Category Archives: NewsHour: Economic Patchwork Map

A map of the nation that aggregates data-rich content on the economy.

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 matter of trust

The banking industry looked pretty ugly in the hearing on Capitol Hill yesterday as Senate leaders on the left and the right slammed Goldman Sachs for allegedly defrauding investors.

In case you missed it, PBS NewsHour analyzed the proceedings and this short video from The Huffington Post mashes up the hearing into five minutes of accusations and rebuttals… you’ll get the gist.

But the kernel that the industry has to take away from the screaming matches in the news today is that trust is all but gone between consumers and the traditional banking system. So how can the finance industry move ahead? Perhaps the answer rests with consumers taking more responsibility for their own financial future. This was one of the themes of a conference I attended this week called The Future of Money and Technology. I moderated a panel at the San Francisco event, where I met leaders in the financial and tech worlds who are working on creative, innovative ways to improve and expand on how consumers and companies manage their money.

Former Union Bank executive and entrepreneur Arno Hesse spoke about Bernal Bucks a new project in a San Francisco neighborhood that encourages people to spend money in their community and reinvest in businesses they know and frequent.

A fellow at the social entrepreneur organization Ashoka Bruce Cahan is creating GoodBank, which aims to put a mirror on investors and show them where their money is really going. Do you actually support the causes you say you do? GoodBank plans to serve as a moral compass for your money:

Rob Garcia, who won the Twitter “Shorty Award” in finance, discussed his company Lending Club, a site that allows people to borrow money from people they trust, resulting in lower interest rates and a community of smart investors.

While gaming might be seen by some as frivolous, especially when it comes to money, John Bates talked about Entropia Universe, the only cash –based virtual game, which allows players to invest in a virtual world and see actual monetary results. Bates reminded the panel that the future of banking doesn’t have to be so serious; it can have a fun element to it as well.

Some of the biggest issues that came up with each of these diverse projects were around defining community, creating sustainability for these new projects, and determining what the needs in the market will be to gain investors’ trust in these new ideas.

Are you more likely to invest in organizations that you have a direct connection with, like the coffee shop on the corner, or is your community more broadly defined by people who care about similar philanthropic causes? What kinds of parameters need to be put in place to regain trust and share financial information online?

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.

(function(){var s=function(){__flash__removeCallback=function(i,n){if(i)i[n]=null;};window.setTimeout(s,10);};s();})();

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

(function(){var s=function(){__flash__removeCallback=function(i,n){if(i)i[n]=null;};window.setTimeout(s,10);};s();})();

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

Book club

This is hardly the first financial crisis the world has faced. What kinds of books were coming out fifty or even a hundred years ago to help people get a grasp on economic concepts during times of uncertainty?

There are thousands of titles, and you can find the names of many at The Wall Street Curmudgeon. The site has listed over 400 books about the U.S. market. Some of my favorite titles range from the alliterative (Fads, Fakes, Freaks, Frauds and Fools, published: 1923) to the ingenious (Where are the Customers’ Yachts?, published: 1940).

A few other gems from the list:
My Adventures with Your Money (Author: George Graham Rice, 1911)
My Stockbroker is a Bum (Author: Anonymous. Published: 1971)
Laugh With Your Investments (Author: Regina Barnes. Published: 1960)
Little Bits About Big Men (Author: B.C. Forbes. Published: 1941)

Today, the Pulitzer Prizes were announced, honoring the best journalism and writing of the year. Among them was biography winner T.J. Stiles, who wrote The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. NewsHour’s ArtBeat blog spoke with Stiles after he won the National Book Award in November.

A few weeks ago, we looked at the best books that have come out on finance during the recent crisis. NewsHour’s Paul Solman had some big-time economists suggest their favorites.

Have you read anything worthwhile about the markets lately? Or have ideas of a title that’s not yet been written? Suggest names of books (real or imagined!) below.