games will pay off for the Canadian economy. PRI’s The World reporter Jason Margolis spent some time in Vancouver recently and I spoke with him over GChat about his impressions ahead of the games:

What was the mood like in Vancouver? Most of the people I know who live there sound pretty excited about the Games, but from your reports it sounds like there’s a bit of a debate about how much of an impact they’ll have in boosting the economy there?

Jason Margolis:
To me, it felt like a mixed mood. Much excitement mixed in with some Olympic fatigue. A lot of people there have been eating, breathing and sleeping Olympics for the past seven years. The attitude is like, “Let’s go already!”
And yes, there is major debate about whether all the spending was worth it. I think one former reporter for the Vancouver [Sun] summed it best. He said: “The boosters will reach one conclusion and the skeptics will reach another. But they’re both looking at the same data.”

How much is Vancouver hurting due to the economic crisis compared with other parts of Canada?

Jason Margolis:
In general, the recession hasn’t hurt Canada as badly as the U.S. Canada’s unemployment rate is lower than the U.S., which bucks recent trends. Canada’s banks didn’t get involved in the sub-prime mess and other “creative” ways to make money.
With regards specifically to Vancouver, its been spared the worst of the recession. “Lower British Columbia,” which is where the Olympics will be held, did not technically go into recession in 2008, when much of the U.S. was sliding into an economic downturn. There’s a strong argument to be made that that’s because of all the Olympic spending. While the construction industry had come to a standstill in the U.S., Lower British Columbia was busy getting ready for the Games, putting a lot of people to work.

Are there any social issues you came across in B.C. that the city or province was trying to address before the games, such as homelessness, etc.?

Jason Margolis:
Vancouver has a notorious homeless problem. From what I can piece together, that’s due to two factors: the city’s welcoming attitude and its warm climate. There’s an area downtown just a few blocks from where the opening ceremonies will be held, which is a blight on the city. It seems that Vancouver’s civic leaders are split on how to deal with the problem. Do they sweep the city’s problems — which also include prostitution and drug-use — under the table or try and paint a false nirvana, as China did with its problems at the Beijing Olympics? Or should Vancouver let reporters see the reality and write about these problems? It seems that Vancouver has chosen option #2, which is a calculated risk. It can make Vancouver look bad. Or real, depending on your vantage.

[Note: check out this Morning Edition piece on Vancouver’s “skid row”]

Do you think that could hurt coverage of the games, or are people mostly looking for the good sports stories and aren’t really focused on the other stuff about the city? Has the funding for the Olympics helped solved those problems at all?

Jason Margolis:
If you have more than 10,000 reporters fighting for stories, somebody is going to cover these problems. I don’t see that as a bad thing. It’s reality. I give Vancouver credit for talking openly about its problems.
Vancouver is building an athletes village, which will later become public housing. As with everything related to Olympic spending, people are split on this too. The social housing was badly needed, but very expensive, partly because it was built in a hurry for the Games. But no, as far as I was able to uncover, little was done to address the city’s homelessness problem with regards to the Olympics.

You did a great report on the Paralympics that follow the games — can you talk a little about how that works and if it was a smart idea for B.C. to bank on those as well?

Jason Margolis:
The Paralympics aren’t going to be a moneymaker, but I think it’s a nice story. Let’s be honest, the Olympics ain’t what they used to be — today’s Olympics are about sponsored athletes, some in professional leagues like the hockey players, competing in another competition. As a winter athlete myself, I love watching the Games. But for purity of sport and good feeling, the Paralympics are really nice. Unfortunately, they get little media attention. So no, the Paralympics won’t make money for B.C., but there are small bonuses like turning Whistler into a resort that is very friendly for the disabled.

You’re a winter athlete?

Jason Margolis:
Calling myself a “winter athlete” might be a bit of a stretch, but I love to ski. I also love watching the bobsled and ski jump. Once you see those two events live in person, it’s hard not to become a fan.

The pricey (and icy) road to Vancouver

Olympic Torch relay/ Credit: Flickr user jp1958

Olympic Torch relay/ Credit: Flickr user jp1958

It’ll cost a lot to host the Winter Olympics — over $6 billion CDN, to be exact. Will the Olympics pay off for Vancouver? The World’s Jason Margolis looks at the numbers behind the games in the first of a series of pieces.

While the Vancouver Olympics are costing a pretty Canadian penny, the Globe and Mail reported this week that the games will actually help lead the economic recovery in Canada.

The city is expected to tally economic growth of 4.5 per cent this year, the biggest expansion among all 27 cities in the report’s metropolitan outlook. It’s a reversal for the city that saw a 1.8-per-cent contraction last year amid factory and construction woes.

But there are still some question marks for the games. KUOW in Seattle reported that one of the main skiing venues, Blackcomb, in Whistler, Britsh Columbia, is on the auction block, but Olympics officials insist there’s little risk in relying on those slopes.

Lenders have moved to sell the assets of struggling ski resort operator Intrawest, including the Winter Olympics venue at Whistler. The creditors filed notice that they intend to auction off the ski resort in the middle of the Olympics next month.

Economics aside, there are hundreds of inspiring stories of athletes from around the U.S. competing later this month. In “From Vermontville to Vancouver”, North Country Public Radio’s Brian Mann profiles Bill Demong, who suffered a fractured skull in 2002 and recovered to continue competing.

Vancouver is a little bigger than tiny Lake Placid, New York, near where Demong is from, and played host to the Olympics thirty years ago. NPR’s Melissa Block found out about the past and present of Olympic tradition in upstate New York.

Checking in across the pond

While the U.S. economy may be seeing a slight tick upward despite poor job numbers, in Europe, the Euro and other currencies are hitting lows against the dollar, and dividing the continent.

PRI reported today on a meeting of European finance ministers to assess the latest troubles.

Some countries such as France and Germany have climbed out of the recession, others have not, and that’s putting a strain on the Euro and the Eurozone governments.
Five Eurozone countries in particular are struggling with negative growth, high unemployment and soaring debt. Economists refer to them by the unfortunate acronym, PIGGS — that’s Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain.

The BBC’s Gavin Hewitt remarked on the current climate, and found that traditional European industrial leaders losing ground in industry.

China has taken over from Germany as the world’s largest exporter. In speech after speech you detect that Europe is racked with concern over its lack of competitiveness.

Europe is leading on green policy and environmental issues, but as talks in Copenhagen broke down last month, NPR/Foreign Policy commentator Jonathan Holslag noted that the continent may not have the economic strength to support the green trends it’s promoting for the rest of the world.

This ambition to turn the challenge of climate change into an opportunity for economic growth has been entirely missing in the European Union. When melting glaciers started to make newspaper headlines, Europe started to dream of making green power into a sort of soft power. It spent billions to profile itself as a clean-energy champion vis-à-vis China, India, and Brazil. This engagement certainly helped raise awareness, but at the same time Europe failed to engage its own member states.

But there’s one trend where Europe is consistently leading the pack: Fashion. There’s a hat craze that’s hitting Paris, Global Post reports, and these styles harken fashion back to a simpler time. Could berets be an economic indicator, too?